Citizenship Under the Nigerian Constitution, 1999
A citizen may simply be said as a true and legal member of a society or state. Citizens of a given state enjoy specified rights and privileges, and may be held responsible to perform certain duties, towards the peaceful coexistence and development of such state.
As denotable from the definition given above, not every inhabitant of a country, like Nigeria, is a citizen. The requirement(s) to be fulfilled to become the citizen of a country vary from region to region, depending on the established law of the territory.
In Nigeria, the requirements to become a citizen are stipulated in the Chapter III of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999. The chapter is titled ‘Citizenship’. The Chapter contains section 25-32 of the Constitution.
Under the mentioned Sections of the Nigerian constitution, an individual may become a citizen of Nigeria by birth, registration, or naturalisation. Section 28 provides for the possibility of holding dual citizenship, and section 29 for renunciation of citizenship. As provided in section 30, an individual who is not a citizen of Nigeria by birth may be deprived his or her citizenship by the president, under certain circumstances.
Below are the means by which one may become a citizen of Nigeria under the 1999 constitution.
Citizenship by Birth
The first means to become a Nigerian citizen, as itemised under the Nigerian Constitution, is by birth. This is seen under section 25.
A person is a citizen of Nigeria by birth if he is born in Nigeria before, or after, the date of independence, having either of his parent or grandparent belonging to an indigenous Nigerian community. In other words, an individual is a citizen of Nigeria by birth if he or she is born in Nigeria, and either of his parent or grandparent is born in Nigeria.
Also, the Section25(c) provides that a person may become a citizen of Nigeria by birth if he or she is born outside Nigeria, but either of whose parents is a citizen of Nigeria. In other words, you are a citizen of Nigeria by birth if you are born outside of Nigeria, but either of your parents is a citizen of Nigeria.
Citizenship by Registration
This means of becoming a Nigerian citizenship is provided for under Section 26 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999. As provided, becoming a citizen of Nigeria by registration is applied for.
Under the aforementioned section 26, the possibility of applying to become a citizen of Nigeria through registration is available to a woman, who has married a citizen of Nigeria. Also, a person born outside Nigeria, any of whose grandparents is a citizen of Nigeria, may also apply to become a citizen of Nigeria through registration.
From the foregoing, the two categories of people stated hereinbefore may be granted the citizenship of Nigeria by registration upon the satisfaction of certain requirements. The president must be satisfied that the person is of a good character, has shown clear intention of his or her desire to be domiciled in Nigeria, and that he has taken the oath of allegiance prescribed in the seventh scheduled of the 1999 constitution.
Citizenship by Naturalisation
The third means by which a person might become a citizen of Nigeria is stated under Section 27 of Chapter III of the 1999 Constitution as Naturalisation. This provision affords anybody that meets the stipulated requirements to apply to the president for a certificate of Naturalisation.
For a person to obtain the capability to apply for the certificate of naturalization, the president must be satisfied that he or she is a person of full age and capacity. Also, that the person is of good character, has shown clear intention to be domiciled in Nigeria, acceptable to the local community, capable of making useful contribution to the development of Nigeria, and has taken the oath of allegiance.
Moreover, a person applying for the certificate of Naturalisation must have resided in Nigeria for, at least, the fifteen years preceding the date of his application. Or preceding his application, he has lived in Nigeria for 12 months, and a period amounting in aggregate to at least 15 years within the 20 years immediately preceding those 12 months.
The 1999 constitution provides for dual citizenship under Section 28.
According to this section, a person who is not a citizen of Nigeria by birth may forfeit such citizenship if he or she holds the citizenship of another country, which is not by birth. In other words, if an individual possesses the citizenship of a country (which is not of birth), he would forfeit his Nigerian citizenship (if it is also not of birth).
From the provision of section 28, it is impossible to forfeit a Nigerian citizenship, if it is by birth.
If a person holds the citizenship of another country, which is not by birth, and becomes a citizen of Nigeria, either by registration or naturalisation, the obtained Nigerian citizenship becomes conditional on the effective renunciation of the other citizenship within a period of five months from the date of such registration or grant.
From the foregoing, the only way to hold a dual citizenship is to own the citizenship-by-birth of another country, and then apply for the Nigerian citizenship, either by registration or naturalization.
Going forward, as sparingly mentioned earlier, section 29 of the 1999 constitution provides for the procedure for renouncing a Nigerian Citizenship. This is done through a declaration, as provided.
Whereas, a citizen of Nigeria by birth cannot be deprived of his citizenship, others may. The president is empowered by section 30 to deprive a person, who is not a citizen of Nigeria by birth, of his or her citizenship, given certain conditions.
Section 31 provides for persons deemed to be citizens of Nigeria, and section 32 empowers the president to make regulations in relation to the provisions of the chapter. Such regulations shall be laid before the National Assembly.
In conclusion, the procedure for becoming and forfeiting a Nigerian citizenship is provided for under Chapter III of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999. A person may become a citizen of Nigeria by birth, registration or naturalization. An individual may renounce his or her already got citizenship. Moreover, the president may deprive a ‘non-birth citizen’ of Nigeria his or her citizenship, and make regulations concerning the available provisions, to be laid before the National Assembly.
See: AHMED v. MINISTER OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS OF F.R.N. & ORS [(2017) LPELR-43150(CA)], on ‘Whether a non-citizen is excluded from the protection of the Fundamental Rights entrenched in the Constitution of Nigeria’.