*Inaugurates high level steering committee
The Federal Government yesterday launched a National Action Plan, (NAP), to eradicate statelessness in Nigeria in line with the international treaties and conventions on the status of stateless persons towards upholding basic human rights, ending vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking of stateless individuals.
Launching the action plan yesterday in Abuja, minister of interior, Rauf Aregbesola, explained that statelessness, a situation where an individual(s), are not considered citizens or nationals under the operation of the laws of any country, has to lead to a number of abuse and difficulties such as lack of legal right to protection and voting franchise, lack of access to employment and education, the inability to process travel documents resulting in long term separation from loved ones among others.
He adduced major causes of statelessness to displacement due to war and natural disasters, conflict of the law, transfer of territory, ambiguity in marriage law, discrimination, lack of birth registration, denationalization and denunciation among others.
Quoting statistics from the United Nations High and Commission for Refugees, (UNHCR), the minister said there are more than 10 million stateless persons across the globe; they are told they don’t belong to any country hence the adoption of NAP in 2020 and its launch now to tackle the challenge.
The minister said “Nigeria is a signatory to various treaties and conventions relating to the status of stateless persons or reduction of statelessness in West Africa. In 2015, Nigeria joined other West African countries to sign the Abidjan Declaration organized by the Economic Community of West African Countries, (ECOWAS), and the UNHCR.
“The declaration recognizes statelessness as a significant issue in West Africa and set out to specific measures on how to put an end to statelessness between 2014 and 2024 and the endorsement of the endorsement of protocols in the ECOWAS Plan of Action on Eradication and Reduction of Statelessness, (EPAERS), by 2024, prompted Nigeria to develop and domesticate her own National Action Plan, (NAP).”
Admonishing Nigerians never to take their nationality status for granted, Aregbesola said “We often take our nationality for granted especially if we were born within a country where our race and ethnic nationalities are significantly represented, but not every human is so fortunate.”
Speaking on the significance of the NAP launch, UNHCR Country Representative in Nigeria, Chansa Kapaya, said Nigeria has taken an important step to join other countries in the region in the prevention of statelessness and prevention of statelessness risks in the country.
She said “I am particularly pleased with this milestone as UNHCR, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and other stakeholders for convening this very important and much-awaited event as it is a human rights issue.
“The adoption of NAP in November 2020 and its adoption now, Nigeria have joined the other nine nations in West Africa with a national action plan signifying an important step towards the prevention of statelessness and the reduction of the risks of statelessness in the country.”
She continues, “Statelessness is a serious human rights issue, and a development issue, and a humanitarian issue and it is estimated that at least 4.3 persons around the world are denied a nationality.
“As a result, they are often not allowed to be able to enrol or go to school, to see a doctor, get a job or open a bank account, own a SIM card as all these require identifications which stateless persons are denied and further have difficulties in movement.”
Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen said women and children are most vulnerable to rights abuses arising from statelessness hence the NAP is critical to addressing gender discrimination in terms of job opportunities and political offices and street children among others.
Also, the minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, Sadiya Farouq, noted that statelessness comes with a lot of humanitarian consequences such as discrimination of gender and religious gaps.
She said “Persons who are at risk of statelessness include refugees, migrants, children whose births were not registered, nomadic pastoralists and populations affected by border changes.”