By Favour Nnabugwu
President Muhammadu Buhari has awarded Nigerian citizenship to 286 nationals, urging them to be good citizens of the country to enjoy all the rights and privileges bestowed on them.
Out of these deserving persons who signed to be Nigerians, 208 received certificates for Naturalization, while 78 got certificates by Registration after they officially recited the oath of allegiance and the Nigerian national pledge during the ceremony held at the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
President Buhari at the ceremony said, ‘You have pledged your allegiance to Nigeria. When you give your love and loyalty to Nigeria, she returns her love and loyalty to you.”
The President explained that out of the 286 foreign nationals presented with certificates of Nigerian Citizenship, 208 received certificates for Naturalization, while 78 got certificates by Registration.
He urged them to make positive and useful contributions to the advancement, progress and well-being of the different communities they reside, adding that as citizens they must be in accord with the national ethics and code of conduct.
According to him, ”You are expected to abide by the Ideals and Institution of the Nigerian National Flag, Anthem, Pledge and respect for all Constituted Authorities.
”All those concerned with Immigration matters are to offer our new citizens quick legal identification. Also, their Local Governments should assist with their integration in the local community to enable them enjoy all the entitlements of a Nigerian citizen.”
In exercising the constitutional powers conferred on him, by Chapter III Sections 25-31 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the President told the new citizens that Nigeria is a nation united by the principles of opportunity, equality, and liberty as enshrined in the Constitution.
He said, ”No matter where you come from, or what faith you practice, this country is now your country. Our history is now your history, and our traditions are now your traditions. Nigeria is your home and pride and joy.
”In line with our transformational ideals of strict adherence to due process and transparent procedures, the Ministry of Interior ensured that only deserving persons were recommended to the Federal Executive Council to be conferred with Nigerian citizenship.”
President Buhari recounted that the Federal Government in 2020 adopted the National Action Plan to eradicate statelessness and accordingly, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, inaugurated the High-level Steering Committee to Eradicate Statelessness in Nigeria by 2024.
”This ceremony therefore is a further demonstration of the Federal Government’s commitment and determination to remove as many people as possible from statelessness.
”In this regard, I will like to reiterate our commitment to the strategic role Nigeria plays in the comity of nations, in its unwavering quest for greater human integration, towards ensuring peace and prosperity.”
Welcoming the new Nigerians, the Minister of Interior in his speech entitled ‘‘The more the merrier’’, said the beneficiaries were from the United States, Europe, the Americas, Asia, Middle East, Oceania and Africa, who have seen the good in Nigeria.
”Without any doubt, Nigeria is a great nation, richly endowed and blessed with great people. Smart people continue to flock to our country to do business with us,’’ Aregbesola said, adding that Nigeria would continue to welcome every qualified citizenship applicant.
The Minister described the conferment ceremony as a celebration of the oneness of the human race, consistent with the mandate of the Ministry and the Buhari administration to lay a solid socio-economic and political foundation that will thrust Nigeria into one of the top 20 economies in the world.
”To achieve this lofty vision, the government is determined to encourage and attract foreign investors, high-net worth individuals, highly-skilled individuals and people with rare talents and strategic competencies into our country, ” he said.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Dr Shuaib Belgore, read citations of select beneficiaries who received certificates and symbols of citizenship from President Buhari.
They are Mrs. Kathryn Teresa Barrera, an American citizen, Professor Albert Alos Rovira, a Spanish citizen, Mr. Giuseppe Bellini, an Italian citizen, Dr. Nasra Ali, a Kenyan, Rev. Prof. John Brown Okwii, a Ugandan and Prof. Oumar Al-Moubarak Adoun, a Chadian citizen.
Speaking on behalf of the new citizens, Barrera, who arrived Nigeria in 1974 at age 24, thanked the President, staff of the Ministry of Interior for making their dreams come true.
The 72-year old Nigerian-American is the proprietress of a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Mother and Children Welfare Association, caregiver of Orphans and Vulnerable Children including children living with HIV/AIDS.
She currently lives with 20 children and young adults in training and in University, according to the citation read by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior.