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Lawyers, Activists, Debate Dual Citizenship

Lawyers, Activists, Debate Dual Citizenship

Doris Ukaonu
Lawyers, Activists, Debate Dual Citizenship

Lawyers and political activists have called for the amendment of the 1999 constitution, proposing that its stipulations on public office holders having dual citizenship should be clarified, stating clearly the category of public holders.

They held that section 25-28 of the 1999 constitution are not clear on the class of Nigerians who can occupy a public office or contest election for such offices.

According to a report from Daily Times, the push for the amendment of the 1999 constitution was triggered when it was discovered that Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, hold dual citizenship.

Recall that in a judgement passed on July 31 by the Ondo State Election Petitions Tribunal, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency, Rep. Ikengboju Gboluga, was sacked for having dual citizenship.

Ahmeed Ajibola Jimoh, a constitutional lawyer disclosed that he would only join in the proposition of an amendment of the constitution if a thorough background study of how it came about to be in the first place proves futile to the current state of Nigeria.

Jimoh acknowledged that having dual citizenship will hinder full patriotism, loyalty and allegiance from the public holder.

According to him, the constitution was explanatory about dual citizenship for public officeholders. Jimoh said that only a citizen of Nigeria by birth shall be President and Vice-President and governor and deputy governor.

“However, the constitution only provides that only a citizen of Nigeria shall be a member of the National Assembly (both Senate and House of Representatives) and House of Assembly, which in my view, means that not only a citizen of Nigeria by birth can be elected into those offices,” he added.

Speaking also, Chief Dayo Olugbenga (SAN), Quoting Section 66 of the constitution, said that a Nigerian can hold dual citizenship but the moment he/she swears an oath of allegiance to another country, he/she ought not to hold any public office.

“It is, therefore, advised that any person(s) with interest in vying for any elective political position should rather renounce their allegiance of another country before making an attempt to contest for any election in Nigeria,” he noted.

Another senior lawyer, Ikechukwu Njoku, having maintained that the position of the constitution and judicial pronouncements on the matter are very clear, opined that holding dual citizenship of Nigeria and another country will not serve as a bar to such holder from contesting and/or holding an elective post in Nigeria.

He opposed those referencing Section 66 (1) (a), urging that they read it together with other imperative sections of the constitution, especially Sections 25-27 which outlines various ways one can acquire Nigerian citizenship.

“Section 28 states clearly that dual citizenship is allowable where one qualifies as a Nigerian by birth as contained in Section 25 (1) (a-c).

“The only instance in which forfeiture of citizenship is allowed and becomes applicable under the constitution is by holders of citizenship by registration under Section 26 and citizenship by naturalisation, under Section 27.

“This position has gained judicial attention over the years. One of the most outstanding judicial authorities on this matter is the Court of Appeal decision in the case of Dr. Willie Ogebide vs Mr. Arigbe Osula (2004) as delivered by Justice Adeniji,” Njoku added.

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Lawyers, Activists, Debate Dual Citizenship

Speaking in the same manner, an activist and public commentator, Victor Amajemba said that the issue of dual citizenship should not raise any dust again as it has been settled during the case of Prof. Isa Odidi and another vs the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Amajemba said “bottom line is, if you are a citizen of Nigeria by birth, the law of the land allows you to hold dual citizenship and your dual citizenship does not disqualify you from contesting for any political office in Nigeria.

“However, if you are a naturalised citizen of Nigeria and hold dual citizenship of another country, you are not allowed to contest for any political office in Nigeria.”

A retired Chief Magistrate, Hussein Duraki said dual citizenship means that a person who acquires citizenship by birth in a country also acquired the citizenship of another country either by registration or naturalisation.

According to Duraki, nothing stipulated in the constitution hinders a Nigerian from being a dual citizen. He explained that Section 25 (1) (a-c) of the constitution deals with citizenship by birth and it confers Nigerian citizenship on any person born by Nigerian parent(s) in or outside the country.

On the other hand, Sections 26 and 27 confer citizenship of Nigeria on foreigners by registration and naturalisation respectively, he said.


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