Citizenship in Nigeria is regulated by Chapter III of the 1999 Constitution. There is no implementing legislation since the 1960 and 1961 Nigerian Citizenship Acts were repealed in 1974. The law does not discriminate against women in terms of their ability to pass their citizenship to their children, but does restrict their ability to pass nationality to their non-citizen spouses. The law fails to include a saving provision to ensure access to nationality for children of unknown parents or children born in Nigeria who would otherwise be stateless. In relation to those who became citizens at independence, the constitution requires that those born in Nigeria became Nigerian provided that one parent or grandparent belonged to “a community indigenous to Nigeria”, without defining what “indigenous” meant.
The question of belonging to an “indigenous community” also has importance in relation to broader rights of participation and the rights of Nigerian citizens within the different states of the federation. Rules relating to public appointments require respect for the “federal character” of Nigeria, with reference to the state of which a person is an “indigene”. Being labelled a non-indigene can lead to higher costs for education, inability to access state jobs and other forms of discrimination (for more information see Struggles for Citizenship in Africa, p. 110-112).
More recently, the decision of the International Court of Justice transferring sovereignty of the Bakassi peninsula from Nigeria to Cameroon has left a large number of people at risk of statelessness, including former residents of the peninsula who have relocated to Nigeria.