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Court fixes date to rule on suit challenging Atiku’s eligibility to contest presidency

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed February 21, 2022, for judgment in a suit challenging the eligibility of the former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar to vie for the office of the president.

Justice Inyang Ekwo on Monday fixed the date after taking arguments from counsel to the parties in the suit.

It would be recalled that a group, Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 had sued Atiku, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as 1st to 4th respondents respectively, challenging Atiku’s eligibility to contest for the nation’s presidency on the grounds that he is not a Nigerian citizen by birth.

EMA prayed 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.

READ ALSO: No region can win 2023 presidency without others —Anyim

Also, the Adamawa State Government, through its Attorney-General (AG), had, on July 27, sought an order of the court to be joined in the suit as a defendant.

The court, in the motion dated April 26 and filed June 24, granted the prayer of the AG of Adamawa to be joined in the case as the 5th defendant.

The Adamawa government had told the court that Atiku was eligible to vie for the office of the president.

According to the state government, 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 vice president of the country between 1999 to 2007.

Also, it stated 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.

But counsel to the plaintiff, Akinola Oladimeji, when the matter was called on Monday, informed that the matter was slated for the hearing of his originating summons, noting that they have amended originating summons in response to the defendants counter-affidavits.

Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, who appeared for Atiku (1st defendant), said a notice of preliminary objection was filed.

Jegede, after withdrawing two motions earlier filed, one of which challenged the jurisdiction of the court, urged the court to dismiss the plaintiff application, arguing that a previous case relied upon by the applicant in filing the suit did not relate with the matter at hand.

Also, he argued that the matter was already stale as it was tied to the 2019 election, in which his client vied for the election, challenged the poll and was unsuccessful.

Corroborating Jegede’s submission, counsel to the 2nd defendant (PDP), Adedamola Falokun, said he also filed a notice of preliminary objection, noting that the matter was a pre-election matter, and urged the court not to waste its time on the case.

He said, “I stand in alignment with the learner SAN that this matter is stale. 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 a few days, we will be in 2022.”

He argued that there was no single line in the plaintiff application that specifically stated on a good ground why Atiku should be barred from contesting elections.

However, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Oladimeji, disagreed with counsel to the defendants, saying the suit sought to know the citizenship of Atiku and not a preelection matter.

He said: “For the purposes of clarity, a preelection 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.”

Meanwhile, Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until February 21, for judgment.

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