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Bruce’s lawyers fight back, cite precedence

By Rotimi Ajayi & Henry Umoru
As the disqualified aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wait for final decision of the National Working Committee on who will finally be allowed to contest in the next week’s Bayelsa State Gubernatorial Primaries, lawyers to one of the aspirants, Mr. Ben Murray-Bruce have cited judgments of the Court of Appeal with regards to Nigerians with dual citizenship holding any elective office in Nigeria.

Former Director General of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Mr Ben Murray-Bruce had been provisionally stepped aside by the Party from contesting in the primaries on the ground that he holds the citizenship of Nigeria and that of the United States.

The Party’s Appeal Committee had said that based on section 182 of the Constitution, Mr Murray Bruce could not be allowed to take part in the primaries.

Ben Bruce

His case was said to have caused the authorities to ask for the opinion of various lawyers on the implication given the provision of section 28 which confers full citizenship on this same category of Nigerians.

The Attorney General of the Federation was said to have been asked to also give his advisory over the matter as it affects Mr Murray Bruce.

According to sources at the Presidency and the National Headquarters of the PDP, even as the advisory from the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice was still being awaited, lawyers to Mr Murray Bruce were said to have written the Party supplying it with judgments of the Courts of Appeal on the issue of dual citizenship and qualification to contest elections.

In the letter, the lawyers cited a judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja which rested on the rulings of the Appeal Courts, that made it unconstitutional to deny any Nigerian the opportunity to contest any elective posts on the ground that he holds a dual citizenship.

The lawyers had in the letter cited the case determined by Justice A. I. Chinkere following a suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/28/07 filed by Professor Isa Odidi of the New Democrats Party against the Independent National Electoral Commission in 2007.

In the case, Justice Chinkere had in line with the principle of stare decises, hoisted his decision on the ruling of the court Appeal

The lawyers in their letters quoted Justice Chinkere thus, “In the case of Ogbeide vs Osula [2004] 12 NWLR part 886 page 86 at 138 Adeniji(JCA) Justice Court of Appeal delivering lead Judge held as follows, Section 29 deals with the issue of renunciation of a persons Nigerian citizenship while Section 25 deals with categories of Nigerian citizens. In other words, a person who is a citizen of Nigeria by birth cannot have such citizenship forfeited or become ineligible to contest such elections under any circumstances even where Section 65(1) is read with Section 1 37, a person who is not a citizen of Nigeria can be so registered, but where he is not a citizen of that other country by birth, his registration will be conditioned on the renunciation of his citizenship of that other country. In other words, renunciation of citizenship does not apply to a citizen of this country by birth.

“The tribunal however held on page 121 paragraph 2 of the record that a Nigerian citizenship by his acquisition as the citizenship of another country, he would stand disqualified from being a member of the National Assembly if he holds such dual citizenship or has subscribed to an oath of allegiance to any other country. That I must say with due respect, is not contained in the Section under scrutiny. What one can make of that Section read with Sections 25, 26 and 27 of the 1999 Constitution is that a citizen of this country by birth never loses his citizenship even where he holds dual citizenship of another country and cannot be disqualified from contesting election into the House of Representative for reasons only that he holds such dual citizenship

Section 137 provides for instance of disqualification while section 28 deals principally with the question of dual citizenship. By the decision of His Lordship Adeniji (JCA) Justice Court of Appeal page 127, “a person who is a citizen of Nigeria by birth cannot have such citizenship forfeited or become ineligible to contest election under any circumstance even where Section 65(1) in the present case Section 28 is read together with section 137 of 1999 Constitution.

“The above case is in all fours with the present suit and by the doctrine of stare decises I am bound by the decision of the appellate Court. I adopt same as mine and hold that the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes dual citizenship and same cannot be a hare for Plaintiffs to contest election especially when they are Nigerians by birth.”

Mr. Murray Bruce’s lawyers therefore urged the National Working Committee of the PDP to graciously review the decision withdrawing the clearance given to him by the Party’s screening Committee.

Meanwhile, it was learnt yesterday that pressures are being bore on the member of the National Working Committee of the Party yesterday not to heed the advice of the State Chairmen of the Party in respect of issuance of waivers as it affects the former boss of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Mr Timi Alaibe.

The Party source disclosed that some leaders of the party from the South South Zone are pushing the Party NWC to follow the precedence set in the case of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who was given waivers to contest the Presidential primaries after exiting the party in 2007 to contest on the platform of the Action Congress.


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