As the next general elections count down, many Nigerians are fearful of some of the possible outcomes. History has shown that air ticket sales typically shoot up in this season because those Nigerians that have the financial muscle to take flight with their families during crises have already worked out where to go until the elections and the outcomes subside.
Furthermore, fears concerning the threat of under-age voters and foreigners from neighbouring nations coming in to vote illegally have never been so pronounced as they are for the next elections.
According to a submission by a retired senior immigration officer, in a letter dated December 14, 2014, and titled ‘Citizenship Acquisition and Identification,’ addressed to the Presidency and others, “The failure to create a full proof Nigerian National Identification Scheme that can clearly tell and identify a Nigerian easily has the consequence in the low rating for our fight against insurgents, terrorising Nigeria today.”
This was sequel to issues raised November 27, 2014, at the National Press Centre, Radio House Abuja, where Abdu Bulama, a former minister of science and technology, had a ministerial briefing on the activities of his ministry with the title: Contribution of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in achieving the Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
To Bulama, “As it is today, our constitutional provision on who is a Nigerian citizen is foggy. We need to properly define who is a Nigerian citizen in a very clear and definite manner. Until we are able to solve the legal riddle of who a Nigerian citizen is, harvesting individual data I think is a mirage and a colossal waste of the scarce national resources.”
The infiltration of non-Nigerian terrorists is aided by the homogeneous nature of our border communities around the whole of Nigeria, and the near total neglect in infrastructural provision for border settlements, which demoralises many members of the border communities into developing some soft spot for viral elements in their settlements.
To him, these issues, along with the extreme discretion without clear cut uniform criteria given to security agencies at the border posts, who are saddled with the responsibility of securing Nigeria’s territorial integrity but with flawed citizenship laws, create a monumental problem for national security in Nigeria.
In most cases, criminals incubate at the borders, which seem to be a haven for antisocial activities, many of these persons operate from these places conveniently against the rest of Nigerians. These account for the terrorist camps around the border areas. They attack and retreat or slide across the borders unnoticed to their homes living behind pain, shock and national anguish.
This cycle is repeated often today, resulting in national distress and embarrassment in Nigeria.
From the submission of the retired officer, “It is therefore time to get the Nigerian citizenship laws correct and pay more attention to the borders, creating the consciousness of being a Nigerian citizen in the body, soul and spirit of Nigerian settlers at the border towns, making them feel that they are part of Nigeria as a whole. This way, they can get involved to contribute meaningfully to the peace, progress and general well being of Nigeria.
“It is also time for the fortification of Nigeria’s citizenship acquisition and identification scheme through proper legal framework, reducing excessive discretionary powers of security agencies within the border towns.
“We equally need to have a proper legal framework for our security agencies, especially at the border posts whereby the provision for excessive discretion in the enabling legal provision is replaced with a clear concise regulation standardising and having a uniform functions or duty regulations around the country in line with the constitutional regulations and global best practice.
“This area of law needs to be fortified before we can effectively harvest citizenship data for identity card management scheme as being done by the National Identity Card Management Commission now.”
This national discussion is necessary because Nigeria must protect its sovereignty against domestic, foreign terrorist and criminal entities and further protect it jealously against those who wish or are intent on breaching its border laws out of envy which is a common attitude of insurgents, sometimes promoted by some nations or their nationals towards Nigeria, especially in these border communities.
The failure to create a full proof Nigerian national identification scheme that can clearly tell and identify a Nigerian easily has the consequence in the low rating for the fight against insurgents.
The officer, however, argued that “whoever that wants to be a citizen of Nigeria should only be accepted on the basis of proven loyalty to the country, as the present constitutional provision for citizenship is totally faulty.”