IBA - International Bar Association

09/29/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/29/2020 05:46

The ways in which citizenship can be acquired in Nigeria

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ChristianBabatundeDenton

City Law Associates, Lagos

Since the dawn of man, people have been migrating from their place of origin to different settlements, settlingin those settlements and becomingsa part of the community. This has been the case from the Roman Empire to the mass exodus of people from the 'Old World'of Europe to the 'New World'of the Americas.

In the globalisedworld we live in today, many peoplemove to different jurisdictions and acquire citizenship of the countries they have settled in. Sometimes, they visit another country with no intention of settling there but to give birth, in order for their offspring to acquire citizenship of the country.

According to Justice Wetson in Lavoie v Canada,[1]'citizenship is a juristic and political status in which an individual enjoys full, legally sanctioned membership in a state and owes full allegiance to it'.[2] Citizenshipis a status that is legally granted to an individual by a statewhich enables the said individual to enjoy the privileges and responsibilities that comes with that status.

There arethree ways in which citizenship is acquired in Nigeria. They are:

  • citizenship by birth;

  • citizenship by registration;and

  • citizenship by naturalisation.

Citizenship by birth

Section 25 of the Nigerian constitution[3] explains in detail those individuals who are eligible for Nigerian citizenship under this category. People eligible for citizenship under this category are:

  • Individuals that are born in the territory of Nigeria after 1October 1960 that have at least a parent or grandparent who belongs or belonged to a community indigenous to the geographical location known as Nigeria. Communities indigenous to Nigeria include Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Igbo, Kanuri, Erik, Urhobo, Kanuri, Erik, Ibibio, Itshekiri andmany others. This subsection lays emphasis on the word 'indigenous'to Nigeria, which means that you must have blood ties to Nigeria).

  • Individuals born outside of Nigeria whose parents or grandparents were or are citizens of Nigeria are eligible to apply for citizenship of Nigeria by birth. This subsection deals with citizenship by birth via descent.

It is important to note that,under this section it is impossible for a person to claim Nigerian citizenship by birth if noneof theirparents norgrandparents wereborn in Nigeria. Youmust have blood ties in order to be a Nigerian citizen by birth.

Citizenship by registration

This category of citizenship is covered under Section26 of the Nigerian constitution. An individual could be issued a certificate of citizenship of Nigeria if they satisfyall of the following conditions:

  • The person is of good character. The candidate requires two persons to testify before this statement;one of them should be a religious minister.

  • The person expresses and shows a clear desire to be resident in the country. This can be done by fulfilling residency requirements necessary to qualify as a citizen.

  • The oath of allegiance to Nigeria, which is provided by the seventh schedule of the Nigerian Constitution, has been administered on the person. The oath of allegiance is administered by a representative of the governmentin a citizenship ceremony.

The Nigerian constitution also provides for the following individuals under Section26 (2) of the constitution to be a Nigerian citizen by registration:

  • A woman who ismarried to a man from Nigeria. The constitutiondoes not state the same for a man who is married a woman from Nigeria,due to the patriarchal nature of the society.

  • Where the individual'sgrandparents are from Nigerian and the individualhas grown to a capacity and approved age. This is strictly for those who are descended from Nigerian grandparents and wish to register themselves as citizens once they have attained the age of consent and are not mentally incapacitated.

Citizenship by naturalisation

Another means of citizenship in Nigeria is citizenship by naturalisation.Section 27 of the constitution makes provision for this,provided certain requirements are met subject to Section28 of the constitution. If the person is confident that they meetthe following requirements, a written application is then made to the Presidentapplying for a certificate of naturalisation.The requirements are as follows:

  • The applicantmust be of full age and capacity (aged18 and above).

The person is of good character. A minimum of two people are needed to testify to this statement; one of the parties should be a religious minister.

  • The person must have shown a clear desire to be resident in the countryand the person has to fulfill the residential requirements needed to become a citizen.

  • The person should be capable of contributing to the wellbeing of Nigeria and its citizens­- for example, theindividual is a taxpayer and an actual member of society.

  • The governor of the state of the host community where the person applying for citizenship wants to reside has to confirm the willingness of that community to accept that individual into their fold.

  • The individualhas been administered the oathof allegianceprescribed in the seventh scheduleto the constitution.

  • The person must have lived in Nigeria continuously for a period of 15years preceding the application date. A person who has lived continuously for a duration of 12months in Nigeria,then over the next 20years lived in Nigeria intermittently for periods totaling not less than 15years can also apply if they fulfillthe other requirements.

Section 28 of the constitution makes it clear that a person who intends to acquire Nigerian citizenship by registration or by naturalisationmust first renounce citizenship of other countries theymay have acquired previously,except citizenship of a countryacquired by birth. If a non-Nigerian wishes to be a citizen of Nigeria by registration or naturalisation, they must not retain any previous citizenships unless it wasacquired by birth.

Conclusion

The Nigerian constitution explicitly makes provision for individuals that want to obtain Nigerian citizenship to do so through a well-laid-outprocedure. Acquiring citizenship in Nigeria is less stressful thanin other jurisdictions,where the requirements are much stricter and individuals have to go through many rigorous steps and invest a huge amount of money.

It should be noted, however, that the Nigerian constitution forbids Nigerian citizens by registration and naturalisationto hold citizenship of another country other than their country of birth.

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