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Opinion

Denial of Citizenship Right In Nigeria Contemporary Society: Causes And Solutions

Ikechukwu left his hometown, Imo State to Sokoto State, in search of greener pastures. This man settled down with his wife and they were gifted with four children. Sixteen years after they emigrated from their state of origin, Victor, who is Mr Ikechukwu’s first son applied to study Microbiology at Sokoto State University.

As a good Nigerian citizen who has been contributing immensely to the development of his state of residence, Mr Ikechukwu wants to collect an indigenous certificate for his son, for him to enjoy the scholarship enjoyed by Sokoto state indigenes. Unfortunately, his son was denied this because his parents are from Imo state and they do not have the right to enjoy the benefits enjoyed by the ‘sons of the soil.’

Despite the fact that Mr Ikechukwu is a civil servant in Sokoto state and he is carrying out his social responsibilities in the state, he and his family have contributed immensely to the betterment of the state by paying huge taxes and also fostering peace and security in their residence state more than their state of origin. Even though they are Nigerians, his son cannot benefit from scholarship because the opportunity is meant for the proverbial sons of the soil.

We are calling ourselves one Nigeria but we cannot enjoy some rights and privileges outside our state of origin. Many Nigerians are regarded as aliens in another state other than their state of origin. There are other sectors that Nigerians are being denied their rights as citizens, which include the above.

The indigene/non-indigene syndrome determines a lot of things in getting job opportunities in Nigeria. This is becoming so alarming that it would be difficult for a non-indigene to enjoy the job opportunities outside his state of origin, despite the fact that he is a Nigerian citizen by birth. That is the reason why it is hard, if not impossible, to appoint a Vice-Chancellor of a state University who hails from outside the concerned state of origin.

This is not restricted to only employment opportunities, but it has extended to the area of education. Nigerian citizens cannot enjoy any scholarship outside their state of origin because they are not a ‘son of the soil.’ If a non-indigene is studying in a state institution outside his state of origin; his school fees would be more than the money paid by the indigene. The inclusion of the catchment area in the cut-off mark of our tertiary institutions has given birth to injustice in giving admission. The indigene of a particular state within the geographical area of a particular tertiary institution has the highest admitted students into all professional courses.

For example, if Ade from Ondo state scored 240 and he is applying for Law in Bayero University, Kano, while Aliyu, on the other hand, applied for law and scored 220 in the same institution. The institution will change Ade’s course to Political Science and Aliyu will be given Law because he is from the catchment area, while the other must meet the merit cut- off mark before he can be considered for the course he applied for.

All Nigerians have the right to vote and be voted for in any part of the country. But in Nigeria, non-indigenes have the right to vote in any state in Nigeria but cannot be voted for outside their state of origin despite fulfilling the requirement prescribed by law to contest for political office.

It may be argued that in Nigeria, it is more beneficial to be an indigene than to be a  Nigerian since “indigeneship” carries with it all the rights and privileges of citizenship. whereas Nigerian citizenship does not carry with it the rights and privileges offered by “indigeneship.” It may even be said that Nigerian citizenship concedes some of its rights and privileges when confronted by “indigeneship.”

There are some factors that contributed to the denial of citizenship in Nigeria; firstly, the existence of loyalty to one’s ethnic, state, local government area, clans, villages, e.t.c has caused this menace in our society. A good example of this is that some recognized judges have turned the post of Judges to the family post, thereby hinder some less privileged families to have access to the position. Some have turned political offices to their family clan, they prefer to appoint an indigene who has been living in the United Kingdom than a non-indigene who has been living with them for 20 years.

Secondly, one of the factors that also contribute to this problem is the lack of respect for the rule of law. If there is no rule of law in a society, it would lead to an abuse of human rights. Every Nigerian has the right to live in any part of the country and discrimination of a non-indigene would lead to a breach of fundamental human rights which is respect for the dignity of the person.

Prebendalism and clientelism have solidified political supremacy that favours loyalists to the exclusion of others. According to Ukpe, he sees prebendalism as a system of spoilt politics where the winner takes all. Political affiliation fostered by prebendalism solely and completely represents the interest of their members represented by politicians, contractors, legal professionals, bureaucrats, military personnel, and academia.   

While clientelism has been well defined by Joseph (1999, 55) as a channel through which one joins the dominant class and a practice which is then seen as fundamental to the continued enjoyment of the prerequisites of that class. Godfatherism in Nigerian politics is a good example of this, whereby a godfather would want to nominate his godson or relative; thereby denying the competent candidates to hold the post.

But the bitter truth is that, during census to determine the population of state or local government; non-indigenes are counted to their state of residence not the state of origin. During the registration of birth; non-indigenes are registered in their state of residence not the state of origin.

The non-indigenes who are paying tax in their state of residence, how would you push them to go and enjoy the opportunity in their state of origin. This is just as if you are telling them to go and reap what they didn’t sow.

Some local governments in Nigeria may not have the numerical strength to be a state or local government if not for the non-indigene living in the area. In terms of revenue generation also; some states are getting the highest revenue from the non-indigene, yet, they cannot benefit from what they sow.

That is the reason Raphael said: “The nation is a community, the state is an association; membership of the nation is a matter of sentiment, depending on common experience  and history, while members of a state is a matter of legal status.”

To solve the problem of denial of citizenship rights and privileges in Nigeria we need to de-emphasize the use of one’s state of origin in granting rights, privileges and other benefits and the Nigerian citizens should be treated equally everywhere in Nigeria.

The issue like employment opportunities, admission into tertiary institutions, scholarships, election into political offices, should be based on state or local government of residence, not origin. This will give an opportunity for them to reap what they sow.

According to Section 25 (1) of the 1999 Constitution stated that citizenship could be acquired by birth. This should be applicable in all states to allow any child born outside their state of origin to get the certificate of origin.

Respect to the rule of law is one of the things that can be done to put an end to discrimination and molestation of a Nigerian citizen outside their state of origin. Section 41(1) defends the right of every Nigerian citizen to reside in any parts of the Nigerian state without molestation and discrimination. Therefore, anybody who breaches this fundamental human right should be severely punished as this would go a long way to curb this menace in the contemporary world.

On a final note, the parents, religious leaders, teachers, should endeavour to educate the young Nigerians on the importance of promoting national consciousness more than Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, and other ethnic consciousness. They should be enlightened on how to respect their fellow Nigerians, irrespective of their state of origin. If all the above solutions should be applied, the denial of citizenship rights would become a thing of past in Nigeria.

God bless Nigeria.

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