2023 Elections: Court Strikes Out Suit Challenging Atiku’s Eligibility

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The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, struck out the suit seeking to challenge former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s Nigerian citizenship and his eligibility to vie for the office of the president.

Delivering judgment, Inyang Ekwo dismissed the suit on the grounds that the plaintiff that instituted the case lacked the locus standi (legal right) to do so.

The judge described the plaintiff as a “busy body and meddlesome interloper.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a group, the Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019, had sued Atiku, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as 1st to 4th respondents, respectively

EMA challenged Mr Abubakar’s eligibility to contest for presidency on the grounds that he was not a Nigerian citizen by birth.

The group asked 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 the former vice president’s birth, he cannot contest for the top office.

It argued that as of the time Mr Abubakar was born, his part of Adamawa State where he hailed from was part of Trust Territories of Northern Cameroon and not Nigeria.

NAN also reported that the Adamawa State Government, through its Attorney-General (AG), had on July 27, 2021, sought an order of the court to be joined in the suit.

The court, in the motion dated April 26 and filed June 24, granted the prayer of the AG of Adamawa to be joined in the case as the 5th defendant.

The Adamawa government subsequently argued in court that Mr Abubakar was eligible to vie for the office of the president.

It said Mr Abubakar, against whom the suit was primarily directed, is a citizen of Nigeria from Adamawa who had been elected as a governor of the state in 1999 and served as the Vice President of the country between 1999 to 2007.

It stated that the suit threatened the right of not just the ex-vice president to contest the office of the president “but that of the citizens of Nigeria, of Adamawa origin covering 12 out of the 21 Local Government Areas in the state.”

The lawyer listed the local government areas to include Ganye, Jada, Toungo, part of Mayo-Belwa, part of Fufore, part of Song, part of Hong, Maiha, Mubi-North, Mubi-South, Michika and Madagali.

Meanwhile the plaintiff’s legal team has expressed dissatisfaction with the judgement and vowed to appeal against it.

Kayode Ajulo, the lead counsel for the plaintiff said, the court struck out of the suit on the grounds of the locus of the plaintiff “despite superior court’s decision on the legality of an incorporated organisation to institute actions for the protection of the extant provisions of the constitution and statutes.”

“While we commend the court for the wealth of industry of the presiding judge, it is quite instructive that though the matter was merely struck out, same can be refiled.

“However our client has instructed us to appeal the said decision to the Court of Appeal,” the lawyer said.

He noted that as a civil society organisation “established for the enthronement of rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution”, his client would ensure that the law of the land must be strictly adhered to by all comers.

“Without prejudice to the judgment of the court,” Mr Ajulo said, “we have commenced our client’s further brief to appeal and to file a motion for injunction pending appeal for an order of the court restraining Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from parading himself as a Nigerian Citizen by birth in contravention of the extant provisions of Sections 25 and 131 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal.”

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