Dual citizenship: Lawyers give tips on what will happen to Lawan, Gbajabiamila
By Emmanuel Bagudu
There has been an intense debate in Nigeria on the legality of political office holders having dual citizenship following a recent ruling by an Ondo State Election Petitions Tribunal.
The tribunal had on July 31, 2019, sacked Mr Ikengboju Gboluga, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party representing Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency of Ondo State for having dual citizenship and thereafter ordered that Mr Albert Akintoye of the All Progressives Congress be issued the Certificate of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The tribunal headed by Justice Nuhu Adi ruled that Gboluga was not eligible to contest the 2019 National Assembly election, having admitted in his INEC Form CF001 that he had “voluntarily acquired the citizenship of the United Kingdom” and had sworn allegiance to the country.
The judgment was based on Section 66 of the 1999 Constitution which states in part that, “No person shall be qualified for election to the Senate or the House of Representatives 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.”
The legal perspective: Lawyers join the debate
In our bid to provide clarity to the issue, TheNewsGuru, TNG reached out to lawyers who helped shed light on the legal grounds surrounding the issue of politicians holding dual citizenship status.
Answering a question on his reaction to the ‘Ondo-judgment’, a legal Practitioner and the Convener of Coalition of Public Interests Lawyers and Advocates, Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq., said the tribunal ruling will not hold.
Olajengbesi said “It is my considered opinion that the decision can’t stand and would be overturned on appeal as I shall briefly establish in the second limb of your inquiry.
“A careful look at section 66 of the CFRN shows that it is subject to section 28 of the same. So to arrive at a clear interpretation of that provision, we must examine section 28 (1) accordingly, which states as follows-
“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 that Nigeria, of which he is not a citizen by birth”
A converse reading of the above section in tandem with section 66 made subject to it shows that one’s citizenship can only be questioned or forfeited if he is not a citizen by birth of Nigeria.
Based on the above analysis, it is my considered opinion that a Nigerian by BIRTH can retain, and maintain dual citizenship for purposes of seeking any elective office(s) in Nigeria till date, subject to any amendment to the Constitution or any new law passed by the National Assembly to the contrary as contained in the above provisions.
Let’s be reminded that a citizen by birth is one with a single or both parents being Nigerians.
Mr. Ikengboju Gboluga is clearly a Nigerian by birth not naturalization nor registration, thus his citizenship is not only non-forfeitable but my the extended reading of section 66 made subject to section 28, his citizenship cannot be called into question for an elective purpose.
Similarly another, Legal Practitioner and Public Affair Analyst, Tohwo Oseruvwoja, Esq. noted that there a difference between voluntarily acquired citizenship and citizenship by birth.
Oseruvwoja furthered, “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) is the mother of all laws in Nigeria, going by the provision of Section 66(1) (a) CFRN the judgment of the Court is opt and Nigerians should understand that there is a difference between voluntarily acquired citizenship and citizenship by birth.
“The former is when the individual becomes a citizen as a matter of choice by applying to be a citizen of that Nation why the latter is a matter of parental agreement or decision. Therefore the spirit of Sec. 66 is targeted at the former and not the latter.
Apart from the office of the President and Governor that the Constitution expressly stated must be a citizen of Nigeria by birth see Section 131 and 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Another political office holder can hold dual citizenship provided such citizenship is not voluntarily acquired from that Nation. Because by so doing it may promote conflict of interest and loyalties. Nations can capitalize on it to access security information from Nigeria and can also use such person to influence the Policy of our Nation. Because there are reasons why that person decided to acquire such citizenship.
“Even in Nigeria issue of citizenship is categorize into 3 which are citizenship by birth section 25 , Citizenship by registration Section 26 and Citizenship by Naturalisation section 27 respectively of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended) . If you look at the conditions stipulated in section 26