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BIG STORY

Atiku Is Not A Nigerian, Not Fit To Contest For President, AGF Malami Tells Court

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) has argued that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not eligible under the constitution to contest for President.

The AGF argued 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 candidate.

These form part of the AGF’s arguments in support of the suit filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja by the Incorporated Trustees of Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA).

The EMA is challenging Atiku’s eligibility to contest for President and praying 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 his birth, the former vice president cannot contest for the top office.

In documents filed for the AGF by a team of lawyers, led by Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN), it was agreed that, as argued by the plaintiff, Atiku is not a Nigerian citizen by birth.

Although the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2019 was filed before the 2019 presidential election, it is yet to be heard and determined.

However, it was mentioned on March 15, during which Justice Inyang Ekwo noted that the suit was ripe for hearing and fixed May 4, for that purpose.

The AGF in the affidavit said: “The first defendant (Atiku) is not qualified to contest to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The first defendant 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.”

In his written address, the AGF argued that the effect of the June 1, 1961 plebiscite was to have the people of. Northern Cameroon integrated into Nigeria as new citizens of the country, even after Nigeria’s independence.

He added: “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.”

He cited provisions of 1960, 1963, 1979, and 1999 constitutions and noted that the “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.”

The AGF argued 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 it is in this 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, have 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.

The AGF noted 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 grandparents 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.”

Section 26 contains the process of obtaining citizenship by registration, while Section 27 provides for the process of obtaining citizenship by naturalization.

The AGF argued that Atiku, having contested election to the office of the Vice President before now, knowing that he is not a Nigerian citizen by birth, committed an offense under Section 118(1)(k) of the Electoral Act.

Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform he contested the last election, has denied the plaintiff’s claims and prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.

They also filed a joint notice of objection, in which they insisted that Atiku is “a bonafide citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Atiku stated that aside from serving as Nigeria’s Vice President from 1999 to 2007, he held many public/private offices, including serving as Governor of Adamawa State and as a Commissioned 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.

Atiku argued that he is qualified and eligible to be elected into the office of the President of Nigeria, adding that the plaintiff filed the suit in bad faith and in an attempt to malign his person and integrity.

He queried the plaintiff’s right to challenge his nationality, arguing that it failed to show the interest it has above other citizens of Nigeria to be entitled to approach the court on the issue.

BIG STORY

Arewa Community In Lagos Launches Tinubu Support Group

Gbemileke Ajayi

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The Arewa community in Lagos State has urged All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to run for president in 2023.

At a rally in Coker-Aguda and Itire-Ikate Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) of Lagos State to launch a Tinubu support group, the Arewa people said Tinubu possessed the quality needed to continue President Muhammadu Buhari’s developmental projects.

Their leader, Ahmed Abdullahi, noted that the former Lagos State governor had paid his dues in the political terrain; hence he deserved to lead the country.

He said Asiwaju Tinubu remained the most competent person to take over from President Buhari.

“We saw how he transformed Lagos State and made it a place for all to earn a living. He did not discriminate against any tribe by making Lagos home for all of us. We are telling the world; especially the people in the North that Asiwaju (Tinubu) can be trusted. We saw how he stood by President Buhari even when people were against him. This is the time for the North to return good for good because we are not known for betraying people,” he said.

Abdullahi said Coker-Aguda LCDA was picked for the launch because the council chairman is also a detribalized woman.

“She has made Coker-Aguda a home to all Nigerians by appointing non-Yoruba as special advisers,” he said.

Coker-Aguda LCDA Chairman Mrs Omobolanle Akinyemi-Obe thanked the Arewa community for launching a support group for Tinubu.

She said all ethnic groups in the council are routing for Tinubu to run for the president.

“We have confidence in Asiwaju Tinubu to lead our country to greater height and bring smiles to the faces of Nigerians,” she said.

Her counterpart in Itire-Ikate LCDA, Dr. Ahmed Apatira, described Asiwaju Tinubu as the best man to take over from President Buhari.

He said all tribes in the council are ready to support Asiwaju Tinubu.

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South-East Governors Establish ‘Ebube Agu’, Regional Security Outfit, To Rout Criminals

Peter Okunoren

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South-east governors yesterday rolled out a raft of policy decisions, including the establishment of a regional security outfit, ‘Ebube Agu,’ to combat the security challenges facing the zone.

The outfit, with headquarters at Enugu, will complement the efforts of federal security agencies in tackling the security challenges in the region.

The governors, in a communiqué issued in Owerri at the end of a meeting, asked the heads of security agencies in the zone to draw up a comprehensive list of their logistics and material needs that will enhance their efficiency in combating the security challenges in the zone, so that the governors could provide them.

The meeting was the first gathering of the governors since last week’s attacks by gunmen who invaded the headquarters of the state police command, torching about 100 vehicles and freeing some detainees.

The gunmen also attacked the Imo State Correctional Centre and released over 1,800 inmates.

In the communiqué read by the Chairman of the South-east Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. Dave Umahi, the governors aligned themselves with the efforts of the federal government to find the solution to the security challenges in the country.

They condemned what they called terrorism and banditry in any part of Nigeria, particularly in the South-east.

They condemned the recent burning of police stations, violent attacks on custodial centers with the unlawful release of inmates, and the killing of security personnel, natives/farmers, and herdsmen.

The governors said they were on the same page with the federal government on the need to tackle the security challenges in the country.

They committed themselves to join the federal government to fight terrorists and bandits.

They also “resolved to bring together all the arsenals at their command, as one united zone, to fight and flush out criminals and terrorists from the zone.”

The communiqué noted that to achieve this, “there is a need to galvanize all the relevant stakeholders in the South-east, the political class, the business community, the bureaucrats and the intelligentsia to provide all necessary support to security operatives in the five South-east states to ensure total success in the fight against criminality in the zone.”

According to the communiqué, “The heads of all the security agencies in the South-east have resolved to exchange intelligence in a seamless, effective new order that will help to checkmate crime in the zone.

“To fast-track crime-busting in the South-east, the heads of security agencies have been mandated to draw up a comprehensive list of their logistics and material needs for sustainable success in the fight against criminality, for the immediate provision by the leadership of the South-east.”

The governors also resolved to set up a committee comprising security personnel, government officials and stakeholders, to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the Southeast joint security platform.

The governors applauded the initiative of the South-east security summit and to make it a statutory summit that would convene every quarter while its hosting shall rotate among the five South-east states.

“The meeting resolved to maintain a joint security vigilante for the South-east otherwise known as Ebube Agu. The meeting appreciated the formation of South-east joint security outfit code-named Ebube Agu, with headquarters in Enugu to coordinate our vigilante in the South-east,” the communiqué explained.

The governors also requested the Acting Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Usman Baba, to stop the influx of IG monitoring units and allow police commissioners and state and zonal commands to handle their cases.

The governors also requested Baba and other security chiefs to invite the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to find out the reason for the increasing insecurity of the region.

They also agreed that military policing in the South-east should be adequately funded to become effective.

“Meeting agreed that open grazing has been banned and the security agency should implement the ban.

“The meeting encouraged a peaceful co-existence of farmers and herders to allow governors to succeed in the fight against criminality,” the communiqué added.

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BIG STORY

774,000 Public Jobs Workers Protest Unpaid N20,000 Wage, Beneficiaries Tackle Keyamo

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Participants in the Federal Government’s Special Public Works (SPW) programme are protesting the delay in paying their stipend more than three months after kick-off.

The SPW is an Adhoc programme designed by the government to provide stop-gap three months jobs to mainly artisans to earn N20,000 monthly doing public works.

One thousand youths were hired from each of the 774 local government in the country as beneficiaries, bringing the figure to 774,000 councils.

The programme was inaugurated on January 5. The first batch of beneficiaries have completed their assignment without being paid.

President Muhammadu Buhari on March 20 directed the release of funds to pay the stipends.

Minister of Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo (SAN) hours after, directed the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), the Federal Government agency driving the programme, to start processing the payment plan.

Keyamo, in his official Tweeter handle, (@fkeyamo, assured the participants that they would soon receive alerts of payment.

Twenty-two days after, no payment has been made.

Some of the participants at the weekend took to Keyamo’s Twitter handle to ventilate their frustration.

One of them described the Federal Government as “heartless” for failing to pay them their stipend.

One Dubagari Jnr, tweeted: “What is happening with the SPW? Up till now, we have not been paid and have successfully finished our work. Please Hon. minister we need explanations on why we have not been paid and you have to start the disbursement before fasting (Ramadan).

Another worker, Maikudi Kolo, asked through a tweet: “Una no go pay 774, 000 workers?”

Abdoul Baqee tweeted: “People are hungry regarding the payment of stipends. Please fast track the payment of these people. 774, 000 people waiting anxiously for their payment with hunger and they don’t even have a phone to come to your timeline. When you get hungry just remember those people that work with hunger without their entitlement.”

Yusuf Mohammed Olawuyi asked: “Mr. Honourable minister, what happened to our SPW stipends? You already published that we will start receiving the alert from the beginning of April.”

When contacted, Keyamo directed our correspondent to NDE acting Director-General Abubakar Fikpo.

Fikpo said: “We are still in the process; we have identified some loopholes here and there. We want to verify the BVN of the participants. That is why we are working with the banks.

“We are verifying the BVN of those participants in order to avoid double payments to several people or to three or more accounts.”

About SPW Programme

The Special Public Works Programme is a dry season/off-season transient job for rehabilitation/maintenance of social infrastructure.

The Programme is designed to employ 1,000 persons each from the 774 Local Government Areas.

It is being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

N52billion was voted for the programme, part of it to pay participants at N20,000 monthly for three months.

The programme was expected to commence on October 1, 2020, but suffered a setback because of internal wranglings between Keyamo and a former Director-General of the NDE, Nasir Ladan. President Muhammadu Buhari fired Ladan.

There was also a big row between the National Assembly and Keyamo over the allocation of slots to hire beneficiaries.

N26 billion was released for the procurement of equipment and for logistics before the programme eventually commenced on January 5.

Keyamo, during the inauguration of the programme, said it will address poverty and hunger.

The minister said the programme was conceived following the success of the pilot scheme in eight states to gauge its impact in addressing the ballooning population of the unemployed and rising insecurity.

Keyamo noted that countries like India and Malaysia used similar programmes to fight poverty.

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