By Taiye Agbaje
The Adamawa government, on Tuesday told a Federal High Court, Abuja, that former Vice President Atiku Abukakar was eligible to vie for the office of the president.
The Attorney-General (AG) of Adamawa, Afraimu Jingi, told Justice Inyang Ekwo while moving a motion on notice, seeking to be joined in the suit filed by a group against Atiku and three others.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the group, an Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 had sued Atiku, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as 1st to 4th respondents respectively.
EMA is challenging Atiku’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.
But Jingi, through his lawyer, Chief L.D. Nzadon, in the motion dated April 26 and filed June 24, sought an order of the court to be joined in the matter.
Moving the motion, Nzadon based his argument on 21 grounds.
The lawyer described the matter as “a public interest suit to ensure that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) is complied with in the election of the President of Nigeria.”
He said the Adamawa AG is a chief law officer of the state who must be brought in as a party.
“The Attorney-General is traditionally the guardian of the public interest in any public interest litigation,” he added.
According to him, this matter can not be effectively and conclusively determined unless the Attorney General of Adamawa is joined as a party.
Nzadon said 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 ex-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.”
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.
He said the total population of the citizens of Nigeria from Adamawa who would be affected by the outcome of the suit was about 2 million people going by the 2006 National Population Census.
“Every citizen of Nigeria whatever his ethnic, religious or cultural background or persuasion should have the same right to vie for any political position under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as any other citizen.
“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),” Nzadon told the court.
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.
“The citizens of Adamawa in the 12 local government areas ought to have been joined as necessary parties to this suit but were not.
“The presence of the said citizens is necessary to enable the court to effectually and conclusively adjudicate upon and settle the questions involved in the action.
“The government and people of Adamawa State have a greater interest in this suit than the 4th respondent (AGF).
“It is the constitutional responsibility of the Adamawa Government to advance and protect the political, social and economic interests of the citizens of Nigeria from Adamawa State.
“The applicant is a necessary party to this suit without whose joinder the citizenship issues affecting the indigenes of Adamawa State from the 12 of the 21 local government areas in the state can not be determined with finality,” the lawyer said.
Since counsel to other parties in the suit did not oppose the motion, Justice Ekwo granted the prayer.
The judge, who gave the applicant seven days to file and serve all their processes, adjourned the matter until Sept. 27 for hearing of the substantive suit.
NAN reports that 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 be jointly filed with the PDP, Atiku, maintained that he is “a bonafide 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.
“I know as a fact that this suit as filed by the Trustees of the Plaintiff is aimed at maligning the person and integrity of the 1st Defendant”.
He further queried the locus standi of the group to challenge his nationality, saying it failed to show before the court, the interest it has above other citizens of Nigeria to be entitled to the requisite jurisdiction to institute the action.
He therefore urged the court to dismiss the suit in its entirety.
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