THE Adamawa State government has said that former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar is eligible to contest for president.
The state’s Attorney-General (AG) Afraimu Jingi stated this before an Abuja Federal High Court on Tuesday while seeking to join a suit filed by a group challenging Atiku’s citizenship.
In the suit filed by Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), the group challenged Atiku’s eligibility to contest for the presidency because he was not a Nigerian citizen by birth.
EMA, through its lawyer, 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 was not qualified to contest for the top office.
Respondents in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 had Atiku, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as 1st to 4th respondents, respectively.
Jingi had, through his lawyer L.D. Nzadon, argued that it was “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.”
Nzadon noted the Adamawa AG was 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, the suit would not be effectively and conclusively determined unless the Adamawa State was 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 country’s vice president between 1999 to 2007.
He said 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 State origin covering 12 out of the 21 Local Government Areas in the state.”
The lawyer listed the local government areas as: Ganye, Jada, Toungo, part of Mayo-Belwa, part of Fufore, part of Song, and 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 suit’s outcome was about two 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 had the highest number of Nigerian citizens from the former Trust Territories of Northern Cameroon of the three states with such citizens: Adamawa, Taraba, and Borno states.
The lawyer said it would be challenging 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 cannot be determined with finality,” the lawyer said.
Since the counsel to other parties in the suit did not oppose the motion, Inyang Ekwo, the presiding judge, granted the prayer.
The judge, who gave the applicant seven days to file and serve all their processes, adjourned the matter until September 27 to hear the substantive suit.
According to the Vanguard, Atiku and the PDP had since asked the court to dismiss the suit, which they said was grossly lacking in merit.