Source: Post News Online (Nigeria)
By Francis Tim Mbom
Nigerians born and bred in Cameroon have requested that the Cameroon Government to relax its laws on nationality so that they can naturally, too, have the right of Cameroonian citizenship.
The law on Cameroonian citizenship is predicated on Ordinance No. 2 of 1959 and Ordinance No. 68 0f 1968.One of the clauses of this law states that birth within the territory of Cameroon does not automatically confer citizenship on one.
The only exceptions the law gives are of children who can be proven to have been born of stateless parents or of foreign parents and at least one of these foreign parents having being born, him or herself, in Cameroon.
This has frustrated foreigners, especially Nigerians, who would have loved to gain Cameroonian citizenship. The Post met the President of the Nigerian Union in Cameroon, Chief Andrew Eyeanwan Essien who was born and bred in Cameroon some 60 years ago, but has never obtained Cameroonian citizenship.
“The laws of the land do not permit me to be a Cameroonian of which I would have loved to be,” Chief Essien said.”In Cameroon I am a Nigerian, when I go to Nigeria, I am considered as a visitor,” he added.
Chief Essien was speaking to The Post last week on the eve of the repatriation of 13 Nigerians. Asked why they were going back home, Chief Essien said the repartees had come to the decision to return them home because they were no longer to pay FCFA 120,000 for residence permits.
Essien said that for the past two years, they have through the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, of Nigeria, sent thousands of their nationals back home.
He added that most of them, like himself, were people who were born and bred in Cameroon.
The Chief said while there are about four to five million Nigerians in Cameroon, some 12,000 have already indicated their intention to go back. “Nigerians are really an ambitious lot. Most of them come here to do business. But they face a lot of obstacles in Cameroon: the problem of residence permit being paramount and obtaining bank loans for business, too, is not easy for us, here,” he said.
Back in Nigeria, he said, a foreigner born there automatically gains Nigerian nationality.
“Cameroonians born in Nigeria are automatically Nigerians,” said Essien.
Chinedu Nneke Anbiobi is a Nigerian national and a business man who is married to a Cameroonian and resides in Limbe.Like Chief Essien, he was born in Cameroon 52 years ago. Though he is married to a Cameroonian, he said this has still not exonerated him from the ordeals his other countrymen have been going through.
“Even when you have your papers, you still are insulted not to talk of me who was born here in Cameroon. Sometimes, I get insults like you “Biafran, go back to your country,” lamented Chinedu.
The old man said he has eight children with his Cameroonian wife. In spite of this, they are not considered Cameroonians. He said he had sought and legally obtained Cameroonian nationality for the children yet the police have never left him alone.
“I have been paying for residence permits for these children in spite of the court ruling in favour of their applications to obtain Cameroonian citizenship,” he said.
Barrister Monono’s Experience
Barrister Ngale Monono is a Limbe-based lawyer who lived in Nigeria for ten years. He is a graduate of the Nigerian Law School of Victoria Island, Lagos. “I lived in Nigeria for more than ten years. Nobody, I mean no police or otherwise, ever asked me about papers. I lived in Nigeria very comfortably,” said Monono.
The Barrister regrets the fact that Nigerians born and bred in Cameroon find it difficult to be accepted as nationals here. According to him, these Nigerians should be given even the right to vote.
“They pay their taxes here; they have lived all their lives here. I believe they should even be given the right to vote,” he said. He added that Government’s reluctance to grant them the freedom to become Cameroonians was instead playing negatively to the growth of the economy.
“By such draconian tactics, we are losing a crop of a very highly motivated people when they decide on going back home,” he said. To him, Nigerians are a religious lot, hardworking and very thrifty.