Statelessness and Right to Nationality: Developing a Statelessness Determination Procedure in Nigeria

Published: 1/Sep/2021
Source: Utrecht University

Momoh, Solomon Oseghale
(2021) Utrecht University Repository (Dissertation)
Supervisor(s): Ryngaert, C.M.J.; Eijken, H. van


At least 10 million people are stateless worldwide, and are therefore without any form of legal recognition by any state. Statelessness result in denial of access to basic and essential services such as; healthcare, education, housing, bank account, and are often unable to get married. The phenomenon occurs for several reasons, including discrimination against a particular group of people, gaps in nationality legislations and administrative procedures, state succession or dissolution, boundary adjustments, amongst others. Every State has its own law to determine how its nationality can be acquired or withdrawn. ‘If these laws are not carefully written and correctly applied, some people can be excluded and left stateless.’ The right to a nationality has been described as a ‘fundamental human right’, which is necessary for the enjoyment of other human rights. This right avail the bearer with diplomatic protection of the state. Consequently, in the United States case of Trop v. Dulles, the Supreme Court described the right to nationality as the ‘right to have rights’.

This study aims at advancing the scope of statelessness research, the need to protect, reduce and prevent statelessness across the world and Nigeria in particular. This study like previous studies, identifies areas of possible law reforms to guarantee right and access to nationality, and with a view to reducing existing cases of statelessness and preventing new cases. However, a review of existing literatures in this regard, especially with reference to Nigeria reveals that there is no previous research on risk of statelessness in Nigeria. Therefore, this study not only examines the legislative gaps and the risk of statelessness in Nigeria, it also suggests the need for both a nationality / citizenship law separate from the constitution. It moreover suggests the need for a legally established procedure for determining statelessness with the aim of ensuring protection, prevention and reduction of statelessness in Nigeria.

This study adds to existing knowledge, helps expand standards and proposed criteria for protection, reduction and prevention of statelessness which could guide States worldwide in developing a statelessness determination procedure. Using Nigeria as a case study, it highlights some key notions peculiar to Nigeria, for instance the need for clarity on how to acquire Nigerian nationality, elimination of ethnic affiliation in acquisition of nationality, gender discrimination and the need to protect foundlings and children born in Nigeria to foreign parents. The study adds to knowledge about the nationality problem in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and about the risk of statelessness of certain categories of persons within the country. Additionally, the study is expected to feed into advocacy material for the UN, international organizations, civil society groups, and for law makers.

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Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Acquisition by children, Discrimination, Ethnic/Racial/Religious, Gender, Naturalisation and Marriage, Border Changes, Statelessness
Regions: Nigeria
Year: 2021