Citizen By Marriage Is Discriminatory and Against Nigerian Women.

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Citizen By Marriage Is Discriminatory and Against Nigerian Women. Daily Law Tips (Tip 653) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

One of the requirements for “Citizenship by Registration” is a marriage to a Nigerian. This has fetched it the nickname; “Citizenship by Marriage”. Marriage between a Nigerian and a foreigner may beget a Nigerian citizenship for the foreigner, depending on the sex of the Nigerian being married. This work reveals the discriminatory nature of citizenship by registration (marriage) in Nigeria. 

The constitution of Nigeria is the greatest of all laws in Nigeria and it does not bow to any person, religion, group, culture, convention, logic or force. Nigerian citizenship is a constitutional matter and clearly provided for in Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Nigeria. The Chapter 3 has 8 sections dedicated to citizenship. There are enormous privileges and rights open to only citizens of Nigeria. Even some fundamental human rights in Nigeria are only exercisable by Nigerians alone, (like, the Right to Private and Family Life, the Right to Freedom of Movement, the Right to Freedom from Discrimination and the Right to Acquire and Own Immovable Property). Hence there are awesome reasons to become a citizen of the most populous black nation in the world. 

There are three ways of becoming a Nigerian citizen and they are; Citizenship by birth, Citizenship by registration and Citizenship by naturalization. By the way, Nigeria allows dual citizenship for its citizens, although dual citizenship has some restrictions, like only its citizens by birth that have dual citizenship and also citizens without dual citizenship, are allowed to hold elective positions in the legislative or executive arms in federal and state levels. There is room for renunciation of citizenship as well as deprivation of citizenship in Nigeria. Click to read my other works on Citizenship in Nigeria. 

Citizenship by registration is the means of becoming a citizen of Nigeria that is open to only 2 classes of persons. The persons are; any woman who is or has been married to a citizen of Nigeria and then, any person of full age and capacity that is born outside Nigeria and has a grandparent that is a Nigerian. Where any of the above mentioned persons applies to be registered as a citizen of Nigeria and the President of Nigeria is satisfied that the person has good character and clear intention to be domiciled in Nigeria and that the person has taken the Oath of Allegiance in the Constitution of the Nigeria, the person may be registered as citizen of Nigeria. 

Nigerians are allowed to marry themselves and foreigners. Same sex marriage is prohibited in Nigeria. One of the benefits of a union between a Nigerian and a foreigner is that the foreigner may become a citizen of Nigeria by registration (marriage). However, this is only applicable to foreign women that marry Nigerian men. The constitution of Nigeria, specifically limits citizenship by registration to any woman married to a citizen of Nigeria and by that, the constitution omits any man married to a Nigerian woman from being registered as a citizen. Hence, a foreign man that marries a Nigerian woman cannot gain Nigerian citizenship but a foreign woman that marries a Nigerian man will gain Nigerian citizenship. 

The Constitution of Nigeria frowns against discrimination of any Nigerian based on sex or other grounds (like, community, ethnic group, place of origin, religion or political opinion). It is a breach of fundamental human rights (specifically the Right to Freedom from Discrimination). The constitution has been the basis for many policies, laws, practices and even traditions that have been declared discriminatory and invalid by the courts, and at times with huge monetary damages (fines). One wonders what happens or will happen where the constitution itself is discriminatory, like in this case of citizenship by registration (marriage). 

By the discrimination enshrined in the constitution under citizenship by registration, the greater population of Nigerians (being women) are deprived from the constitutional rights that should come naturally to them and their spouses (foreign men/husbands). What Nigerian men and their foreign wives enjoy under the citizenship by registration (marriage) must be made open to Nigerian women and their foreign husbands. No sex is a better or higher Nigerian than the other. No sex should suffer for way and form they were created by God/nature.  

At this point, the constitution of Nigeria, being the hunter of the violators and perpetrators of discrimination in Nigeria, should be hunted via constitutional amendment over its discrimination in citizenship by registration. The Constitution is the work of man and expectedly can never be perfect, hence it has room for amendment. All well-meaning Nigerians should support equality of men and women in the constitution of Nigeria and in the affairs of Nigeria, at all times. 

My authorities are:

  1. Sections 1, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 37, 41, 42, 43, 66(1), 107 (1), 137 (1), 142(2), 182 (1), 187(2), 318 and 319 of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999.
  2. The judgment of the Court of Appeal (on dual citizenship and qualification for elections) in the case of Dr. Willie Ogebide v. Mr. Arigbe Osula (2004) 12 NWLR Part 886 page 138 paras C-E.
  3. The judgment of the Court of Appeal (on dual citizenship and qualification for elections) in the case of LABOUR PARTY & ORS v. ISHOLA & ORS (2014) LPELR-24386(CA)
  4. Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, “Nigeria: Information on whether a non-Nigerian woman married to a Nigerian man can obtain Nigerian citizenship based on their marriage if the marriage is common law, including requirements and procedures (2015-January 2017)” (Refworld UNHCR, 26 January 2017) <https://www.refworld.org/docid/5a82f8244.html> accessed 7 September 2020.
  5. Wikimedia Foundation Inc, “Nigerian Nationality Law” (Wikipedia, 10 June 2020) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigerian_nationality_law> accessed 7 September 2020. 

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