The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, fixed February 21, 2022, for judgment in a suit challenging former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s eligibility to vie for the office of Nigeria’s president.
The trial judge, Inyang Ekwo, fixed the date after taking arguments from counsel to the parties in the suit.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the incorporated trustees of a civil society group, Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), had sued Atiku, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), in a suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019.
EMA is challenging Mr Atiku’s eligibility to contest for presidency on the grounds that he was not a Nigerian citizen by birth.
It argued that the part of Adamawa State Mr Atiku hails from was still part of the Northern Cameroon as of the time of his 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.
Adamawa State govt backs Atiku
NAN also reports that the Adamawa State government, had, through its Attorney-General (AG), on July 27, 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 State to be joined in the case as the 5th defendant.
The Adamawa State government had told the court that Mr Atiku was eligible to vie for the office of the president.
It said Mr Atiku, against whom the suit was primarily directed, is a citizen of Nigeria from the state, had been elected as its governor in 1999, and served as the vice-president of the country between 1999 to 2007.
It added 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.”
At Monday’s hearing, the plaintiff’s counsel, Akinola Oladimeji, said the matter was slated for hearing of his originating summons.
“We have amended originating summons in response to 1st to 5th defendants counter affidavits,” he said.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Eyitayo Jegede, who appeared for Mr Atiku (the 1st defendant), said a notice of preliminary objection was filed.
Mr Jegede, after withdrawing two motions earlier filed, one of which challenged the jurisdiction of the court, urged the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s application.
The senior lawyer argued that the matter was already stale as it was tied to 2019 election, in which his client vied for the election, challenged the poll and was unsuccessful.
He said this defined the futility of the plaintiff case.
Corroborating Mr Jegede’s submission, counsel for the 2nd defendant (PDP), Adedamola Falokun, said he also filed a notice of preliminary objection.
He described the matter as a pre-election matter, urging the court not to waste its time on it.
“I stand in alignment with the learner SAN that this matter is stale.
“They filed this before 2019 election that the 1st defendant (Atiku) should not be cleared.
“The 1st defendant had been cleared, he contested and lost in the election. And you are still talking about 2019 when we are in 2021 and in few days, we will be in 2022,” he said.
The lawyer argued that there was no line in the plaintiff’s application that specifically stated on good grounds why Mr Atiku could be debarred from being cleared from contesting election.
He urged the court to dismiss the suit with punitive cost against the plaintiff.
Also, lawyers to the 4th (AGF) and 5th (AG of Adamawa) defendants also presented their arguments in the matter.
‘Atiku not Nigerian’
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Mr Oladimeji, disagreed with counsel to the defendants.
He maintained that the suit was not a pre-election one.
“For the purposes of clarity, a pre-election matter is filed by an aspirant in an election.
“The plaintiff is not an aspirant, it is only seeking an interpretation into the questions raised,” he said.
Mr Oladimeji argued that even though Mr Atiku was said to have been born in Nigeria, he was not a Nigerian citizen.
He stated that for the fact that the mistake had been done in time past did not mean that this should continue.
He said the interest of the group was for the court to interprete the constitution within the ambit of the law.
Mr Ekwo adjourned the matter until February 21, for judgment.
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