The paradigmatic approach to politicking and governance as usual should have no place in the unfolding political dispensation in Nigeria as we move towards the 2007 general election. Every conscionable Nigerian, home or abroad, male or female, should brace up for the task of good governance and responsible leadership by getting involved one way or the other. While it is undeniable that government and the act governance are increasingly becoming knowledge-based and technical, the question remains what roles should Nigerians in the diaspora play in the emancipation of their country.
One of the ways of making this a reality is seeking elective offices and other political relevance in the coming dispensation. Concerns have been expressed at different forums on the issue of dual citizenship and the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria vis-à-vis seeking elective offices, bearing in mind that one of the grounds of disqualification under the Constitution is dual citizenship. This legal opinion is intended to clear the air on this issue for purposes of Nigerians with dual citizenship who are nursing political aspirations in the coming general election in 2007.
Upon careful examination of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 [hereinafter CFRN], it is my considered opinion that:
a) Citizenship in General
1) There is nothing in the CFRN that precludes Nigerian citizens by birth (as against those by registration and naturalization) from holding dual citizenship ("dual citizenship" meaning Nigerian citizenship and that of any other country) while seeking elective office(s).
2) The position of the CFRN is stated in Chapter III on Citizenship.
3) Sections 25-28 of the chapter deals with three classes of citizenship (birth, registration and naturalization).
4) Section 25 (1) (a-c) deals with citizenship by birth. It confers Nigerian citizenship on any person born by Nigerian parent(s) (that is of which either father or mother is a Nigerian); including those borne by any of such parent(s) of Nigerian citizenship outside the country.
5) Section 26 deals generally with citizenship by registration, while section 27 deals with citizenship by naturalization in general.
6) Section 28 deals with the issue dual citizenship and forfeiture of citizenship. It provides:
"Section 28 (1):
subject to other provisions of this section, a person shall forfeit forthwith his citizenship if, not being a citizen of Nigeria by birth, he acquires or retains the citizenship of or nationality of a country, other that Nigeria, of which he is not a citizen by birth.
b) Political Offices and Disqualifications:
7) A number of provisions are contained in the CFRN 1999 on disqualifications from seeking elective offices on ground of citizenship.
8) Section 66 provides for disqualification from seeking election into the National Assembly (House of Reps and Senate); section 107 deals with similar situation as to House of Assembly; section 137 for President and section 182 for Governors.
9) The wordings of the sections are the same with variations as to offices (e.g. President, National Assembly, House of Assembly, or Governor). For this purpose, the relevant provisions as to the National Assembly are adopted as a guide, for purposes of legally analyzing the content of this legal opinion.
10) It provides:
"Section 66 (1) No person shall be qualified for election to the Senate or the House of Representatives if-
a) subject to section 28 of this Constitution he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, has made a declaration of allegiance to such a country;
The above sections are highlighted and underlined for legal reasons. When a legal provision starts with "subject" or related clauses, it means that the section is read subject (in tandem) with the section indicated.
For purposes of this opinion, it is clear from the above provisions that sections 66(1); 107 (1); 137 (1); and 182 (1) as they relate to offices of National Assembly, State House of Assembly, President, and Governor respectively are subject to the provisions of section 28 of the CFRN 1999.
As earlier indicated, section 28 states clearly that dual citizenship is allowable where one qualifies as a Nigerian by Birth as contained (above) in section 25 (1) (a-c). The only instance in which forfeiture of citizenship is allowed under the CFRN 1999 is by holders of: i) citizenship by registration under section 26; and ii) citizenship by naturalization, under section 27.
Based on the above analyses, it is my considered opinion that a Nigerian by BIRTH can retain, and maintain dual citizenship for purposes of seeking any elective office(s) in Nigeria till date, subject to any amendment to the Constitution or any new law passed by the National Assembly to the contrary as contained in the above provisions.