The Federal Government, last week, revealed that about 309 Nigerians renounced their citizenships in the last 16 years (2006-2021) with over half of that number recorded last year. The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, alongside the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Shuaib Belgore, disclosed this in Abuja during a media briefing coordinated by the Presidential Media Team. That 150 Nigerians renounced their citizenship in 2022 alone indicates that the country is drifting dangerously.

Though the Interior Ministry did not state the reasons that necessitated the soaring number of Nigerians that rejected their citizenship, the minister disclosed that Nigerian youths constituted the majority. He described the trend as “very worrisome and counterproductive.” Figures from the Ministry of Interior show a surge in passport application every month seeking to migrate to other countries.   This speaks volumes about the leadership failure in the country. The development reflects the frustration and disillusionment of many Nigerians. 

Undoubtedly, the growing number of Nigerians repudiating their citizenship has added to the numerous challenges confronting the country. Nigeria is at a tipping point now, with collapsing education and health sectors. The Nigerian situation is not inspiring to the citizens, especially the youths. Every passing day, hope is fading in the country. In fact, renouncing one’s citizenship is one of the most sensitive decisions anyone can make. Those concerned must have weighed the options available before renouncing their citizenship. But for many Nigerians, young and old, it has become increasingly tough to cope with the seeming hopelesness in the country. Nigerians are daily migrating to countries in Europe and America because of the economic hardship at home. The “Japa” syndrome is also predicated on the vision of a better life abroad. 

Due to the penchant of Nigerians to move abroad at any given opportunity, many foreign embassies in the country are now enforcing stricter regulations on Nigerians who want to travel abroad than they enforce on other countries’ nationals. This has also impacted negatively on the global ranking of the Nigerian passport.

Only recently, Henley Passport Index, which determines the number of countries the holders of any nation’s passport can access visa-free or with visa -on -arrival programme, ranked Nigeria 100th out of 199 countries in 2022. In the last 17 years, the Nigerian passport has fallen 38 places in global passport ranking. Though the Nigerian passport gained eleven more destinations, it fell from the previous 62nd ranking to the present 100th. No doubt, there are so many factors that may push many Nigerians to renounce their citizenship. For instance, the current hardship Nigerians are going through as a result of the scarcity of fuel and the new naira notes can make one renounce his citizenship. Unemployment and rising inflation and excruciating poverty can make one to hate his country. Last year, public universities were shut for eight months as a result of the strike by members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Up till now, the issues that led to that unfortunate strike are yet to be fully addressed by the federal government.

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While a citizen of a country has the right to renounce his citizenship, it is problematic if many citizens are doing so.  Under Section 29 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), “any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.” Also, Article 13(2) and 15(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, respectively, recognise the right of any citizen to leave any country, including one’s own country, and the right to change one’s nationality.                             

The exodus of Nigerians to countries in Europe and America in search of greener pastures is not in the best interest of the country. If the unbridled migration of Nigerian youths abroad is not curbed forthwith, the country will not witness any meaningful development. Therefore, the renunciation of their citizenship by some Nigerians is a warning to the government that time is running out. The growing alienation and hopelessness in the country must be halted before anarchy sets in.               

In June, 2021, the government set up a committee to evolve measures to engage young Nigerians in productive activities and check the rate of migration. The committee was headed by the Director, Planning and Research in the Ministry of Interior, Kabiru Ayuba.  Almost two years after, Nigerians are yet to see the outcome of the project.

 Currently, youth unemployment has reached 50 per cent.  With the rising youth unemployment, Nigeria cannot develop. The government must do something quickly to check the soaring youth unemployment, which many experts have described as a ticking time bomb. Let our political leaders brainstorm on how to address our numerous challenges and rebuild the country.