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The Rate at Which Nigerian Youths Are Renouncing Citizenship And Leaving the Country is Alarming – FG Cries Out.
The federal government has said it is alarmed by the rate of Nigerian youths renouncing their citizenship and leaving the country in first-ever public reaction.
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior, didn’t mince words on Thursday in declaring the trend as worrisome and counterproductive just as he implored young Nigerians to stop renouncing their citizenship.
It is elementary knowledge that the rising tide of youths’ movement out of the country and renunciation of citizenship are direct result of the current socio-economic and political situation in Nigeria, which under the Buhari administration, is seeing its highest unemployment rate and worst insecurity yet, since returning to democracy in 1999.
Mr Aregbesola, through Shuaib Belgore, the ministry’s permanent secretary, expressed the federal government’s concern when inaugurating a Task Force on the operationalisation of the Presidential Deliverables that President Muhammadu Buhari handed over to the interior ministry in order to improve internal security of the country.
Ms. Blessing Lere-Adams, the ministry’s Director of Press said in a statement that Minister Aregbesola stated this at a ministerial alignment meeting with the delivery team from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF).
Aregbesola asked members of the Task Force to work in concert with Citizenship and Business Department of the ministry that handle Expatriate Quota to engage the youth in more productive ventures.
“1 believe this will go a long way in dissuading them from looking for greener pastures outside the shores of the country,” he reportedly stated.
The Presidential Deliverables handed to the interior ministry has a timeline of 2019 to 2023 to develop a framework to ease tourist visa requirements, review recruitment, deployment and training of personnel in the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to optimise the its contribution to National Security.
Among other things, the task force will facilitate a beneficial collaboration with the private sector to create enormous well-paying jobs for Nigerian youths and ensure effective, timely processing of business permits for foreigners coming to establish business in Nigeria.
Nigerians intent on renouncing or restoring their citizenship can do so after an approval from the president alone as contained in Chapter III, Article 29, sub. Section 1-2, of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999).
The power to grant or refuse approval in this regard, according to the constitution, is not transferrable and the process can only be carried out in the country.
The federal government often discourage anyone who is a citizen of Nigeria by birth from renouncing their citizenship since the constitution allows for them to acquire the citizenship or nationality of a second country, without necessarily having to renounce that of Nigeria.
Reports have shown that majority of those renouncing their Nigerian citizenship are well-to-do while the less privilege who renounce their citizenship have, among others, the options of assuming a stateless status with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees first and then look for a country which will give grant them asylum or citizenship.
But whether rich or poor, the prime reasons people usually leave their home country are often the same: fear of political uncertainty or insecurity and hope for better opportunities in the destination country.
Aljazeera in a recent report chronicled the extraordinary increase in the rate of Nigerians seeking citizenship abroad.
The news service reports that London-based Henley & Partners, one of the world’s major citizenship advisory firms, said “applications by Nigerians increased by 185 percent during the eight months to September 2020, making them the second-largest nationality to apply for such schemes after Indians.”
The report further noted that in 2020 alone, “more than 1,000 Nigerians enquired about the citizenship of another country through Henley & Partners this year alone, which Paddy Blewer, head of marketing, says “is unheard of. We’ve never had this many people contacting us”.
The Endangered Demographics
While the insecurity brought on by bandit groups and terrorists affect the entire citizens, young Nigerians appear to have the most targets on their backs, sometimes killed and maimed for the most ridiculous reasons including appearance and dressing.
A relatively high percentage of killings of young Nigerians are perpetrated by security agents. This is what prompted the October 2020 nationwide #EndSARS demonstrations that shook the country to its foundation, as youths took to the streets to protest against decades of unchecked police brutality, extortion and extra-judicial killings.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, the police unit responsible for the atrocities against the young Nigerians was scrapped as a result of the protests.
As one of the Lagos version of the demonstrations was ongoing, on the night of October 20, 2020, the Nigerian soldiers opened fire on armless protesters, killing at least 12 people, according to Amnesty International, in what is today known as the Lekki Tollgate Massacre.
The Army which first denied being present at the scene of the protest then later admitted deploying some soldiers there has continued to deny all wrongdoings, saying soldiers fired into the air amid overwhelming reports confirming otherwise.
Soon after, the Nigerian government cracked down on promoters of the protests by freezing their bank accounts.
In spite of the #EndSARS, youths up until this day remain victims in Nigeria. This among others factors, perhaps explain why droves of Nigerians would renounce their citizenship.
Second Highest Unemployment Rate In The World
Another plausible reason youths are moving in unprecedentedly large out of the country in search of better opportunities and perhaps even renouncing their Nigerian citizenship is the record unemployment rate under the current administration.
Buhari, during his campaign in January 2015 vowed to tackle corruption and insecurity, and develop the economy.
Speaking at the formal inauguration of the All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential campaign at the Adokiye Amasiemeka Stadium in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State, Buhari also pledged to cherry-pick competent hands to run the nation’s economy, which he declared was in poor shape.
“The fundamental issue facing this country is insecurity and the problem of economy which was being made worse by corruption. I assure you that we are going to finally assemble a competent team of Nigerians to efficiently manage the country,” said the then presidential hopeful.
“I am appealing to you, the damage done to this country is great. The level of unemployment, level of insecurity is intolerable. The journey has begun. It will take time, it will take patience, it will take support from you to make sure that we succeed.
“Let us make sure that our votes count. The problem we are facing today is the problem of security and economy. We have gathered competent hands to manage the economy and tackle insecurity.”
Saturday, May 29, 2021, marked Buhari’s exact six years since taking the nation’s highest office after unseating Goodluck Jonathan as president in 2015 and winning re-election in 2019.
He currently has two years more years to complete two maximum four-year terms, but the security and economic challenges he promised to resolve have persisted and clearly even worse.
Job creation was a vital element of the Buhari-Osinbajo campaign slogan in 2015, but the country currently has the second highest unemployment rate in the world.
When the administration came on board in the second quarter of 2015, unemployment rate jumped to 9.9% in the third quarter of the same year from 8.2% in the second quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, data shows.
Ever since, sadly, unemployment, poverty and economic disempowerment have remained constant part of the Nigerian life.
Nigeria’s unemployment rate, between May 2015 and May 2021, has more than tripled, according to available statistics.
The National Bureau of Statistics in its latest data published in March this year reported that the nation’s unemployment rate reached 33.3%, meaning 23.2 million people are currently jobless in the country.
This is the highest in at least 13 years and the second-highest rate in the world, after Namibia which has 33.4%.
It is rather ironic that Buhari who during a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in 2018 accused Nigerian youths of being lazy, failed to run the economy effectively and provide employment for the nation’s young population.
Nigeria’s worsening insecurity also does not leave the youths with much options.
The country has recorded some of its worst and highest cases of kidnapping, herders-farmers’ crisis and banditry yet under this administration. All these alongside decade-old battle against terrorism.
Amnesty International, a global rights group, on Friday, May 4, declared that security situation in Nigeria has deteriorated to a point where no part of the country is safe.
In a statement titled, ‘Authorities not doing enough to protect lives,’ in commemoration of its 60th anniversary, the group said, “Alarming escalation of attacks, abduction for ransom and frequent killings across Nigeria have left people feeling more unsafe, showing utter failure of the Nigerian authorities to protect lives and properties.”
Amnesty further stated that “incessant killings and the stunning failure of the authorities to end them and bring suspected perpetrators to justice had continued to be a threat to the right to life in Nigeria.”
Restructuring, New Constitution
As Nigeria continues to wriggle with all these challenges, many have suggested restructuring of the country as well as drafting of a new constitution, are potential solutions. The possibility of both happening appear farfetched in light of the federal government and the national assembly’s disposition.
While the federal government pushed back against call for restructuring, the national assembly has repeatedly emphasized the conditions for scrapping the 1999 constitution for a new one are exceedingly stringent.
Seventeen governors from the southern states recently took the agitation for restructuring to a new height at a meeting held in Asaba, the Delta State capital where they reached a 12-point resolution including restructuring of the country to foster the establishment of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the state governments and creation of other institutions which legitimately advance commitment to and practice of true federalism.
The governors “Agreed that the progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation leading to the evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism,” the resolution reads partly.
It continued, “In view of widespread agitations among our various peoples for greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements, the Federal Government should convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency.”
The Buhari administration nonetheless continues to dilly-dally on the matter.
While the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, admitted the current national arrangement is impracticable, saying restructuring is the way out of the country’s challenges, the body language of other members of the administration are starkly contrary.
Aregbesola when speaking on Friday, March 26, in Ibadan, after his investiture as the grand patron of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, South-West zone, said “The argument that the current political configuration holds down the country may be admissible to a large extent and we need to adjust our structure, both politically and economically.
“Nigeria needs to ensure maximum exploration and use of the resources by the constituent parts of the Federation with a view to encouraging healthy competition and broadening the space for mass participation in wealth creation.
“Nigerians need to create a Nigeria where individuals can find fulfillment in life, even as they tread the narrow path of honesty, hard work, and sincerity.
“They need to create a nation where justice reigns and no man is oppressed, where merit can elevate to the top and the content of a man’s or woman’s character is enough to guarantee of enjoying the benefits of a prosperous federal society.”
However, Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation, slammed southern state governors for demanding the federal government restructure the country, saying they have no right to do so.
Malami, who doubles as the Minister of Justice, said governors should first off, focus on ensuring local governments function effectively before asking President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the nation.
Speaking during a Channels TV programme Malami said, “They cannot deny the autonomy of the state legislature and state judiciary and still be clamouring for restructuring. What restructuring are we talking about?” the minister quizzed.
On the devolution of powers to states, Malami queried the governors, “What have they done to allow the local government structures to operate optimally?”
When asked if he would advise the president to respond positively to the calls, Minister Malami said, “They should address it at their own level first, and let’s see what happens before now coming over to the president. It’s not about the president. It’s about the denial of the functionality of the structures at the lower level, and that is what restructuring is all about.”
Continuing, he reiterated that the governors “should allow the state legislature to operate optimally, the checks and balances required will be there.”
“Once you deny them the resources and autonomy to operate, then you do not have the legitimate right to clamour or perhaps agitate for any restructuring,” he added.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan also tore into the southern governors while recently speaking with journalist in Abuja.
He said, “I believe that as leaders, those of us who were elected must not be at the forefront of calling for this kind of thing. Because even if you are a governor, you are supposed to be working hard in your state to ensure that this restructuring you are calling for at the federal level you have done it in your state as well.”
“This is because what you may accuse the federal government of whatever it is, you may also be accused of the same thing in your state. So, we are supposed to ensure that we have a complete and total way of ensuring that our systems at the federal, state, and even local government work for the people.”
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