Source: Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Nigeria, and UNHCR
Statelessness is a global phenomenon whereby a person is not recognised as a national of any State under the operation of its laws. The 1954 UN Convention relating to the status of Stateless persons and the 1961 UN Convention on the reduction of Statelessness are key international treaties designed to ensure that every person has a nationality and that stateless persons enjoy a basic set of human rights. Nigeria is a signatory to the two Conventions and has ratified both.
At the regional level, the Federal Republic of Nigeria signed the Abidjan Declaration on the Eradication of Statelessness in ECOWAS Member States (hereinafter, Abidjan Declaration), which was adopted at ministerial level on 25 February 2015 and approved by ECOWAS Head of States Summit held in Accra on 19 May 2015. In accordance with Article 24 of the Abidjan Declaration, Nigeria committed to develop a National Action Plan (NAP) to eradicate statelessness in Nigeria. Paragraph 27 of the Conclusions and Recommendations of the Abidjan Conference calls upon States to elaborate the action plan in close consultation and cooperation with a multi-stakeholder team, including civil society, national human rights institutions, academia, and various government departments and agencies.
Considering that statelessness is a human rights issue, a humanitarian issue, a development issue, as well as a peace and security issue addressing statelessness will go a long way towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals in the context of Nigeria’s National Development Agenda. Thus, there are linkages between Nigeria’s development agenda and the eradication of statelessness.
Presently, the Government is fine-tuning arrangements to intensify the issuance of National Identity Number to all citizens and legal residents. As this exercise progresses, it is likely that some who have previously considered themselves to be Nigerian citizens, and are in fact Nigerian citizens under the law, may be unable to prove entitlement to citizenship , and thus placed at risk of statelessness. Others who are not Nigerian citizens under the law, may also find themselves stateless because they are unable to prove a right to the citizenship of any other country — on the basis of which they can regularize their status in Nigeria. It is thus an important moment to put in place strategies and procedures to ensure that those who are entitled to Nigerian citizenship, but lack the evidence to show their connection, are enabled to verify their citizenship; and that those who are not Nigerian under the law but are long-term residents, are provided with protection and routes to acquire Nigerian citizenship or verification of their citizenship in another country.
The National Action Plan is the product of two multi-stakeholder technical workshops (In November 2016 and December 2018) and a joint review by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD) in August, 2020. Participants involved in the elaboration of the National Action Plan (NAP) include representatives of Government Ministries: Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs-MFA, Federal Ministry of Justice-FMoJ; Federal Agencies (National Commission for Refugees Migrants and IDPs-NCFRMI, National Human Rights Commission-NHRC, National Emergency Management Agency-NEMA, National Identity Management Commission-NIMC, National Population Commission-NPC, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons-NAPTIP, National Institute for Legislative Studies-NILS, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution-IPCR); UN agencies (United Nations High Commission for Refugees-UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration-IOM); Civil Society (Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre-CISLAC, West African Civil Society Forum-WACSOF, Open Society Initiative for West Africa-OSIWA, RHEMA CARE) and academia (Faculty of Law-University of Ibadan, Faculty of Law-Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria University and Baze University).
During the December 2018 workshop, participants deliberated on the causes and consequences of statelessness based on recent studies, research, innovations in civil documentation; revised the 2016 draft NAP and identified 5 priority areas for the National Action Plan to eradicate statelessness in Nigeria. These actions are consistent with Nigeria’s international obligations and commitments and strategies within the overall strategic directions of the Global Action Plan (2014-2024) to End Statelessness. In the course of the second workshop, participants discussed the ten-point UNHCR Global Action Plan, as well as the Abidjan Declaration and Banjul Plan of Action adopted by ECOWAS, and established five priority areas for the Nigerian National Action Plan [time frame 2019 – 2024]. These are:
1. Research, advocacy and sensitization
2. Preventing childhood statelessness
3. Addressing statelessness caused by transfer of territory
4. Eradicating gender and other forms of discrimination in recognition of citizenship and issue of documents
5. Protection of stateless persons/migrants
The following pages set out the activities that will be conducted under each of these headings. There are other actions that are relevant to the task of eradicating statelessness in Nigeria, which would be developed in the course of implementing the activities in this NAP
The monitoring, evaluation and reporting mechanisms for the implementation of this action plan are as follows:
- Operational Level: technical level steering National Taskforce formed to follow up on the Abidjan Declaration, consisting of the Government Focal Point on Statelessness, UNHCR, and representatives of relevant agencies.
- Decisional Level: High-Level Steering Committee on the Prevention and Reduction of Statelessness in Nigeria composed of the Minister of Interior, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, UNHCR Country Representative, Federal Commissioner, NCFRMI and Chief Executive Officers of relevant agencies.
Download (13MB): National Action Plan to Eradicate Statelessness in Nigeria