Federal Government on Saturday conferred citizenship to no fewer than 385 foreign nationals across the continent of the world by naturalization and registration.
The government has also approved new pathways to permanent residency for eligible foreign nationals to be executed by the Minister of Interior who is vested with the power to execute the new guidelines for conferment of citizenship on foreign nationals.
President Muhammadu Buhari who was represented by the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, conferred the citizenship on the eligible 385 applicants for the Nigerian citizenship at a ceremony in Abuja.
Those granted Nigerian citizenship included 8 Brutish, 6 Americans, 8 Isreali, and 187 Lebanese amongst others.
Minister of Interior Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, in his remarks, spoke on the new pathways for conferment of citizenship of foreign nationals
According to him, “His Ministry had sought and got the approval of the Federal Executive Council to execute new pathways to permanent residency for eligible foreign nationals.
“The Minister of Interior has therefore been vested with the power to: Execute guidelines for Permanent Residency for foreign nationals of African descent who desired to make Nigeria their homeland through the ‘Privilege of Return’.
“Execute and clarify existing guidelines to provide Permanent Residence to foreign nationals who desired to invest in Nigeria in line with established guidelines
“Execute and clarify guidelines to grant Permanent Residence to foreign nationals who had demonstrated exceptional talents, knowledge and skills in rare fields of Science, Technology, Medicine, Engineering, the Arts, Sports and other areas as might be determined from time to time.
“Execute guidelines to grant Permanent Residence to male foreign nationals married to Nigerian women for a minimum period of one year”
Aregbesola took the audience through history of conferment of Nigerian citizenship on foreigners since inception, disclosing that the first person to be naturalised as a Nigerian was Miss. Theresia Chidiac of No 16A, Manchester Road, Kano, Nigeria on 18th July, 1964.
This was premised on Section 7(1) of the then 1963 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which separates, by definition, a Nigerian from non-Nigerian.
“Today’s conferment ceremony will be granted to 385 foreigners who have gone through diligent checks by the relevant agencies of state as stipulated by the Constitution and have fulfilled all statutory and administrative requirements.
“I need to state that the acquisition of the Nigerian citizenship is a great privilege and not everyone that applies becomes successful. However, that we have a high number of foreigners willing to become Nigerians is an indication that the ongoing efforts of the Federal Government to make Nigeria a destination for investment and peaceful coexistence is beginning to yield good fruits as we continue to welcome foreigners to do business here who, after interacting with us, are now desirous of becoming one of us.
“I must state also that it is under our administration that the largest number of foreigners have been naturalised. Between 2011 and 2013,a total of 266 foreigners became Nigerians. In 2017, 335 people took up Nigerian citizenship. But last year, 286 foreigners and today at this ceremony, 385, making a total of 671 have acquired Nigerian citizenship.
“I am still not pleased with this figure. In Europe and America, thousands of foreigners are inducted into citizenship every year. They do this to attract youths and people in their prime who would like to contribute to the development of their countries. Let’s face it. There is a limit to your expectations from a non-citizen and it is reasonable to expect an average person to be more loyal to his or her country.
“The bane of the smooth pathway to Nigerian citizenship however is the constitutional requirement of continuous residency in Nigeria for 15 years.
“This is a huge disincentive, considering that in the United States and most European countries, it is five years. Some of these countries have made a habit of snatching young and resourceful brains – who after four years of schooling and working for just one year – through easy pathways, to obtain quality migration to their countries,” he said.