By: Peter Oluwashola Asa, Esq.
“Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation” S. 29 (1) 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria.
From the above provision of the constitution, one can evidently say that renunciation is a voluntary act of relinquishing ones citizenship or nationality for another.
Historically, the right to renounce one’s obligation to his country was perpetually denied by the common law doctrine. This denial however continued till late 19th century when the United State passed into law her Expatriation Act of 1868 and later the Bancroft Treaties which recognized the right to renounce one’s citizen.
However, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in (Article 13(2) and (Article 15 (2) respectively, also recognizes both rights to leave any country, including one’s own and the right to change one’s nationality. The reason for the passage of these laws was to counter other countries’ claim that the U.S citizens born in their country owed them allegiance perpetually. See the American celebrated case of Beys Afroyim v. Dean Rusk, Secretary of State. This position made it to be the beginning of an explicit rejection of the feudal common law principle of perpetual allegiance across the globe.
Reasons why people renounce their citizenship? Multiple citizenship In Nigeria, despite the fact that S. 28 of the 1999 constitution allows for dual citizenship, on the other hand, it has also limited same by making a person to forfeit his citizenship where it appears that such person is not a citizen by birth and he later acquires or retain the citizenship or nationality of another country other than Nigeria.
Candidates disqualification provisions as can be seen in S. 66(1) (a), S. 107(1) (a), S. 137 (1) (a), and S. 182 (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution also provide further reasons why people can renounce their citizenship. In these provisions, candidates vying for elective political offices are disqualified on the basis of their voluntary acquisition of citizenship of another country other than Nigeria.
It is advised that any person(s) with interest in vying for any elective political position should rather renounce their citizenship of the other country before making attempt to contest for any election in Nigeria.
Conscription Dated back to the 18th century, people from certain countries renounce their citizenship to avoid compulsory military services also known as conscription. This form of compulsory enlistment into military services in recent times has raised several objections on different grounds ranging from religious or philosophical grounds; political objection, for example to service for a disliked government or unpopular war; and ideological objection, for example, to a perceived violation of individual rights.
Those conscripted may evade service, sometimes by leaving the country. As of the early 21st century, many states no longer conscript soldiers, relying instead upon professional militaries. Many states that have abolished conscription therefore still reserve the power to resume it during wartime or times of crisis.
Oath of allegiance Whenever a person pledges his allegiance or loyalty to another country other than his country, he advertently or inadvertently relinquishes his citizenship of his earlier country. This can overtly be carried out by joining the armed forces of the country or accepting jobs where an oath of allegiance or other form declaration of allegiance is required.
Other reasons by which citizenship can be relinquished or deprived Here, citizenship is involuntarily taken away by the government from an individual whose act and conduct has been confirmed to be inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution. Take for instance where:
- Such person(s) has committed an act of treason or an attempt to overthrow the government by force and being convicted by a court of law or tribunal may be deprived of his citizenship by the president although subject to the fact that such person is not a citizen by birth. see S. 30 (2) of the 1999 constitution
- Such person(s) has traded or assisted the enemy of Nigeria during the time of war with the intent to cause damage to the interest of Nigeria. See S. 30 (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution.
Conditions/procedure for renunciation
- Such person must be aged 18 years and above (exception to a married woman below age 18 (S. 29 (4)(b))
- Such person must be of a sound mind
- Such person must have acquired or would likely be granted citizenship in another country
- Such person has no criminal or financial liability to the state
The procedure for renunciation of citizenship in Nigeria
- Visit to the appropriate authority i.e the Ministry of interior, Nigerian immigration service or the Nigerian embassy in the country where the person resides.
- Fill the application form with complete information which must be signed and certified before a magistrate, notary public, justice of peace or commissioner of oath Submit the application form(s) with the following documents:
- Copy of the foreign passport
- Copy of the foreign citizenship certificate or copy of confirmation that the applicant will become the citizen of a foreign country Birth certificate
- Citizenship certificate (if any)
- National Identity card (if any)
- Passport-sized photograph of the applicant
- Nigerian passport or other traveling document
- Marriage document (for female applicant below age 18)
Proof of acquisition of citizenship in another country Note: The president reserves the power to withhold the registration of any declaration and renunciation of citizenship during war in which Nigeria is physically involved and where it is in his opinion that such declaration will be contrary to public policy. See S. 29 (3) (a) (b) of the 1999 constitution.
Some consequences for renunciation of citizenship Below are some of the consequences of renouncing one’s citizenship in Nigeria. The right and qualification to vote and be voted for has been relinquished. See S. 65 (1) (a) (b), S.131 (1) (a), S.177(1) (a) of the 1999 constitution for qualifications. Federal government bears no responsibility for protection and assistance while traveling overseas.
- Automatically the citizenship of the children born abroad has also been relinquished because the parent are no longer a citizen of Nigeria
- No more access to Federal government jobs once citizenship has been relinquished
- The right to unrestricted/freedom to travel into and out of the country have been given up. See S. 41 (1) of the 1999 constitution which guarantees freedom of movement to every citizens of Nigeria.
Conclusion Renouncing one’s citizenship is one of the most sensitive and a lifetime decisions anyone can make. It is advisable to weigh the advantages alongside the disadvantages. It is recommended to consult the appropriate authority and most importantly a legal practitioner when making such moves.
Peter Oluwashola Asa, Esq. is an Abuja, Nigerian based Legal Practitioner.
You can reach him via:
Tel: 08135575326, 08073445027