Source: The Guardian (Abuja)
By Emeka Anuforo, Abuja
IN an epoch-making ceremony, the Federal Government yesterday began the issuance of certificate to 79 foreigners whose applications the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has okayed for Nigerian citizenship.
The certificates confer on the foreigners the status of Nigerian citizens with full rights to dual citizenship of their countries of origin and Nigeria.
But out of the 79 approved, only 52 who have met the constitutional requirement to receive their certificates got theirs in Abuja at an event devoid of its usual glamour.
With this conferment of Nigerian citizenship, the Federal Government said that after 10 years of naturalisation, the « new Nigerians » would have the full right to vote in future elections.
The government also used the opportunity to celebrate what it described as a « big jump » in the number of foreigners who have been applying to become Nigerian citizen recently.
Performing the presentation of certificates of naturalisation /registration to the successful applicants many of whom were Lebanese, Indians, Syrians and Ghanaians, President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was represented by the Minister of Interior, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, explained that more foreigners have actually applied and their papers are still being processed.
The processing of applications for Nigerian citizenship are usually done by the Ministry of Interior in accordance with the Nigerian Constitution. All relevant arms of government are usually consulted for advice on each applicant before submission to the Inter-Ministerial Advisory Committee on Nigerian Citizenship.
On further consideration, the Advisory Committee then forwards recommendations to the FEC for final decision.
Adeniji explained at the ceremony that those who succeed must have among other things been adjudged as law-abiding, « have no records of criminal activities, have genuine intention and the desire to permanently reside in Nigeria. »
He added that such persons « must have been well integrated and made contributions in the economic and social development especially in the various places of their residence. »
According to him, « these certificates that we are about to distribute today, are therefore, not only earned but deserved. They confer on their beneficiaries the status of Nigerians with full rights to dual citizenship of their countries of origin and Nigeria as regards rights to personal liberty in this country, right to personal property, right to vote in an election (after 10 years of naturalisation, pay allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. »
The minister announced that about 222 applications for naturalisation have been approved since the inception of the present administration compared to 71 applications that were approved by the previous military administrations.
He stated that this was another indication of the result of the positive changes that the Federal Government has brought to the country.
Many of those who received the certificates were born in Nigeria. Many are into construction, manufacturing, teaching, sports coaching, the energy and power sector.
Responding on behalf of the other recipients, Mr. Robert Elias thanked President Obasanjo and Nigerians for giving them the opportunity of becoming Nigerian citizens.
In an emotionally charged voice, he prayed, « God bless Nigeria and bless us all. »