The committee of the House of Representatives established to further alter the 1999 Constitution has adopted the bill seeking to confer citizenship rights on foreigners married to Nigerian women.
The committee adopted the bill following its presentation by consultants working with the lawmakers on the amendment of the document.
It is potentially another progress for women towards equality at the ongoing public hearing on the review of the Constitution.
The lawmakers had agreed to the creation of extra seats for women in federal and states constituencies, although, the 35 per cent affirmative action was rejected.
Joy Ezeilo, one of the consultants working with the committee, while presenting the recommendation of the consultants, said existing provision in the constitution is discriminatory against women.
The existing law only allows citizenship by registration to be conferred on foreigners married to Nigerian men.
She said the bill seeks to amend section26 (2a) of the 1999 Constitution by opening citizenship by registration to male and female.
The Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, who chairs the committee, while speaking on the bill, called for more clarification on the specifics regarding the bill.
According to him, even in Nigeria, there are differences in culture as regards the rights of spouses in Nigeria.
“Even within the context of our culture, I want to give an example of Idoma culture, you can only bury an Idoma woman in her homeland. In this age, we have a lot of attachment to our culture,” Mr Wase said.
He expressed concerns on the conferment of automatic citizenship on foreigners based on marriage. The deputy speaker argued that Nigerian citizenship should be guarded jealously.
Ms Ezeilo argued that citizenship is not automatic, noting that the bill seeks to replace “any woman” with “any person”, which according to her is discriminatory.
The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, also raised concerns about the bill. According to him, such a bill could confer rights to vote and be voted for on foreigners.
“What I was saying is– if we are going to agree to that provision, what about, for instance, somebody from Taraba State is married to a woman from Delta or Abia. Can that man from Taraba come down to Abia to contest? We should include it… If we are allowing the husband to come from abroad and claim citizenship,” he said.
Despite the concerns, the bill was adopted by the lawmakers.
However, the proposal would still follow Nigeria’s rigorous constitutional amendment procedure, including passage by both chambers of the National Assembly, approval of at least 24 of the 36 state legislatures and presidential assent.
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