A member of the Legal Team of the All Progressives Congress, APC, that packaged the party’s response to the election petition filed by the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, has said that citizenship is a trump card held by the ruling party against the former Vice President.
He claimed that the fact that Atiku is not a Nigerian citizen by birth, and thus, unqualified to contest the February 23, Presidential election, is a valuable constitutional resource that could give them an advantage in the electoral litigation.
However, Atiku, in a statement released by his Media Office, debunked the claims of the APC, regarding his eligibility, saying that, the ruling party is attempting an unconstitutional redefinition of the term “Nigerian”.
That was as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, defended its declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari, as the winner of the poll, in its own response to the main opposition Candidate’s petition.
INEC also said that Buhari has the requisite educational qualification to contest the election.
The member of the APC Legal Team, who pleaded for anonymity, explained that Atiku became a Nigerian citizen by referendum and not by birth, “so he is not qualified to contest for the Presidency of Nigeria, because the Nigerian Constitution said that only people who are citizens by birth can contest for the Office of the President.”
“Our dear Atiku Abubakar, was born on November 25, 1946, in Jada, situated in the then British Northern Cameroon. He was born a Cameroonian. Atiku is a Cameroonian citizen by birth, and became a Nigerian by referendum. He is not a Nigerian by birth. We have to get that right. The 11.1 million votes recorded in favour of Atiku is a waste, and should be voided by the Tribunal.
“The Constitution of Nigeria is very clear on the requirements for vying for the Office of the President. The Candidate must be a citizen of Nigeria by birth. Citizenship by referendum is not recognised by our Constitution, for the purpose of elections.
“Section 131 (a) of the 1999 Constitution, clearly states that ‘a person shall be qualified for election to the Office of the President of Nigeria, if he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth’. Atiku became a citizen of Nigeria by referendum and not by birth. So, Atiku is a Nigerian citizen by referendum. He ought not to have taken part in Nigeria’s Presidential election, in the first instance.
“It is like this in the United States too. You must be born on American soil to contest for the Office of the President. So, you can see that it is not a Nigerian thing.
“Another very vital thing to note, is that the Constitution of Nigeria has not been amended to make it possible for those who became citizens by referendum, based on the 1961 plebiscite in the British Cameroon, to be eligible to contest for the position of Nigerian President, or any election in Nigeria. Until that is done, Atiku and others, who became Nigerians by virtue of that plebiscite, are not qualified to contest elections here. However, their children born after the plebiscite are Nigerian citizens by birth, and constitutionally qualified to contest elections in Nigeria.”