Attorney General Malami insists that Atiku isn't Nigerian by birth

Atiku was born in a region of Nigeria which used to be a part of Cameroon.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar lost the 2019 presidential vote to Muhammadu Buhari (Punch)

Pulse Nigeria

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has submitted that ex Vice President and serial presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, is not eligible to contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because he isn't Nigerian by birth.

Atiku was born in Jada, Adamawa State. Jada wasn't part of Nigeria until 1961.

74-year-old Atiku was born in 1946, way before Jada was incorporated into Nigeria from Cameroon.

Malami submits that this means Atiku isn't Nigerian by birth--a prerequisite for seeking the office of the President of Nigeria--according to the constitution.

The AGF argues that, having not been born a Nigerian or by Nigerian parents, and having not met the provisions of Sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution, Atiku would be violating Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act should he put himself forward as a presidential candidate in future elections.

This is all part of the AGF’s argument in support of a suit filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja by the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA).

The EMA is challenging Atiku’s eligibility to contest for president and praying the court to hold among others, that considering the provisions of sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution and the circumstances surrounding his birth, the former vice president cannot contest for the top office; and that allowing him to do so in the past violated the nation's constitution.

The suit is marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019. It was filed before the 2019 presidential election, and is yet to be heard and determined.

However, it was mentioned in court again on March 15, 2021, with Justice Inyang Ekwo noting that it is now due for hearing, with May 4 fixed as next hearing date.

The AGF stated in the affidavit that: “The first defendant (Atiku) is not qualified to contest to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The first defendant is not a fit and proper person to be a candidate for election to the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The first defendant was born on the 25th of November, 1946 at Jada, at the time in northern Cameroon. By the plebiscite of 1961, the town of Jada was incorporated into Nigeria.

“The first defendant is a Nigerian by virtue of the 1961 plebiscite, but not a Nigerian by birth. The first defendant’s parents died before the 1961 plebiscite.”

In his written address, the AGF argued that the effect of the June 1, 1961 plebiscite was to have the people of northern Cameroon integrated into Nigeria as new citizens of the country.

He added: “This qualified all those born before the 1961 plebiscite as citizens of Nigeria, but not Nigerian citizen by birth. Consequently, only citizens born after the 1961 plebiscite are citizens of Nigeria by birth.”

He cited provisions of the 1960, 1963, 1979 and 1999 constitutions and noted that the “reasoning of the lawmakers in ensuring that the person to be the President of Nigeria is a citizen of Nigeria by birth is because such a person is the number one citizen and the image of the Nigerian state.”

According to the AGF, where it is revealed that a person was born outside Nigeria before Nigeria’s independence in 1960, in a location which was never part of Nigeria until June 1, 1961, as it is in this case, such a person cannot claim citizenship of Nigeria by birth.

“This is even more so where his parents do not belong to any tribe indigenous to Nigeria until their death. The facts of his (Atiku’s) birth on the Cameroonian territory to Cameroonian parents remain unchallenged.

“At best, the first defendant can only acquire Nigerian citizenship by the 1961 plebiscite. The citizenship qualifications under Section 26 and 27 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), by implication, has limited the first defendant’s privileges or rights and cannot be equal or proportional to the privileges of other citizens who acquire their citizenship status by birth.

“This would include the legal preclusion of the first defendant from contesting for the office of the President of Nigeria," the affidavit reads further.

Atiku of the PDP lost the 2019 presidential contest to Muhammadu Buhari of the APC.

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