As many Nigerians eagerly awaits the May 29, 2023 swearing in of a new President and Vice President, opposition to the victory of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at the February 25, 2023 presidential election suffered a setback as indigenous people of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) denounced a suit seeking to stop the swearing in ceremony from holding. Assistant Editor, ‘Dare Odufowokan, reports.
Ahead of the May 29, 2023 date for the swearing in of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, oppositions to his election suffered a huge setback as indigenous people of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) denounced a suit seeking to stop the swearing in ceremony from holding.
Declaring their support for the President-elect and dismissing the people behind the controversial suit as ‘meddlesome interlopers’ Abuja natives under the auspice of Abuja Peoples Forum (APF), said it is their desire that the FCT be treated like any other state in the federation. This, they claim will further enhance their fundamental human rights to stand for election into various elective positions and enjoy the rights to vote for their preferred political office holders too.
Recall that five people, who claimed to be acting on behalf of residents of the FCT, Abuja, have asked the Federal High Court to stop the May 29 inauguration of the President elect. The move generated controversy as many residents and registered voters in Abuja distanced themselves from the actions of the five persons. Many also faulted their decision to act on behalf of the good people of Abuja as no meeting or congress was called to agree to such a move.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 578/2023, and filed by their counsel, Chucks Nwachukwu, the plaintiffs have applied for an order, restraining “the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, any other judicial officer and/or any other authority or person from swearing in any candidate in the February 25 presidential election as President or Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, until it is judicially determined with finality or in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution that such candidate has fulfilled the requirement of Section 134(2) (b) of the Constitution”.
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation and the CJN who were cited as 1st and 2nd defendants, respectively. The action was filed by Anyaegbunam Ubaka Okoye, David Aondover Adzer; Jeffrey Oheobeh Uche; Usang Paul and Chibuike Nwachukwu, who told the court that they are suing for themselves and as well representing other residents and registered voters of the FCT, Abuja.
The controversial suit
According to the five complainants who insisted that their demands before the court represents the desire of residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, some questions need to be answered before the swearing in day. In the originating summons dated April 28, the plaintiffs further want a declaration that, “the plaintiffs and other FCT residents have a legal interest and constitutional rights to be heard on the question of whether a President-elect must secure at least 25% of votes cast, on the first ballot, in the FCT, Abuja.”
The want the court to determine the question as to whether the plaintiffs and other residents and registered voters of the FCT have a legal interest in, and therefore a constitutional right to be heard on the question whether or not a person who is to be elected president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and consequently an administrator of the territory, through the Minister of the FCT and the Federal Capital Development Authority, on the first ballot is required by section 134 (2) (b), of the 1999 constitution to obtain at least 25 percent of the vote cast in the FCT.
They will also like to know whether the plaintiffs and other residents and registered voters in the FCT, Abuja, would not be discriminated against if any state within the Federal Republic of Nigeria were substituted for the FCT, Abuja for the purpose of the application of section 134 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution in any guise.
And whether any candidate in the February 25, 2023 presidential election in the country, may validly be declared elected and sworn in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and therefore the authority to administer or oversee the administration of the FCT through the Minister and the Federal Capital Development Authority without that candidate obtaining at least 25 percent of the votes cast the FCT, Abuja.
The suit equally seek to answer the question as to whether the court may restrain the swearing in of any person on May 29 or at any other date until the issues raised in the originating summons have been determined with finality.
The originators of the controversial suit are consequently seeking the following reliefs: “a declaration that no state of the country is at the same time the FCT for any propose whatsoever, including, in particular, under section 134 (2) (b) of the Constitution.
They also wish that the court will declare that no candidate in the February 25 presidential election in the country may validly be declared elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without that candidate obtaining at least 25% of the votes cast in the FCT, Abuja.
“A declaration that no candidate in the February 25 presidential election may validly be sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, without such candidate having obtained 25% of the votes cast in FCT, Abuja.
“A declaration that following the February 25 presidential election and until a successor is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and sworn in, the term of office of his Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCON, as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria subsists and endures in accordance with the provisions of section 135 (1) (a) of the Constitution”.
Also, “An order setting aside or suspending any declaration and/or issuance of a Certificate of a Return to any candidate in the February 25 presidential election in the country as having been elected, save and except it is judicially determined with finality that such candidate fulfilled the conditions stated in section 134(2) (b) of the Constitution”.
The suit, which is still being heard, is generating a lot of controversies as more and more residents of the FCT continue to fault those who instituted it. In the midst of the debate, the Court directed the five complainants to respond to issues of jurisdiction over their application seeking to stop the swearing in of the President-elect, Tinubu, as President on May 29, 2023.
Justice Inyang Ekwo last Monday said the residents and voters in the FCT should address the court on their locus standi, jurisdiction and whether there is a similar matter before the presidential elections court. Observers of the trial claim that the court is not oblivious of the issues being raised against the eligibility of the complainants to seek such reliefs on behalf of residents of the FCT.
But more indications have emerged to support the school of thought that says Anyaegbunam Ubaka Okoye, David Aondover Adzer; Jeffrey Oheobeh Uche; Usang Paul and Chibuike Nwachukwu, who told the court that they are suing for themselves and as well representing other residents and registered voters of the FCT, Abuja, may not have the mandate of the people of the FCT to institute the case in question.
Enter the natives
Secretary General of the Abuja Peoples Forum (APF) Mallam Shitu Mohammed Kabir, while reacting to the suit, wondered who could speak on behalf of Abuja more than the indigenous people of the area. He added that the original natives of the FCT are not party to the suit, insisting that those who went to court does not have the mandate of Abuja indigenes to move against the May 29, 2023 swearing in of Asiwaju Tinubu as the President of the country.
Mohammed Kabir, who appealed to Nigerians not satisfied with the outcome of the 2023 presidential election to wait for the eventual pronouncements of the courts, insisted that nothing must be done to stop the swearing of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, from holding on May 29, 2023. According to him “as patriots and committed democrats, we the natives of Abuja, are not against the swearing in of President-elect, Asiwaju Tinubu.
The double national honors recipient, while addressing the media in Abuja during the week, urged Nigerians to rally around Tinubu to begin the healing process in the land, stressing that the country was deeply divided along ethnic, religious and political lines. “Nigeria needs a man who will unite the country and start the process of healing the wounds. We as natives of Abuja will not be party to any opposition against Tinubu because we want the process to start immediately,” the APF scribe said.
He added that though it is in order that Tinubu’s opponents, Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) amongst others, have filed different petitions at the election tribunal over the outcome of the February 25 presidential polls won by Tinubu, the process of transiting from one government to the other must not be tampered with while the nation wait for the outcome of the litigations.
Shitu said he believed in the judiciary to do justice to the petitions, appealing to the political actors to be cautious of their utterances in the public. The post-election comments of some political actors he noted are not helping the healing of this country on all sides, therefore, such comments must be minimized. “They are very inciting and those comments are sometimes very hurtful and they lack decency. I am not speaking as a party man but I am a Nigerian. I want peace. I want us to move forward as a country.
“We do not seek to support a party against any other. Our position is that there is a process. The election is just part of it and so is the swearing in and the court cases. We want all these parts of the process to be allowed to go on unhindered by anybody or group in the interest of the country. That is why we are speaking against those who went to court to stop inauguration. We are telling the word that inhabitant of Abuja are with president elect,” he submitted.
In a related development, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is hearing a suit by Abuja’s original inhabitants seeking that the Nigeria’s capital be granted the full status of a state like the existing 36, and with its own state governor. The President, National Assembly and the Attorney-General of the Federation are all defendants in the suit. Initiated by the Registered Trustees of Abuja Original Inhabitants Youth Empowerment Organisation, the lawsuit is an attempt by the original inhabitants of Abuja to get the court to define their positions as Nigerians who hail from Abuja.
In their presentations before the court, the indigenes of FCT are lamenting that they are the only group of people in Nigeria who are deprived of political rights to participate in elections to vote and to stand for elections in the country. According to the argument of the counsel to the group, James Ndeye, who described the suit as a case of fundamental rights, the Abuja natives are telling the court that the quest for the enforcement of the rights being sought translate to greater inclusion in the governance structure.
He explained that the National Assembly has a crucial role to play in ensuring the required legislative interventions to make the dreams of the original Abuja inhabitants a realistic one. Among other prayers, the Abuja natives asked the Court to order the National Assembly to apply a ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ and pass a Resolution allowing elections to be conducted into designated Executive and Legislative positions as obtainable in states, before the inauguration of a new government on 29th May, 2023. They are also seeking that the Court awards the sum of N15 trillion against the defendants as damages.