By Aniekpeno John Inyang
Citizens’ Rights are a fundamental part of any democratic society as democracy cannot be achieved without active citizen participation. The citizens of a Country often exhibit a better sense of loyalty and appreciation for their country whenever they, as legal members of the country, are allowed to enjoy certain privileges that may not be available to other persons who are not citizens. This is what citizens’ Rights is all about, promoting the ideals of patriotism, loyalty, and nationalism towards a country by offering special privileges to her citizens. However, It is important to first ensure that Citizens rights are not taken as the same thing as human rights, although there are certain circumstances that may warrant both concepts being used interchangeably, for the purpose of clarity, a distinction will be attempted on the two concepts. Human rights are basic privileges or freedoms that all persons are allowed to enjoy irrespective of their gender, race, or affiliations. Human rights are instrumental in ensuring the fair treatment of persons in society no matter where one comes from. As a concept, Human rights emanated from the work of a committee set up by the then United Nations Organisation in 1948 at the end of the second World war. The second world war that began in 1939 and ended in 1945 witnessed a lot of atrocities and maltreatment of humans. At the end of the war, world leaders came together to create certain privileges that people should be allowed to enjoy no matter the circumstances or location that they find themselves in. This is where the disparity exists. All persons whether you are a citizen of a country or not, so long as one is human, you are entitled to enjoy Human rights. Citizens’ Rights on the other hand are reserved specifically for the citizens of a country and these kinds of rights differ from one country to another. To this end, The Citizens of a Country are allowed to enjoy both Human rights and Citizens’ Rights.
Meaning of Citizens’ Rights
Citizens’ Rights are those privileges specially reserved for only the Citizens of a Country. All humans are entitled to human rights but only the citizens of a Country are allowed by law to enjoy Citizens’ Rights. The protection of Citizens’ Rights in Nigeria is very important which is why there is a department created in the Federal Ministry of Justice to carry out that very important function of protecting Citizens’ Rights. Taking off in 2005, the Citizens’ departments hold on to the vision of Fostering democracy through the Protection of The Rights of the Citizens and giving them access to justice.
Examples of Citizens’ Rights
The following are examples of rights that are reserved only for Nigerian Citizens in Nigeria:
Right to vote: The Nigerian Constitution only allows the Citizens of Nigeria to vote during elections. Aliens or Foreigners visiting the country are not allowed to vote in times of election. Upon turning eighteen years of age, Nigerians are required by law to register with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and then given a document known as the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) which enables them to vote during elections.
Right to stand for Office: Only the citizens of Nigeria are allowed to stand for political offices during elections. This right allows us to take up leadership positions in society. Only Nigerians can occupy Political Offices such as the Office of the President, Vice-President, Governors, Deputy-Governors, etc. The law requires that any Citizen wishing to do so should register with a Political Party which has also been registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The Citizen will then be presented to the Public by the Political Party as a candidate for an election.
Right to Serve the Country by Joining the Military:
The Constitution only allows Nigerian Citizens to join the Military. Non-Nigerians are not allowed to be part of the Armed forces such as the Army, the Navy, and the Air force. This idea of having only Nigerians make up the Armed forces is very important as it helps to ensure that the territorial integrity and defense of Nigeria is solely in the hands of patriotic and loyal citizens of the Country.
Right to Reside and Work in Nigeria:
Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move, work, and live freely throughout Nigeria, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom. A Non-Nigerian wishing to live and work in Nigeria is required to possess a special document known as “Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC)”. This is a card that allows a foreign holder to live and work in Nigeria within a fixed or indefinite period of time. This card is usually issued by the Nigerian Immigration Service on entry into Nigeria.
Right to take up Federal Employment:
Only Nigerian citizens are allowed to take up some federal employments in the Country such as employments in the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Correctional Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, etc. Working in such places as mentioned above requires one to be a Nigerian Citizen by birth or descent. This is a fundamental requirement during recruitments into these Government established Institutions. It is, however, important to note that persons who are not Nigerian Citizens may be consulted for their expertise by these Institutions when the need arises. This does not mean that the Foreigners are in full-time employment with the Establishment, the scope of what the foreigners are consulted for are usually limited.
Aniekpeno John Inyang is a Public Affairs Analyst.