By Ismaila Chafe, Abuja.
The Federal Government on Thursday in Abuja conferred Nigerian citizenship to 286 foreigners, including 86 Lebanese, 14 Britons, and four Americans.
The foreign nationals were conferred with the status of Nigerian citizenship by President Muhammadu Buhari, following an approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Out of the deserving persons who signed to be Nigerians, 208 were conferred citizenship status by naturalization.
The remaining 78 were conferred with the same status by registration after they officially recited the oath of allegiance and the Nigerian national pledge.
Speaking at the event, Buhari directed the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) to immediately issue the new Nigerians with certificates as appropriate.
According to him, this will enable them to begin to enjoy the status conferred on them wherever they reside in the country.
Buhari urged the new citizens to endeavour to make positive contributions to the different communities where they resided, while abiding by the ideals of the nation.
He said that the ceremony was a constitutional requirement, aimed at removing the tag of “statelessness” on every bona fide citizen of the country.
The president admonished them to be good ambassadors of the country, while reciprocating the love and acceptance from the Nigerian people.
Buhari stressed that as they were now bona fide citizens of Nigeria, the nation’s history would become their own history.
He said that only deserving persons were accorded with the right to citizenship after a painstaking assessment by the Nigerian government.
Earlier, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, revealed that the foreigners had gone through a series of thorough checks by the nation’s security agencies before being considered qualified for Nigerian citizenship.
He said that the Federal Government was determined to encourage high net-worth individuals as well as give recognition to other qualified foreigners in the country.
The minister said that this was in the bid to make Nigeria a destination of choice for investment opportunities.
The minister urged the new Nigerian citizens to guard their privileged status jealously.
He said that citizenship of Nigeria also conferred on them corresponding responsibilities to contribute their quotas to facilitate the development of Nigeria generally.
Aregbesola said: “Today’s ceremony is a reminder of our common human ancestry.
“These people came from near and distant lands, from different races, religion, ethnicity and other social affiliations and identities.
“However, irrespective of the circumstances of our birth, what we share in common is our humanity and we can always have the basis for deeper and more meaningful interaction and togetherness, if we work at it.
“What we are celebrating today therefore is the oneness of the human race.
“One of the objectives of our administration, the mandate given to us by Mr President, is to lay a solid socio-economic and political foundation that will thrust Nigeria into one of the 20 great economies of the world.”
According to him, to achieve this lofty vision, the government is determined to encourage and attract foreign investors, high net-worth individuals, highly skilled individuals and people of talents into the country.
“We shall, therefore, continue to encourage foreigners who meet the conditions stipulated for becoming Nigerians, by laying a seamless path to citizenship before them.
“That we have so many people striving to become Nigerians is an indication that the ongoing effort of the Federal Government to make Nigeria a destination for investment and peaceful coexistence is yielding good fruits.
“It is also an elixir of hope to all Nigerians that a great, secure, prosperous and peaceful horizon is ahead of us.
“Let us all therefore play our role in the scheme of things to accelerate the arrival of that beautiful era we all long for.
“I must remind our new citizens that the acquisition of the Nigerian citizenship is a great privilege since not everyone that applies becomes successful,” he said.
Aregbesola urged them to guard jealously their new status by being Nigerian in deed and in truth, adding: “Obey the laws of the land, work hard and love your neighbour.
“Nigerians work hard and live life to the fullest, irrespective of their earthly estate.
“It will be my pleasure to see you dissolve into this wonderful blend within the shortest possible time.
“Citizenship carries its own duty. Just as there are privileges, there are also responsibilities,” he said.
According to the minister, Nigeria, like other nations of the world, has its own challenges but these are not insurmountable.
“Citizens have a role to play. You all have talents and human endowments,” he said.
The conferment ceremony was the first to take place since 2018.