Nigeria is a country in the world like a number of other countries. You may consider that an interesting statement but really what makes any landmass qualified to be called a country? I am not quite sure. But either way, Nigeria is a country. It has a national flag, a system of government, national political leaders and a sort of administrative framework that the citizens of the country accept or keep up with.
There are certain dates that are relevant when one looks at the history of Nigeria. These dates are symbolic in that they define the existence of Nigeria in nomenclature and in the current status of the country as it regards other countries in the world.
In 1914, the modern state of Nigeria became official. The British carried out what is known as the amalgamation of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and the Northern Nigeria Protectorate. This event also came with the Frederick Lugard Constitution.
A new constitution was released. This is known as the Sir Clifford Constitution.
1946 saw the establishment of another constitution called the Arthur Richard Constitution.
In 1951, there was another constitution known as the Sir John Macpherson Constitution. This appeared to be the first constitution that had any formal input from the indigenous people of Nigeria.
There was yet another attempt to provide a new constitution and this resulted in the Lyttelton Constitution of 1954.
Nigeria held a constitutional conference. This was in preparation for independence from the British.
Nigeria gains a certain degree of independence from Britain and works under a new constitution – the 1960 Constitution.
Nigeria becomes a Republic and ceases to answer directly to the Crown of England. Another constitution, the 1963 constitution becomes operative.
This marked the advent of military intervention in Nigerian politics and the end of the constitutional rule. Military decrees became the norm for political administration and governance
1967 – 1970
The Biafra war was fought within this period. For a while, it appeared there were two countries in the same space designated as Nigeria. The Biafrans lost the war and Nigeria remained one country.
A new constitution is born and soon the country is back to democratic governance.
A new constitution and a new democratic government.
Conversations about nations are placed in certain contexts. Usually one can consult certain individuals who have been around for a considerable amount of time and who can be referenced but where possible it is good to have a document of reference that is acceptable to all not necessary in purpose but in legality. The constitution will be a good one when discussing Nigeria and Nigerians particularly as regards delineation and definitions that are valid in our day.
Nigeria had different constitutions at different points in its existence and the current constitution usually referred to as the 1999 constitution had also been amended at some point. It is worthwhile to reproduce a number of statements from the constitution as it is the primary document of reference when dealing with Nigeria. The first will be the powers of the constitution and the delineation of what is Nigeria.
Part I of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria is reproduced below:
1. (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(2) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any persons or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
2. (1) Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(2) Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory.
3. (1) There shall be 36 states in Nigeria, that is to say, Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara
The Nigerian Citizen
The modern-day Nigerian citizen is defined in the Nigerian constitution.
According to the constitution – One can be a citizen by birth or by naturalization.
“(1) The following persons are citizens of Nigeria by birth-namely-
(a) every person born in Nigeria before the date of independence, either of whose parents or any of whose grandparents belongs or belonged to a community indigenous to Nigeria;
Provided that a person shall not become a citizen of Nigeria by virtue of this section if neither of his parents nor any of his grandparents was born in Nigeria.
(b) every person born in Nigeria after the date of independence either of whose parents or any of whose grandparents is a citizen of Nigeria; and
(c) every person born outside Nigeria either of whose parents is a citizen of Nigeria.
(2) In this section, “the date of independence” means the 1st day of October 1960. (Sec. 25)”
The non-possession of a Nigerian passport does not define the citizenship status of any individual. There are many people who were born outside Nigeria to Nigerian citizens. These people based on the Nigerian constitution are citizens by birth. They are perfectly at liberty to take advantage of their citizenship rights as enshrined in the constitution. At the moment the Nigerian constitution does not place any restrictions on Nigerians based on where they were born and doesn’t discriminate against dual citizenship status. However, no one who became a Nigerian citizen based on naturalization can take up any other citizenship by naturalization after accepting that of Nigeria.
In effect, all Nigerians can be dual or multiple citizens. This is common when kids are born to Nigerian parent’s resident in countries where citizenship is obtained based on place of birth. A notable one is the United States of America.
A good feature of dual citizenship for countries like Nigeria is that some of these Nigerian citizens born abroad choose to represent Nigeria at international competitions and tournaments.
Citizenship by birth cannot be lost but citizenship by naturalization can be revoked under certain circumstances by the president of Nigeria. The desire of a birthright citizen to seek not be associated with Nigeria can be accomplished but it has to be done in such a way that the individual is not ‘stateless’ at any point in time. The procedure to accomplish this is defined in the constitution in Section 29. It is a bit tricky considering that those born abroad to Nigerian parents may not ever chose to be seen as Nigerians and may have assumed birthright citizenship at place of birth. Clearly once one has Nigerian parents at birth one is automatically a Nigerian based on Nigeria’s constitution.
A number of Nigerians live outside Nigeria and a number of these people moved out of Nigeria after birth either for study/ medical or business purposes. Their status as Nigerians remains valid irrespective of location of abode. The Nigerians appear to be the most populous black nationality in the world. It is quite difficult to tell how many Nigerians reside abroad and the figures about the population of Nigerians living in Nigeria is at best an estimate.
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) Retrieved April 14, 2018, from
Lyttleton Constitution. (n.d.) Retrieved April 14, 2018, from https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Lyttleton%20Constitution&item_type=topic
NIGERIA: CONSTITUTION DEVELOPMENT HISTORY. (n.d.) Retrieved April 14, 2018, from http://www.lawnigeria.com/CONSTITUTIONHUB/1960-1999ConstitutionofNigeria.html
The Nigeria 1914 Amalgamation. (n.d.) Retrieved April 14, 2018, from https://the234project.com/history/nigeria/the-nigeria-1914-amalgamation/
Wikipedia contributors. (2017, October 28). Timeline of Nigerian history. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 14, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Timeline_of_Nigerian_history&oldid=807499226
Wikipedia contributors. (2018, April 12). Nigeria. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 14, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Nigeria&oldid=836004716