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 aegis 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
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
“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
“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
“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.
“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
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
“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
“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
“This would include the legal preclusion of the first
defendant from contesting for the office of the President
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
“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
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
“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