Attorney-General of the federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, has told a court in Abuja that former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, is not eligible to run for president in Nigeria, because his citizenship of Nigeria is questionable.
But a group says that Malami is blinded by his own yet-to-be announced presidential ambition he is not talking straight.
74 years old Atiku is believed to be nursing an ambition to, again, try his luck on the number one seat in 2023.
A socio political group, Amalgamated Atiku Support Group has lambasted the Attorney General of the Federation AGF, Abubakar Malami SAN for allegedly casting aspersions on the Nigeria citizenship of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
A strongly worded statement by its Director of media Remi Adebayo dated April 6.2021 said that it was laughable for a Chief Law Officer of the federation to behave the way Malami did on the citizenship of Atiku.
Malami had, in an affidavit in support of a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 and filed before the court by the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), put a big question mark on Atiku’s claim of being a Nigerian.
EMA two years ago in court challenged Atiku’s eligibility to contest for president.
EMA says based on 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.
The AGF tended to agree.
But the new group backing Atiku, in their statement in Abuja, said: “In accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami is expected to be the Chief Law officer of the entire nation.
“As the Attorney General of the Federation, it becomes a huge source of concern when the occupant of the exalted office is acting as if he is the Attorney General of the ruling APC.
“For Malami to join the suit filed by a hurriedly put together group known as Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA) begs the question as to what the interest of Malami the AGF is.
“The suit before the court challenging the citizenship of Atiku Abubakar, it would be recalled, has been exhaustively dealt with by the Court of Appeal and same affirmed by the Supreme Court at the final judgment during the Presidential election petition tribunal.
“It is therefore laughable and inconceivable to see the Attorney General of the Federation putting his weight behind such an exercise in futility.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Atiku’s Nigeria’s citizenship is a settled matter, and anything contrary to that is a figment of Malami’s warped imagination.
“However, it must be expressly stated that Malami’s action is predicated on his ambition to run for the office of the President to take over from Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
“This inordinate ambition of Malami can be glimpsed from how desperately he moved against some of his own party men who have indicated interest to run against him in the APC, but ultimately, Atiku Abubakar is seen as the biggest threat hence this heinous move to stop the former Vice President.
“But we have no doubt that this plot shall fail. Malami’s belief that he can use his position as the chief law officer and the instrumentality of the courts to achieve his vaulting ambition will also collapse on his face.
“We urge the courts not to allow itself to be a pawn in the hands of AGF Malami, even as we ask Nigerians to speak up and rise against this evil machination as it is capable of denying them (Nigerians) the much-needed good governance that would be brought by Atiku Abubakar when, God willing he is elected into the office of the President come 2023”.
In his affidavit, Malami said, “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.”
“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 added.
He adds, relying on the provisions of 1960, 1963, 1979 and 1999 constitutions, the “reasoning of the lawmakers in ensuring that the persons 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”.
“This is even more so where his parents do not belong to any tribe indigenous to Nigeria until their death,” he said.
“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.
“if either his parents had become Nigerian citizen by virtue of Section 25(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which must be in compliance with Sections 26 and 27of the same constitution.
“With no concrete proof of compliance, we submit that the first defendant cannot contest election to the office of the Nigerian President.”
The minister of justice said Atiku committed an offence under section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act when he contested and won the office of the vice-president in 1999.
However, Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on which platform he contested the last election have asked the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.
In their notice of objection filed jointly, they insisted that Atiku is “a bonafide citizen of the federal republic of Nigeria”.
Atiku also said besides serving as Nigeria’s vice-president from 1999 to 2007, he held many public and private offices, including serving as governor of Adamawa state and was a commissioned officer of the Nigerian Customs Service.
He said his parents, grandparents and great grandparents were born in Nigeria and they lived, died as Nigerians and were buried in Nigeria.
He told the court that the suit was filed in bad faith in an attempt to malign his person and integrity.
Atiku also objected to the plaintiff’s right to challenge his nationality, arguing that it failed to show the interest it has above other citizens of Nigeria to be entitled to approach the court on the issue.
Inyang Ekwo, the judge, fixed May 4 to hear the suit.
▪︎ Additional reports by The Cable.