NIGERIA’S main opposition the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned a recent elections petition which nullified the election of one of its lawmakers because he has UK citizenship and had sworn an allegiance to the queen of England.
In a bizarre development, yesterday, the three-man tribunal sitting in Akure, led by Justice Nuhu Adi, nullified the election of Hon Ikengbolu Gboluga, a PDP lawmaker elected to represent the Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. His election was nullified because he held both Nigeria UK citizenships and the tribunal subsequently declared his challenger, Albert Akintoye of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the winner of the February 23 election.
However, the Ondo State chapter of the PDP has rejected the ruling, describing the tribunal’s judgement as lacking basis. Zadok Akintoye, the director of publicity of the party in the state, said that the issue of citizenship was specified in the constitution and Hon Gboluga did not contravene any electoral law.
He added: “We reject in its entirety the decision of the Elections Petitions Tribunal which nullified the legitimate mandate of the people of Okitipupa-Irele Federal Constituency given to Hon Ikengboju Gboluga of our party. We find the basis upon which the decision of the tribunal was made, deeply troubling and at variance with the constitutional provisions under section 25 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“The constitution, by virtue of section 28(1) which deals with dual citizenship and forfeiture of Nigerian citizenship, states expressly that Subject to the other provisions of this section, a person shall forfeit his Nigerian citizenship if, not being a citizen Nigeria by birth, he acquires or retains the citizenship or nationality of a country, other than Nigeria, of which he is not a citizen by birth.
“Hon Ikengboju Gboluga, therefore, as a Nigerian citizen by birth cannot forfeit his citizenship if he acquires the citizenship of another country. This position has been endorsed by the Supreme Court in several cases.
“The possession of a secondary citizenship as in Hon Ikengboju Gbolugas’ case is therefore not a reason for the court to invalidate his victory at the polls. His Nigerian citizenship by birth cannot be forfeited on any ground as posited by the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal.
“Let it be on record, that the petitioners in this case, lost the election with a margin of well over 90,000 votes and only won in his ward in his local government with a margin of less than 20 votes. Thus, we conclude that the tribunal should have upheld a legitimate victory rather than use technicalities that are purely procedural to seek to set aside a valid election.
“Our party, therefore, rejects in its entirety the decision of the tribunal which is in variance and contravention of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and therefore would be appealing this judgment. We enjoin all members of our party to remain calm as we retrieve this mandate at the appeal court.”
However, the APC in the state had commended the judgement of the tribunal, with Ade Adetimehin, the chairman of the Ondo State chapter of the party hailing the resilience of Mr Akintoye to reclaim his mandate in court. He subsequently appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission to immediately issue a certificate of return to Mr Akintoye as directed by the tribunal.