Dual citizenship is also called dual nationality; the term refers to the status of a person who is a legal citizen of two or more countries. The question as to whether persons having dual citizenship can contest or continue to hold public office is prevalent and same has been settled by the Nigerian Judiciary. This has given live and meaning to the wordings of the constitution.
Chapter 3 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended (CFRN) Sections 25-28 provided for three classes of citizenship viz:
i By Birth - provided for in Section 25 CFRN;
ii By Registration - provided for in Section 26 CFRN; and
iii Naturalization - provided for in Section 27 CFRN.
Section 25 (1) (a-c) CFRN provides for citizenship by birth; the section confers Nigerian citizenship on any person born by Nigerian parents and grandparents within the country; and also, those borne outside the country by Nigerian parents and grandparents.
Section 28 pertains to the issue of dual citizenship and forfeiture of citizenship; it provide in Sub-section (1) “subject to other provisions of this section, a person shall forfeit forthwith his citizenship if, not being a citizen of Nigeria by birth, he acquires or retains the citizenship of or nationality of a country, other than Nigeria, of which he is not a citizen by birth.” (Italics for emphasis)
DOES DUAL CITIZENSHIP DISQUALIFY A PERSON FROM SEEKING OR HOLDING ELECTIVE OFFICE IN NIGERIA?
Analysis of the Provisions of the Constitution:
Section 66 provides for disqualification from seeking election into the National Assembly (House of Representatives and Senate); Section 107 provides for similar situations in for the House of Assembly; Section 137 provides for the President and Section 182 provides for the Governors.
For consideration, Section 107 provide thus:
(1) No person shall be qualified for election to a House of Assembly if –
(a). Subject to the provisions of Section 28 of this Constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, has made a declaration of allegiance to such a country; (Underline for emphasis)
The underlined, "subject" or related clause, means that the section should be read subject or in tandem with the section indicated. For purposes of this opinion, it is clear from the above provisions that sections 66(1); 107 (1); 137 (1); and 182 (1) as they relate to offices of National Assembly, State House of Assembly, President, and Governor respectively are subject to the provisions of section 28 of the CFRN 1999.
As earlier indicated, Section 28 states clearly that dual citizenship is allowable where one qualifies as a Nigerian by birth as contained (above) in section 25 (1) (a-c). The only instance in which forfeiture of citizenship is allowed under the CFRN is by holders of:
i i) Citizenship by registration under section 26 CFRN; and
ii ii) Citizenship by naturalization, under section 27 CFRN.
Decision of Nigerian Court:
The question of dual citizenship and forfeiture of same has attracted judicial attention in Nigeria because of the Constitutional provisions. One of the most outstanding judicial authority on this matter is the Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Dr. Willie Ogebide v. Mr. Arigbe Osula (2004) 12 NWLR Part 886 page 138 paras C-E where Onnoghen JCA (now JSC) in the same case opined in:
“… it is clear and I hereby hold that the acquisition of dual citizenship by a Nigerian per say is not a ground for disqualification for election to the National Assembly particularly where the Nigerian citizen is a citizen by birth. That is the clear meaning of the provisions in sections 66(1) and 28 of the 1999 constitution when taken together. The only Nigerian citizen disqualified by the said sections is one who is a citizen of Nigeria by either registration or naturalization who subsequently acquires the citizenship of another country in addition to his Nigerian citizenship...” (Bold for emphasis)
Respectfully, the pronouncement of the Court and its reasoning in the above quoted case cannot be controverted as same is clear and forms our opinion on this matter subject to any amendment to the Constitution or any new law passed by the National Assembly to the contrary, the above provision remains the position of the law till date. It is therefore settled law in Nigeria that having a dual citizenship will not preclude a candidate from contesting or holding elective positions.
About The Firma Advisory:
The Firma Advisory (TFA) is an innovative multi-disciplinary law firm, focused on providing legal insights and solutions to clients in both the private and public sector.
Contact us at:
Address: 1st Floor Gwandal Centre, Fria Close,
off Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent Wuse II Abuja.