A bill seeking to confer citizenship rights on foreigners married to Nigerian women has been adopted by a committee of the House of Representatives established to amend the 1999 constitution.
The committee which adopted the bill after a presentation by consultants working with them on amendment of the constitution, had also agreed to creation of extra seats for women in federal and states constituencies, though the 35 per cent affirmative action was rejected.
One of the consultants, Joy Ezeilo noted that the Nigerian constitution is discriminatory to women as it only only allows citizenship by registration to be conferred on foreigners married to Nigerian men.
Ezeilo added that the bill seeks to amend section26 (2a) of the 1999 Constitution by opening citizenship by registration to male and female.
Chairman of the Committee and Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase who called for more clarification on the specifics regarding the bill, averred that there are differences in culture as regards the rights of spouses in Nigeria.
“Even within the context of our culture, I want to give an example of Idoma culture, you can only bury an Idoma woman in her homeland. In this age, we have a lot of attachment to our culture.”
Expressing concern on the conferment of automatic citizenship on foreigners based on marriage, the deputy speaker argued that Nigerian citizenship should be guarded jealously.
Responding to this, Ezeilo stated that citizenship is not automatic, as the bill only seeks to replace “any woman” with “any person”, which according to her is discriminatory.
Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu also raised concerns about the bill. According to him, such a bill could confer rights to vote and be voted for on foreigners.
“What I was saying is– if we are going to agree to that provision, what about, for instance, somebody from Taraba State is married to a woman from Delta or Abia. Can that man from Taraba come down to Abia to contest? We should include it… If we are allowing the husband to come from abroad and claim citizenship.”
The bill was adopted by the lawmakers despite the concern raised. Its passage by both chambers of the National Assembly, will need the approval of at least 24 of the 36 state legislatures and presidential assent