Chapter 3: Citizenship
Where are you from? Who is your father? Who is your mother? These are questions we are heavily inundated with as Nigerians. The burden of Nigerian citizenship is a cross that a number of us who proudly carry the flag have to bear. There is a war that goes on in the minds of a lot of Nigerians; hope for the potential greatness of the nation and absolute anger in the systems that are supposedly responsible for our inability to reach this greatness.
What exactly makes us citizens of this great nation? What does it mean to be a child of the soil, to be a bearer and representative of the bold green white green? While being a Nigerian citizen may mean different things to each Nigerian let’s define it and break it down according to the constitution. We will explore how you can be considered a Nigerian citizen and how you can even lose your citizenship all according to the constitution.
- Citizenship by Birth
According to section 25 of the constitution, you are/can be a citizen by birth if you:
- were born in Nigeria before or after independence (October 1st, 1960);
- have parents or grandparents belonging to indigenous Nigerian communities. Indigenous here simply means the tribes of Nigeria (Efik, Tiv, Esan, Kanuri, to name a few);
- were born outside Nigeria and have parents (or a parent) born in Nigeria.
2. Citizenship by Registration
From section 26 of the Nigerian Constitution, a person who is not Nigerian by birth can become a citizen of Nigeria by registration. A person can apply to become a Nigerian citizen by registration provided that the following conditions are fully satisfied:
- he/ she is a person of good character;
- he/ she expresses a clear intention of his/ her desire to be domiciled in Nigeria;
- the person has taken the oath of allegiance to Nigeria, provided by the seventh schedule of the Nigerian Constitution
This section also provides for the following categories of people to apply for Nigerian citizenship:
- a woman who is or has been married to a citizen of Nigeria.
- every person of full age (18+ or a married woman of any age) and capacity born outside Nigeria with Nigerian parents/ grandparents
3. Citizenship by Naturalization
An individual can become a Nigerian by naturalization through an application to the President if they satisfy the following:
- the person is of full age and capacity;
- he/ she is a person of good character;
- he/ she has shown a clear intention to be domiciled in Nigeria;
- the Governor of the state where the person applying for citizenship wants to reside has to confirm the desire of the community to assimilate this person;
- the person should be able to contribute to the wellbeing of Nigeria and its citizens;
- the person has lived in Nigeria for fifteen years preceding the application date
So whether by birth, naturalization or registration, remember this saying by social activist Aisha Yesufu as you reflect on your Nigerian-ess and what it means to be a Nigerian; “No Nigerian is more Nigerian than any Nigerian.”
So can you be a citizen of another nation and still be a Nigerian? Well, according to the constitution, this is true for a person who is a citizen of Nigeria by birth (i.e. they can have dual nationality). However, this is not an option for individuals who acquire Nigerian citizenship by naturalization or registration. A person who wants to acquire/ acquires Nigerian citizenship by registration or naturalization will have to renounce his/her other citizenships to remain/ become a Nigerian citizen.
Renunciation and Deprivation of Citizenship
An individual who is of full age can renounce his/ her citizenship through an application reviewed by the President. However, the President may reject this application if the applicant made such a declaration while Nigeria is at war.
A naturalised citizen can have their citizenship deprived by the President if:
- he/she gets imprisoned for more than three years within the seven years after the naturalization;
- he/she proves disloyal to the nation in action and/ or speech;
- it can be proved that they are enemies of the state, or have collaborated with enemies of the state. This includes business deals made with organizations at war with Nigeria, and also applies to traitors who have fought against Nigeria
Did you know that the President can make any decision regarding the citizenship of anyone in Nigeria, even though said decision may not be written in the constitution?
Well, he absolutely can, provided that said decision is submitted to and approved by the National Assembly.