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2023 Presidency: Federal High Court fixes Feb 21 to determine Atiku’s citizenship, eligibility

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Atiku

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, slated February 21, 2022, to deliver judgement in a suit seeking to bar former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, from vying for presidency in 2023.

The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/177, is challenging Atiku’s eligibility on the premise that he is not a Nigerian by birth.

A group, under the eagis of the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa, had in the suit, posed three legal questions for the determination of the court.

It asked the court to determine; “Whether section 25 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), is the sole authority that spells out ways by which a person can become a Nigerian citizen by birth?

“Whether by the provisions of section 131(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), only a Nigeria citizen by birth can contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?

As well as, “Whether by the combined interpretation of section 25(1) & (2) and 131(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and giving the circumstances surrounding the birth of the 1st Defendant (Atiku), he can be cleared by the 2nd and 3rd Defendants to contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?.

Upon determination of the questions, the Plaintiff applied for a declaration that by the provisions of the Constitution, “only a Nigerian citizen by birth can contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It urged the court to declare that giving the circumstances surrounding Atiku’s birth, he cannot be cleared by either PDP or the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to vie for Presidency.

The Plaintiff, which told the court that it is a Non-governmental Organization that is duly registered in 13 African countries, argued that Atiku is not a Nigerian by birth and thus not eligible to contest to become the President of Nigeria.

It told the court that it has specific concerns for promoting the principles of equality, rule of law and human rights in Africa generally, but with particular interest in Nigeria.

In a 12-paragraphed affidavit deposed to by one Michael Okejimi, the Plaintiff, noted that Atiku was born on December 25, 1946.

It said the 1st Defendant had in his own testimony that was gazetted and published in most national dailies, stated that he is from Jada town in Adamawa State.

“Jada used to be in Ganye Local Government Area in Adamawa. That Ganye is regarded as the mother of the whole Chamba tribe.

“That Ganye, however, was never part of Nigeria legally as at the date of birth of the 1st Defendant. That the area had been entrusted to Britain by a League of Nations mandate in 1919 and later as Trust Territory by the United Nations in 1946.

“That the defeat of Germany in World War 1, Cameroon became a League of Nations mandate territory and was split into French Cameroons and British Cameroons in 1919.

“That while France integrated the economy of their part of Cameroon with that of France, the British, administered theirs from neighboring Nigeria, making 1st Defendant’s Jada a British franchise.

“That a plebiscite was held in British Cameroons to determine whether the people preferred to stay in Cameroon or align with Nigeria.

“That while Northern Cameroon preferred a union with Nigeria, Southern Cameroon chose alignment with the mother country.

“That on June 1, 1961, Northern Cameroon became part of Nigeria, and on October 1, 1961, the Southern territory dissolved into Cameroon.

“That Ganye, which incorporates the 1st Defendant’s birthplace of Jada was the headquarters of British Cameroons, but it joined Nigeria following the plebiscite.

READ ALSO: Northern youths declare support for Anyim; says ACF, NEF are like armies without combatants.

“That when the 1st Defendant was on November 25, 1946, born to a Fulani trader and farmer, Garba Abubakar, Jada village and other parts of Chamba land in the then Northern Cameroon, were still known as British Cameroon.

“That none of the 1st Defendant’s parents or grandparents was born in Nigeria. That the 1st Defendant’s father died a citizen of Northern Cameroon in 1957 prior the referendum of June 1, 1961, that made Northern Cameroon became part of Nigeria.

“That the 1st Defendant’s ancestral origin is deeply rooted in the then Northern Cameroon. That the 1st Defendant is not a Nigerian citizen by birth.

“That the 1st Defendant is not qualified to be elected into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, the Plaintiff added.

Aside from Atiku, other Defendants in the matter are the PDP, INEC, Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Attorney-General of Adamawa State.

Meantime, while other Defendants urged the court to dismiss the case, the AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN, threw his weight behind the suit, insisting that Atiku is not constitutionally eligible to vie for Presidency.

Arguing that the former Vice President is not a Nigerian by birth, Malami, noted that Atiku, whose home town, Jada, was formerly a part of Northern Cameroon, acquired Nigerian citizenship following a plebiscite that held in 1961.

He told the court that having not been born a Nigerian or by Nigerian parents, and having not met the provisions of Sections 25(1) &(2) and 131(a) of the constitution, Atiku, would be violating Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act should he put himself forward as a presidential candidate.

“The first Defendant (Atiku) 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”, Malami argued in support of a suit.

Malami, in an affidavit that was filed by his team of lawyers led by Oladipo Okpeseyi, SAN, argued that Atiku, having contested election to the office of the Vice President before now, even though he knew that he is not a Nigeria citizen by birth, committed an offence under Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act.

He contended that the effect of the June1, 1961 plebiscite was to have the people of Northern Cameroon integrated into Nigeria as new citizens of the country, even after Nigeria’s independence.

“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”, Malami added.

Citing provisions of the 1960, 1963, 1979 and 1999 Constitutions, the AGF, argued that “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.”

He told the court that where it is revealed that a person was born outside Nigeria before Nigeria’s independence in 1960, in a location which was never part of Nigeria until June 1, 1961, as in Atiku’s case, such a person cannot claim citizenship of Nigeria by birth.

“This is even more so where his parents do not belong to any tribe indigenous to Nigeria until their death. 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”.

He further argued that the only situation where Atiku could have acquired Nigerian citizenship by birth under the 1999 Constitution, was if both or either of his parents and grand parents were Nigerian citizens by birth.

He added that another way would have been 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”, Malami added.

However, in a preliminary objection he 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 from 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 Comissioned 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.

“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”, Atiku’s lawyer, Chief Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, argued.

Querying the locus standi of the group to challenge his nationality, Atiku, argued that the Plaintiff failed to show before the court, the interest it has above other citizens of Nigeria to have the right to institute the action.

He told the court that he was earlier cleared when the issue of his citizenship was raised during the 2019 presidential election.

“What this suit is doing is that it is challenging the citizenship of everyone that is from Adamawa, Borno and Taraba as non Nigerians. This is notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution recognises that there are 36 states of the Federation”, Atiku added, even as he described the suit against him as stale and “very unusual in many ways”.

On its part, INEC, said it would abide by the decision of the court in the matter.

After all the parties adopted their final briefs of argument on Monday, Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the case for judgement.

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West African leaders must collaborate to overcome common challenges – Buhari

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Buhari

ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday advocated renewed collaboration among West African leaders to overcome the myriad of common challenges, including state of insecurity facing the sub-region.

This is just as the President of Ghana and Chairman of Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Nana Akufo-Addo, said only two per cent of the entire population of the subregion had been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic. President Buhari made the advocacy in his welcome address at the 60th Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, held at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He noted that the sub-region had, in recent times, managed to stay afloat amid a myriad of crises, which include the negative socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, state of insecurity, which has claimed many lives and left millions displaced.

The Nigerian leader, however, charged leaders of the region to be ready to deliberately work together in the task of finding solutions to the challenges, as a region.

“Our subregion continues to face socioeconomic, political, security, and environmental realities linked to Coronavirus pandemic. Our democracy is being challenged in Mali and Guinea. Furthermore, threats are looming around environmental degradation and climate change on our farming systems. We are facing a network of criminals, including terrorism.

“All of these challenges require our collective action to work in concert with each other to pragmatically address and provide our people better prospects in life. Today’s realities remind us of the need to continue to forge stronger solidarity in order to address the new challenges, including the current third wave of the pandemic and its Omicron variant.

“I am glad that the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States and the West Africa Health Organization are continuing to work with our respective national disease control centers to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our people and subregion,” President Buhari said.

He, however, thanked the Ghanaian President and Chairman of ECOWAS, President Nana Akufo-Addo, for providing the needed leadership to member states, as they mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

In his opening remarks, President Akufo-Addostre-ssed the need for the subregion to take local production of COVID-19 vaccines more seriously, pointing out that with all the efforts so far made in the fight against the virus, only 2% of the population of the subregion had been completely vaccinated.

He said:   “As of 8th December, our region has recorded 674,556 cases of infections with some 10,000 deaths. This scourge has impacted our humanitarian, social and economic sectors, and it continues to rage with the emergence of a new variant and the risk of a new wave in our region.

“The new variant Omicron has already been found in three member states, and has led to unfortunate imposition of travel bans by some countries, which are unjustified and unacceptable. Meanwhile, the availability of vaccines continues to remain a problem. Despite our efforts, we have only 6% of our population receiving one dose, with 2% of the population fully vaccinated.

“Whilst we remain grateful for the support from friends of the community, we must continue to pursue national and regional efforts to fight COVID-19 and move rapidly into the domestic production of vaccines for the protection of our citizens and for the growth and development of our economy”.

The ECOWAS Chairman, also called for continued mobilization of troops for peace keeping in areas where peace is fragile, noted that all is being done to restore democratic governance in Mali and Guinea, where there were undemocratic change of power

Akufo-Addo restated ECOWAS’ resolve to promote good governance in West Africa, through the sustenance of democratic institutions.

“We continue to be faced with security trials in the forms of deadly terrorist and kidnapping attacks, particularly in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, causing numerous casualties amongst civilians and security forces, resulting in a significant number of displaced persons.

“Recent events in Burkina Faso are matters of the greatest concern. Increased coordination, however, on the part of coastal nations, have recently led to an improved maritime security situation in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Let me on behalf of the authority, condemn in the strongest terms, these attacks that continue to plague our region. Significant efforts are being made at both national and regional levels to fight terrorism and extremism.

“We must step up our efforts to deal with these tasks which will be imposed upon us and we must act in such a way that no one will doubt our resolve to protect our peoples and the peace and stability of our countries”, Akufo-Addo said.

He congratulated President Jose Neves of Cape Verde, who was attending the summit for the first time, as well as Adama Barrow of Gambia, who recently got re-elected.

In a goodwill message, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, represented by the Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Annadif Saleh, pledged more support for ECOWAS, as he sued for more cooperation among member States. 

Guterres commended Cape Verde and the Gambia, for holding peaceful Presidential elections recently.

In another goodwill message, the African Union represented by its Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Nigeria’s Bankole Adeoye, hailed ECOWAS for sustaining democracy in West Africa.

The AU pledged to continue to work closely with ECOWAS to ensure the promotion of good governance within the region.

The two-day summit was attended by Heads of State and government of all the member States, as well as Former Nigerian leader and ECOWAS Special Envoy and Mediator to Mali, Goodluck Jonathan, and President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean Kassi Brou, among others.

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FG urged to re-visit matters of NDDC board

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Niger Delta Development Commission

A prominent northern leader, Alhaji Musa Saidu has again called for the urgent inauguration of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, saying the delay was generating tension in the region.

Alhaji Saidu who is the leader of Arewa in the South and former aide to Late Chief  Harold Dappa Biriye also lashed at some youths under the aegis of Niger Delta Progressives Movement, NDPM, who poured encomiums on the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio for launching a Strategic  Implementation Work Plan for his Ministry, dismissing them as political traders.

Saidu said it was unfortunate that some youths would come out at this time to shower praises on the Minister at a time the region was condemning his delay in constituting aboard for the NDDC.

“I am not sure they are Niger Delta youths. At a time the region is bitter over delay in constituting aboard for the NDDC some youths could come out to shower praises. This is wrong.  What we expect now is for all Niger Deltans and youths inclusive to be focused on agitating for a board for the commission and fixing the East-West road. “, he said.

“When these are done, achieved then you can call anyone a Messiah. But for now, these youths that came up with the statement under the name Niger Delta Progressives Movement, NDPM,  should bury their heads in shame. “, he said.

He said he had called for the sack of the Minister over the delay in inaugurating aboard for the commission and the deplorable state of the East-West road, adding that he had not changed his mind.

Alhaji Saidu said the Niger Delta is very dear to him because he had been actively involved in driving matters of development in the region, adding that he moved a motion for the north to support the creation of the NDDC at a gathering of prominent northerners at the Arewa House when he was national youth President of Arewa Youth Forum.

Continuing, he said as an aide to the late Harold Dappa Biriye, a Frontline leader of the Niger Delta, he accompanied the late sage to almost all meetings on matters of development of the region.

“And at meetings in the north  Chief Biriye will ask me to speak first on matters of the region on many occasions before he would wrap up. So you know and see my passion for the region”, he said.

Alhaji  Saidu further called for the implementation of recommendations of the Niger Delta Environmental Survey and several other recommendations on Niger Delta, stressing that sweeping them under the carpet was not a good one for any serious government.

“It is high time federal government visited recommendations on redressing challenges in the Niger Delta. There are several of them. There are the recommendations of the Niger Delta Environmental Survey and many others. They should give them attention so the area can enjoy development “, he said.

On the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator  Akpabio, he said he was calling again for his sack because of his failure to keep his promise to inaugurate aboard for the NDDC before August this year.

“We heard the  Minister when he visited stakeholders in Warri, Delta state that he was going to ensure aboard was in place before the end of July. But this has not come to be since. then. I still call for his sack. The East-West road is in shambles. The dry season is the time.to work but you see the situation. “, he said.

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Teni, Jaywon, others thrill fans as Funmi Ayinke launches album “The Journey”

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Teni

It was a superlative afternoon of kid’s glove reception, music and fun as fans and lovers of music were treated to heartwarming performances from Nigerian singers, Teniola Apata, popularly known as Teni, Iledare Oluwajuwonlo better known as Jaywon and others at Funmi Ayinke’s debut album “The Journey” on Sunday in Ikeja, Lagos.

The event witnessed the presence of some notable personalities like the former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Shina Peller, the publisher of Ovation International, Bashorun Dele Momodu, royal fathers and others who all took part in the launching of the 15-track album titled, The Journey.

The 16-track album features talented and multiple award-winning acts such as Tunde TDot of Styl Plus fame, popular comic act-cum-singer, Klint D Drunk, Magnito, and legendary singer, Chief Ebenezer Obey.

‘The Journey’ album according to the brains behind it features well-written and powerful compositions that are a strong source of motivation and inspiration to listeners, providing needed zest to those in a moment of darkness and hope for the downcast.

FunmiAyinke noted that all the 15 songs were carefully composed and written with the hope that they heal the mind, body, and soul of everyone that listens.

Speaking on the album, the multi-talented Funmi Ayinke, who also doubles as the founder of Funmi Ayinke Records and Funmi Ayinke Humanity Foundation (FHF), said the body of work was inspired by her desire to pass a strong message of hope and motivation to her listeners.

“I decided on the album after taking a deep reflection on how I can impact the larger society aside from what I do at the Funmi Ayinke Humanity Foundation (FHF). Then the inspiration to sing hit me. It was at the time that I decided to write the songs before hitting the studios to pour out my soul on the songs. The album is a mix of inspirational and soulful soft music that was well produced and mastered to delight my listeners,” she said.

On her choice of features on the album, Funmi Ayinke said, “I grew up listening to Chief Ebenezer Obey whose career has lasted multiple decades. It was a dream come through having him on a record that I intend to use to inspire a wider audience. I also featured established characters such as veteran gospel singers: Funmi Aragbaye, TDot, Magnito, and Klint D Drunk on the album.”

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