28 October, 2008

NIGERIANS &OTHER CITIZENSHIPS

Confused Nigerians in Denmark: Dumping Nigerian nationality
Written by Harry Nasir Dirisu
Twice annually, Nigerians nationalizing in Denmark are asked to relinquish their Nigerian nationality as a prerequisite besides other ordeals they go through as immigrants – sadly, they do the renunciation voraciously damming all consequences accrued – perhaps, they simply do it out of ignorance, confusion or desperation! Ironically, these people cannot proudly refer to themselves as Danish when white-Danes ask them of their nationalities! Meanwhile, they will proudly tell Nigerians they are Danish. However, the constitution of federal republic of Nigeria chapter 3, 29(1) states, 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. Thus, the people in the above context are acting legally within the Nigerian constitutional frame, no doubt.

Religiously, legally, morally and culturally, I strongly believe that nationality is more than literally words enshrined in print. But why should somebody dump his or her birthrights? To some this question might sound faddish, absurd or narrow-minded – maybe its better felt than imagined – Again, I am patriotically convinced that a person’s birthplace is too crucial to be discarded. Above all, some countries would naturalize people through parliamentary and constitutional laws and still restrict the same people constitutionally owing to their birthplace: chapter 6 of Nigeria constitution under presidency states, a person shall be qualified for election to the office of the president if he or she is a citizen of Nigeria by birth. And the United States constitution, article 2 states, no person except a natural born citizen … of the United States … shall be eligible to the office of the president. These constitutions obviously distinguish citizens by birth, naturalisation, adoption etc. In other words, they simply depict the importance of birthplace that must not be dumped..

The above instance might sound some hypothetical! Hypothetical in the sense that one out of million people has a change of being a president. And Nigeria being forty-eight-year old has recorded thirteen rulers if you count Baba Obasanjo twice, while United States has recorded forty-three since 1789. I find it difficult to reconcile why somebody should renounce his birthplace “nationality” for a country that practically would never accord, respect and treat you like other citizens: A country where fellow citizens would constantly ask you, where are you from? A country that many jobs could be out of your reach owing to the colour of your skin! A country where you might be living in isolation! A country where people might distance themselves from you in public places! Eligibility for naturalisation means individual in question has a permanent resident for life – suffice it to say, it is not necessary rubbing yourself of your birthrights if you already have life permanent of your host county – the only difference is you are not allowed to cast some vote in that country. Why worry, Nigeria need that vote. If nobody wants to be a Nigerian whom are we pushing our responsibilities to?

Countries like Denmark, Japan, Singapore and India regard multiple or dual citizenships undesirable, they try to minimize it legally. And multiple or dual citizenship is a status in which a person is regarded as a citizen under the laws of more than one country. Multiple or dual citizenship does have mix blessings: it increases opportunities for citizens to compete and build global contacts thereby facilitating trades and amplifying economical growth of states. On the other hand it could result to additional tax liability: some countries uses three factors in determining how their citizens pay taxes, such as: residence, sources and citizenship. This implies that a person holding the United States and Australia citizenship – lives and work in Australia – would be liable to both countries’ taxes because, Australia taxes her residents while the United State taxes her citizens. Acquiring dual or multiple nationalities by birth also has its shortcomings! For instance, Section 44 of Australia constitution forbids people holding foreign citizenship from sitting in their parliament. Iran, Mexico and many Arab countries’ consulates officials may not have access to their citizens if they also hold local citizenship. And in most cases, many countries even those that permit dual or multiple citizenship would treat a person either as a citizen or not!

Lost in thought of patriotism as I am writing this controversial and difficult theme: had Koffi Anan renounced his Ghanaian nationality! Dr. Martin Luther King his United States nationality! Nelson Mandela his South Africa nationality! Mwalimu Julius Nyerere his Tanzanian nationality! Mahatma Gandhi his Indian nationality! Paradoxically, Nigerians who have either renounced Nigerian nationality or have dual nationality are very good at blaming their leaders for not finding pragmatic solutions to their problems. Some of the so-called illiterates who write about Nigerian problem have secured solid homes abroad forsaking their fatherland. They exacerbate the matter by dwelling on issues that will divide us instead of focusing on our common grounds that will unite us. Apparently, throwing missiles from air is safer than being physically present on a battlefield; Nigerian problems remain Nigerians’. Harry Nasir Dirisu writes from Denmark and can be reached at hnd@...

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