How to Become a Citizen of Nigeria

Nigerian Citizenship

Nigerian citizenship may not be among the best or most powerful in the world, but it holds immense significance, not only for the individuals who possess it but also for the nation as a whole.



Who doesn't want to be identified as a Nigerian? I mean, a whole 'Giant of Africa', and it's not just about our population, or our humility, kindness, and corruption - smiles. Our music industry, Afro-pop, with its wide range of genres, is going global, and so is our movie industry, Nollywood, which accommodates and promotes our ethno-religion diversity.

As a Kenyan lawyer and social activist, Prof. PLO Lumumba rightly put it: "Anywhere you go and you don't see a Nigerian, leave that place immediately because it's definitely inhabitable." There's no better way to say it because most of us Nigerians are determinant, resilient, and have a goal-getter mentality.

Knowing the privileges and responsibilities that anyone who possesses Nigerian citizenship has is crucial for both citizens and those aspiring to become citizens. And this article covers all the benefits of being a Nigerian, including a list of countries Nigeria can enter for free with their passport.

Definition of Nigerian Citizenship

Nigerian citizenship refers to the legal status of being a citizen of Nigeria. It is granted to individuals who are born in Nigeria or have Nigerian parents, as well as those who have gone through the process of naturalization. Nigerian citizenship comes with certain rights, responsibilities, and privileges, including the right to vote, the right to own property, and the right to access public services and benefits.

What are the importance of holding a Nigerian citizenship status?

The importance and benefits of Nigerian citizenship can vary depending on individual circumstances and perspectives. However, these are the few major reasons why Nigerian citizenship can be considered beneficial:

  • Legal Rights and Protections: Every citizen has certain rights and protections guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution. These rights include the right to vote, the right to own property, and the right to access public services and benefits. This means that any Nigerian can own properties in any part of the country and can reside in any of the 36 states and the federal capital territory, Abuja, regardless of their state, race, or country of origin.
  • National Identity and Belonging: Nigerian citizenship represents a sense of national identity and belonging to the Nigerian community. It allows individuals to participate in the cultural, social, and political life of the country.
  • Access to Opportunities: You have greater access to educational, employment, and business opportunities within Nigeria. And they may also be eligible for certain government programs and initiatives indiscriminately that are designed to support citizens.
  • Travel and Residence: Nigerian citizenship allows individuals to travel freely within Nigeria without any restrictions. It also provides the right to reside and work in Nigeria without the need for additional visas or permits. Apart from traveling within Nigeria, Nigerians can also visit up to 21 countries for free without visas. However, most of these countries issue visas upon arrival. An example of countries that Nigerians can visit and get visas for on arrival are the Seychelles, Sao Tomé and Principes, Taula, Tuvalu, etc.
  • Diplomatic Protection: Nigerian citizens can seek diplomatic protection from the Nigerian government when they are abroad. This can be particularly important in situations where individuals face legal or other challenges in foreign countries.

Nigeria often faces discrimination abroad due to some bad people, though just a tiny fraction of the population, and many have often been arrested and deported on suspicion without proof. Especially in the Middle East and Asia, Nigerians are seen as fraudsters, drug barrons, etc. With Nigerian citizenship, you're sure to be rescued by the Nigerian embassy in the country where you reside.

Major Benefits of Being a Nigerian Citizen

Being a Nigerian citizen comes with a range of benefits and rights that are essential for individuals living in the country. Some of these include:

  • Right to vote: Nigerian citizens have the right to participate in the democratic process by voting in elections and choosing their representatives.
  • Access to social services: Nigerian citizens are entitled to access various social services provided by the government, such as healthcare, education, and social welfare programs.
  • Right to own property: Nigerian citizens have the right to own and possess property within the country, which provides them with a sense of security and stability.
  • Right to work: Nigerian citizens have the right to seek employment and work in any sector of the economy, enjoying equal opportunities and protection under labor laws.
  • Right to travel: Nigerian citizens can travel freely within the country without any restrictions. They also have the right to obtain a Nigerian passport, which allows them to travel internationally and enjoy consular protection abroad.
  • Right to participate in cultural and social activities: Nigerian citizens have the privilege of engaging in cultural, social, and recreational activities that are unique to the country's diverse heritage.
  • Right to protection: Nigerian citizens are entitled to the protection of their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. This includes protection against discrimination, unlawful arrest, and other forms of human rights violations.

These are just a few examples of the benefits and rights that come with being a Nigerian citizen. It is important to note that citizenship also entails responsibilities, such as obeying the laws of the country and contributing to its development.

Types of Nigerian Citizenship

Nigerian citizenship can be acquired through different means, including:

  1. Citizenship by Birth: People who are born in Nigeria are automatically granted Nigerian citizenship. This applies regardless of the nationality or citizenship of their parents.
  2. Citizenship by Descent: Individuals who have at least one Nigerian parent are eligible to acquire Nigerian citizenship by descent. This means that if one of your parents is a Nigerian citizen, you can claim Nigerian citizenship.
  3. Citizenship by Naturalization: Foreign nationals who have lived in Nigeria for a certain period of time and meet specific criteria can apply for Nigerian citizenship through the process of naturalization. The requirements for naturalization include demonstrating good character, knowledge of the Nigerian culture and language, and renouncing any previous citizenship.

Eligibility Criteria for Nigerian Citizenship

The eligibility criteria for Nigerian citizenship include the following:

1. Birth: Also called "jus soli (right of soil)", you are eligible for Nigerian citizenship if you were born in Nigeria after October 1, 1960, and have at least one parent or grandparent indigenous to the country.

2. Descent: If you were born outside Nigeria, you may be eligible for Nigerian citizenship if either of your parents is a Nigerian citizen. This is otherwise called "Jus Sanguinis (right of blood)."

  • Marriage: If you are married to a Nigerian citizen, you may be eligible for Nigerian citizenship after a certain period of marriage and meeting other requirements.
  • Naturalization: Foreign nationals who have resided in Nigeria for a specified period of time and meet certain criteria can apply for Nigerian citizenship through naturalization.

It's important to note that the specific requirements and processes for Nigerian citizenship may vary, and it is advisable to consult with the Nigerian Immigration Service or a legal professional for accurate and up-to-date information.

How to Apply for Nigerian Citizenship

Before you dream of becoming a citizen of Nigeria, you must be aware of these few important details:

  • Residency: Ensure you've resided in Nigeria for at least 15 years continuously or cumulatively over 20 years. Documents like tax returns, utility bills, and employment records will serve as proof of residency.
  • Good Character: Obtain police clearance certificates from your home country and Nigeria if necessary, demonstrating a clean criminal record.
  • Financial Self-Sufficiency: Prove you can financially support yourself and any dependents without relying on state assistance. Employment contracts, bank statements, and business ownership documents can be helpful.
  • Integration: Immerse yourself in Nigerian culture and society. Learn a local language, participate in community activities, and demonstrate your understanding of Nigerian values and customs.
  • Application: Compile all required documents, including application forms, passport photographs, birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable), and evidence of residency, finances, and good character. Submit your application to the Nigerian Immigration Service and prepare for interviews and background checks.

Beyond the formalities, remember:

  • Seek professional guidance: Consider consulting an immigration lawyer who specializes in Nigerian citizenship to explain the complexities and ensure your application is complete and meets all requirements.
  • Embrace patience: The process can take time. Be prepared for bureaucratic hurdles and paperwork challenges. Stay organized, maintain clear communication with authorities, and follow up diligently.
  • Build your network. Connect with Nigerians from diverse backgrounds, learn from their experiences, and seek mentorship throughout the process.

How to Acquire Nigerian Citizenship by Birth

First, it's important to understand that there are two ways to become a Nigerian citizen by birth: being born in Nigeria to Nigerian parents or being born outside of Nigeria to a Nigerian parent. If you were born in Nigeria to Nigerian parents, you are automatically a Nigerian citizen by birth. If you were born outside of Nigeria to a Nigerian parent, you may be eligible for citizenship by birth if certain conditions are met.

Requirements and procedures:

To acquire Nigerian citizenship by birth, there are two main scenarios and sets of requirements you need to consider:

1. Born anywhere to Nigerian parents:

  • Requirements:
    • Both parents must be Nigerian citizens at the time of your birth.
    • Proof of their Nigerian citizenship through valid birth certificates, passports, or naturalization certificates is necessary.
    • If they acquired citizenship by naturalization, ensure it was completed before your birth.
  • Procedures:
    • Apply for a Certificate of Nigerian Citizenship at the Nigerian embassy or consulate closest to you.
    • Required documents vary based on location, but typically include:
      • Completed application form
      • Your birth certificate with parental information
      • Parents' valid Nigerian citizenship documents
      • Passport photographs
      • Evidence of processing fees payment
    • Consult the specific embassy or consulate for their specific requirements and procedures.

2. Born in Nigeria with Nigerian ancestry:

  • Requirements:
    • At least one grandparent must have been a Nigerian citizen, or belonged to an indigenous community of Nigeria before independence.
    • If only one grandparent was Nigerian, the other parent must be a permanent resident of Nigeria.
    • Proof of lineage through birth certificates, family records, and local government certificates of origin is necessary.
  • Procedures:
    • Apply for a Certificate of Nigerian Citizenship at the Ministry of Interior in Abuja.
    • Documents required are similar to scenario 1, but with additional emphasis on lineage proof.
    • Fees also apply, consult the Ministry of Interior website or immigration office for current costs.

Additional points to keep in mind:

  • Obtaining legal advice from a Nigerian immigration lawyer is recommended, especially if your case involves complexities.
  • Processing times can vary depending on the workload and individual circumstances.
  • Be prepared to provide additional documentation or clarifications if requested by the authorities.
  • You can access further information and forms on the website of the Nigerian Immigration Service: https://immigration.gov.ng/

How to Acquire Nigerian Citizenship by Descent

To qualify for citizenship by descent, you must be the child of at least one parent who is a Nigerian citizen by birth. In addition, you must be under the age of 18 and not married. You must also apply for citizenship before your 21st birthday. If you meet these requirements, you can apply for citizenship by descent through the Nigerian High Commission in your country of residence.

The application process can take several months, and you may be required to provide additional documentation such as a birth certificate and passport.

Requirements:

First, you'll need to gather all the required documents, including your birth certificate, proof of your parent's Nigerian citizenship, and your passport. You'll also need to fill out an application form, which can be obtained from the Nigerian High Commission.

Once you have all the required documents, you'll need to submit them to the High Commission along with the application fee. After your application is processed, you may be required to attend an interview at the High Commission.

How to Acquire Nigerian Citizenship Through Naturalization

To qualify for naturalization, you must be at least 18 years old, have been a legal resident of Nigeria for at least 10 years, and be of good character. You must also be able to speak one of Nigeria's official languages and be willing to renounce your former citizenship. It's also important to note that naturalization is a lengthy process, and there is no guarantee of approval. Ready for the step-by-step guide?

Requirements and Qualifications:

  • Step 1: Gather all the required documents. These include your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), proof of residency, and a letter of recommendation from a Nigerian citizen.
  • Step 2: Make an appointment with the Nigerian High Commission to submit your application and documents.
  • Step 3: Take a citizenship test. This test covers topics such as Nigerian history, culture, and language.
  • Step 4: Attend an interview with a consular officer. This is where your application will be reviewed and approved or denied.
  • Step 5: If your application is approved, you'll be asked to take the Oath of Allegiance, and then you'll be granted Nigerian citizenship! This means you'll be issued a Nigerian passport and will be entitled to all the rights and privileges of Nigerian citizenship. You may also be required to renounce your former citizenship.

Rights and responsibilities of Nigerian citizens

As a Nigerian citizen, you'll enjoy a number of rights and privileges, including the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to free speech and expression, and the right to work and earn a living. You'll also have the responsibility to obey the laws of Nigeria, serve in the military if called upon, and pay taxes.

Additionally, you'll be expected to respect the culture and traditions of Nigeria, as well as contribute to the economic and social development of the country. Supposing you're less than 30 years old at the time you earn a university degree or HND, you'll also need to serve the country for one year. This is called the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

As a Nigerian citizen, you have certain rights and responsibilities. Some of the rights include:

  • Right to vote: Nigerian citizens have the right to participate in elections and choose their representatives.
  • Right to own property: You have the right to own and possess property in Nigeria.
  • Right to freedom of speech: Nigerian citizens have the right to express their opinions and ideas freely.
  • Right to education: Every Nigerian citizen has the right to access education.
  • Right to a fair trial: You have the right to a fair and impartial trial if you are accused of a crime.

Some of the responsibilities of Nigerian citizens include the following:

  • Obeying the law: It is your responsibility to abide by the laws of Nigeria.
  • Paying taxes: Nigerian citizens are required to pay taxes to contribute to the development of the country.
  • Defending the country: If necessary, Nigerian citizens may be called upon to defend the country.
  • Participating in community development: It is encouraged for citizens to actively participate in community development projects.

These are just a few examples of the rights and responsibilities of Nigerian citizens.

Dual citizenship and Nigerian citizenship

Dual citizenship refers to the status of an individual who is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Here comes the question: "Can I possess another country's citizenship apart from that of Nigeria?"

Well, yes! In Nigeria, dual citizenship is allowed under certain conditions. The Nigerian Constitution recognizes dual citizenship for Nigerians by birth, descent, or registration.

The benefits of dual citizenship in Nigeria include the ability to hold passports from both countries, access to social and economic benefits in both countries, and the right to vote and participate in political activities in both countries.

However, there are also limitations to dual citizenship in Nigeria. For example, dual citizens cannot hold certain public offices or positions in the Nigerian government. Additionally, dual citizens may be subject to taxation laws in both countries and may need to comply with the laws and regulations of both countries.

Remember, the specific requirements and conditions for dual citizenship in Nigeria may vary, so it's advisable to consult with legal professionals or the Nigerian Immigration Service for accurate and up-to-date information.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, becoming a citizen of Nigeria is a process that involves meeting certain requirements and going through various steps. Whether you are eligible for Nigerian citizenship by birth, descent, or registration, it is important to understand the specific criteria and documentation needed.

Additionally, for those interested in dual citizenship, Nigeria allows for the possibility under certain conditions. However, it is crucial to be aware of the benefits and limitations that come with holding dual citizenship in Nigeria. Consulting with legal professionals or the Nigerian Immigration Service can provide accurate and up-to-date information on the requirements and procedures involved.

By following the necessary steps and fulfilling the requirements, individuals can successfully become citizens of Nigeria and enjoy the rights and privileges that come with it.

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