Court joins Adamawa State in suit against Atiku’s eligibility for presidential election

Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday gave permission to Adamawa State to be joined as a party to a suit challenging the eligibility of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar for elective office in Nigeria.

Justice Ekwo gave the permission while ruling on Adamawa State’s application for joinder, which was not opposed by other parties in the matter.

Atiku was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 presidential election.

A group, Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), had in 2019 before the conduct of the general election, dragged Atiku, PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) respectively to court over Atiku’s qualification for the presidential election.

EMA, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019, is challenging Atiku’s eligibility on the grounds that he was not a Nigerian citizen by birth.

When the matter came up on Tuesday, Adamawa prayed the court to be included in the suit because Atiku is from the state, and also whatever the decision the court takes in the matter will affect the state.

In arguing the application for joinder, the Attorney-General (AG) of Adamawa State, Afraimu Jingi, told Justice Ekwo that Atiku 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.

He said the suit threatens the right of not just the former vice-president to contest the office of president “but that of the citizens of Nigeria of Adamawa State origin covering 12 out of the 21 local government areas in the state”.

“To disenfranchise the citizens of the 12 local government areas of Adamawa State in relation to the office of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is to discriminate against them contrary to Section 42(1)(a), (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” he said.

According to him, Adamawa has the highest number of Nigerian citizens from the former Trust Territories of Northern Cameroon of the three states that have such citizens, to wit: Adamawa, Taraba and Borno States.

The lawyer said it would be extremely difficult to get each one of these Nigerian citizens to defend this action in court.

“This is a public interest suit and can best be defended by the Adamawa State Government through its chief law officer, the Attorney General of Adamawa State.

“This cause will be defeated by the non-joinder of the citizens whose civil rights and obligations will be affected in violation of Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),” he said.

Since the counsel to other parties in the suit did not oppose the motion, Justice Ekwo granted the prayer and gave the applicant seven days to file and serve all their processes, while he adjourned the matter until September 27 for hearing of the substantive suit.

Both Atiku and the PDP had since asked the court to dismiss the suit which they said was grossly lacking in merit.

In a preliminary objection jointly filed with the PDP, Atiku maintained that he is “a bona fide citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

He told the court that aside serving as vice-president from 1999 to 2007, he held many public/private offices in Nigeria, including serving as governor of Adamawa State and as a commissioned officer of the Nigeria Customs Service.

He said both his parents, grandparents and great grandparents were born in Nigeria and they lived, died as Nigerians and were buried in Nigeria.

Atiku told the court that he is qualified and eligible to be elected into the office of the president of Nigeria, adding that the plaintiff filed the suit malafide. – Thisday.

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