Nigeria President Says Election Rival Was Not a Citizen

Emele Onu

(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari told an election tribunal the candidate he beat in a February vote was not a citizen of Nigeria by birth and ought not to have even been allowed to run for the office, deepening the rift between the political leaders in the oil-rich west African nation.

The allegation against Atiku Abubakar, the opposition candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, was made in a petition filed by Buhari’s All Progressives Congress to the panel in Abuja, according to a spokesman of that party. It came in response to a filling by the PDP challenging the outcome of the election.

Abubakar’s party filed a petition at the Presidential Elections Tribunal last month to nullify Buhari’s victory on allegations that voting was rigged in favor of the incumbent. Buhari, 76, was declared the winner for his second term, with 56 percent of the vote, while Abubakar garnered 41 percent.

Abubakar had no right to be elected because he was born in Jada, Adamawa, when it was part of Northern Cameroon, which later became a part of Nigeria by a plebiscite, APC spokesman Lanre Issa-Onilu said by phone.

“Plebiscite is not stated in the constitution as a condition for citizenship,’’ Issa-Onilu said. “The constitution says what makes somebody a Nigerian, and it is by birth.”

The only defense of the APC and President Buhari “is to attempt an unconstitutional redefinition of the term Nigerian,’’ Abubakar said in a statement emailed by his spokesman Paul Ibe. “I trust that the tribunal will treat such a claim with the contempt it deserves.’’

(Updates with rival candidate Abubakar’s comments in final paragraph.)

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