Recently, a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt disqualified Rivers All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate Tonye Cole based on a dual citizenship suit pressed against him.
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The Rivers APC guber candidate was reported to be a citizen of the United Kingdom (UK) and Nigeria.
In Nigeria's political history, Cole is not the first politician to be disqualified for having dual citizenship.
In July 2019, an election petition tribunal sacked Ikengboju Gboluga, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) representing Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency of Ondo state, for having dual citizenship.
The tribunal headed by Justice Nuhu Adi ruled that Gboluga was not eligible to contest the 2019 National Assembly election, having admitted in his INEC Form CF001 that he had “voluntarily acquired the citizenship of the United Kingdom” and had sworn allegiance to the country.
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The judgment, according to a report by The Punch, was based on Section 66 of the 1999 Constitution, which states in part that:
“No person shall be qualified for election to the Senate or the House of Representatives if: (a) subject to the provisions of section 28 of this constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, has made a declaration of allegiance to such a country.”
What senior lawyers said
Responding to Gboluga's sack in 2019, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ahmed Raji, said the judgment would not stand.
“I don’t know the facts of the case. But if I understand and still recollect the provisions of the constitution and some decided authorities of the higher courts, it would seem that that judgment cannot hold water.
“I believe that an appeal to the Court of Appeal will put things in the proper shape. So, all I will say is that anyone who is aggrieved is encouraged to go on appeal.”
Another SAN, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, said the tribunal’s decision was wrong.
“The tribunal is clearly wrong; the tribunal got it all mixed up. You cannot say because a man naturalises, he ceases to be a Nigerian.
"That decision may be correct if the man in question renounces his Nigerian citizenship upon naturalising," Adedipe said.
As the senior lawyers said, in September 2019, a Court of Appeal upturned the tribunal's ruling and upheld Gboluga's election.
In a unanimous judgment, the three justices of the appellate court held that a Nigerian citizen by birth could not be disqualified from contesting the election because he acquired additional citizenship of other countries and swore an oath of allegiance to such countries.
The presiding judge, Justice M.A. Danjuma, who read the judgment, noted that, based on the grounds of dual citizenship, the lower court was wrong to have sacked Gboluga.
The appellate court also faulted the election tribunal, saying it interpreted the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wrongfully.
Meanwhile, the Rivers APC guber candidate, Cole, through the APC counsel Collins Dike, has also vowed to challenge the judgement at the Court of Appeal.
It remains to be seen if he will also get a favourable verdict, like Gboluga.
It is also interesting to note that there are some prominent elected politicians in the country who hold dual citizenship. Here are some of them:
1. Senate President Ahmad Lawan
The president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, represents Yobe North senatorial district in the Red Chamber.
According to The Punch, the Senate President, in a form submitted to INEC in 2019, said he had never changed his nationality in the past but admitted that he had voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country and had sworn allegiance to the same country.
He, however, did not disclose the country.
2. Senator Opeyemi Bamidele
In his form CF001, also submitted to INEC, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele representing Ekiti Central said he was a US citizen and had also sworn allegiance to the country.
“Yes, the United States of America where I was granted political asylum," the senator said when asked whether he had voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country.
Pressed further if he had indeed sworn allegiance to the USA, he replied:
“Yes. I was granted political asylum by the USA.”
3. Senator Teslim Folarin
Senator Teslim Folarin is the senator representing Oyo Central.
Folarin, who is the current governorship candidate of the APC in Oyo state, admitted that he had voluntarily acquired UK citizenship and had sworn an oath of allegiance to the country.
4. Senator Ibrahim Bomai
Ibrahim Bomai is the senator representing Yobe South.
He also admitted in his form that he had voluntarily acquired the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda, an island nation in the West Indies in the Americas, lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The lawmaker, however, said on oath that he never “made a declaration of allegiance” to the country.
5. Femi Gbajabiamila
Femi Gbajabiamila is the current Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The lawmaker representing Surulere in Lagos state also reportedly noted in his INEC form that he had acquired citizenship of the United States.
6. Tonye Cole
Tonye Cole is the governorship candidate of the APC in Rivers state for the 2023 general election.
The Rivers APC guber candidate is said to be a citizen of the United Kingdom (UK) and Nigeria.
7. Ikengboju Gboluga
Ikengboju Gboluga is a member of the PDP representing Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency of Ondo state, for having dual citizenship.
He admitted in his INEC Form CF001 that he had voluntarily acquired citizenship of the UK and had sworn allegiance to the country.
8. Bukola Saraki
Bukola Saraki is the immediate former president of the Senate.
Saraki, who is also a former governor of Kwara state, admitted that he has a UK passport obtained by virtue of his being born in the country.
Court gives verdict on Wike's anointed PDP governorship candidate
In another report, a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt dismissed a suit seeking to disqualify the PDP governorship candidate in the state, Siminalaye Fubara.
One of the contestants in the Rivers Gubernatorial election, Morgan West, had approached the court in June to disqualify Fubara.
However, Justice Adamu T. Mohammed threw out the case for lack of competence and lack of jurisdiction.