A citizen is defined as a legal member of a state with full constitutional or legal rights in the country in which he or she resides. He enjoys certain rights and privileges and owes certain responsibilities and obligations to the state.
WAYS OF ACQUIRING CITIZENSHIP
- By birth: A person is a citizen by birth if either of his parents, mother or father is a citizen of a country.
- By naturalization: Somebody can become a citizen of a country where he lives through naturalization. This is possible if he can satisfy the constitutional requirements for naturalization.
- Marriage or registration: If a woman is married to a person of another nationality, she can acquire the citizenship of the husband’s country through registration. For example, a Nigerian woman married to a British, or a British woman married to a Nigerian.
- Dual citizenship: It is legitimately possible for a person to hold citizenship of two countries. For example a child born to Nigerian parents living in American becomes a U.S. citizen. The baby is also a Nigerian because the parents are Nigerians.
- Honorary citizenship: An individual could be honoured with the citizenship of another country. This is made possible if the individual has distinguished himself/ herself in a particular area.
Qualifications for Citizenship
These are qualifications or conditions an individual has to satisfy before he could become a citizen of another country.
However, conditions are not the same in countries.
Below are some of the qualifications
- Statutory age: An alien can become a citizen of another country if he has attained the required age as stipulated by the law of the country.
- Good character: He/She must possess good character.
- Residence: The individual must have lived in a country for a specified number of years. In Nigeria, the individual must have lived for a continuous period of 15 years.
- Acceptability: to the local community where he is resident.
- Making contributions towards the progress of the country: He should be capable of doing this to the progress of the country.
- The willingness to live and stay: If the individual has been granted the citizenship, he has to show the willingness to live and stay in the country.
- Through marriage: An alien can qualify to be a citizen of a country through marriage.
WAYS OF DEPRIVING OR LOSING CITIZENSHIP
- Through disloyalty: A naturalised citizen can lose his citizenship if his activities are prejudicial to the country’s corporate existence.
- Supporting another country: If a citizen is found supporting another country engaged in war with his country, his citizenship may be deprived him.
- Imprisonment: The individual can also lose his citizenship if within a period of say 5-7 years after becoming naturalised, he gets involved in a criminal case, resulting in his incarceration for some years.
- False declaration: If there is a fundamental breach of the citizenship agreement binding him, e.g. false declaration.
- Treason: The naturalised citizen can equally lose his citizenship, if found guilty of this offence.
- Dual citizenship: If he has not renounced the citizenship of his original country.
- Renouncement: The individual can lose his citizenship by verbally renouncing it.
RIGHTS OF A CITIZEN
Fundamental human rights means that every individual at birth is endowed with certain rights : life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Most of these rights are recognised and entrenched in the constitution of most countries. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that its citizens enjoy these rights.
These rights include:
- The right to life, security and protection of law and undisturbed access to the court of law.
- Freedom and protection from slavery and forced labour.
- Right to ownership of property and protection from deprivation of property.
- The right to vote and be voted for in any political election.
- Freedom of forming and joining any political association.
- Freedom of movement without restraint.
- Right to education.
- Freedom from unlawful detention, arrest and torture.
- Freedom of expression and of the press.
- The right to a fair hearing.
- Freedom of conscience and of religion.
DUTIES AND OBLIGATIONS OF A CITIZEN IN A STATE
The following are some of the duties of a citizen in a state, in return for most of the rights enjoyed.
- Payment of taxes: A citizen should pay his tax to provide the state with revenue for social services e.g. pipe borne water, hospitals and schools.
- Obedience to law: A citizen should obey all the laws of the state for the common good of its citizens.
- Voting at elections: A citizen has to vote during elections. Failure to do so may lead to the election of the wrong people into public offices.
- Detection and prevention of crimes: A good citizen should always assist the law enforcement agencies in detecting and preventing crimes in the society.
- Rights of individuals: A good citizen should not interfere with the rights of another citizen.
- Enlistment: A citizen should be ready to get enlisted into the armed forces when asked to do so, for the defence of the country.
- National symbols: A good citizen should show respect for national symbols, e.g. flag and anthem.
- National service: A citizen should obey the call to serve his country through the National Youth Service Corps.
- Loyalty: A good citizen must show loyalty to his country and must not support another country against his own country.
WAYS BY WHICH A CITIZEN’S RIGHT CAN BE SAFEGUARDED
- Law: Supremacy and existence of law to maintain the rights of individuals and their corresponding obligations.
- Independent Judiciary: Judges must be fair and impartial in protecting individual’s rights against invasion by private individuals or government.
- Democracy: Democracy in modern political system permits free discussion and association.
- Entrenchment: Fundamental human rights should be entrenched in the constitution of the land.
- Enlightenment programme: This programme will help in educating the citizens to be conscious of their rights and to defend it.
- Literacy level: The literacy level of the citizens should be improved upon. For example, through organising adult education classes.
- Free press: Freedom of the press should be guaranteed. This will make them write issues objectively.
- Existence of human right commission: For example, Ombudsman (public complaints commission), parliamentary commissions, are some of such institutions.
- Reduction of poverty level: There should be a drastic reduction of poverty level in the society.
- Rule of law: Rule of law should apply. Those in government should govern the people according to the provisions of the constitution. Also, the citizens have to obey the laws of the land as well as respect the constitution.
- Opposition: There should be in existence, vibrant opposition in the political system e.g. civil rights group.
- Pressure Groups: The system should also accommodate pressure group NBA, NMA, NUT, NIJ, etc.
- International Conventions: Respect for International Conventions on Human Rights by the government.
- Checks and balances: Upholding the doctrine of separation of powers with appropriate checks and balances.
- Public Opinion: This must be effectively used to protect any violation of the rights of the citizens.
- Free Legal Aid: Free Legal Aid for the less privilege to be in place and not to be ignored.
LIMITATIONS TO A CITIZENS’ RIGHTS
- Slander or libel: A citizen has no right to slander or libel other citizens. This is a limitation to freedom of expression.
- Conviction: A citizen who is convicted and imprisoned may lose his voting rights and movements while in prison.
- Trespass: A citizen has no right to trespass into another person’s property. This is a limitation to freedom of movement.
- Emergency period: Government may restrict citizen’s movement during emergency period.
- Property: Citizens may be denied the right to own some property e.g. weapons of some category.
- State security: Citizens may not be allowed, to join secret societies or associations, if they threaten the state security. It is a limitation to freedom of association.
- Property for public use: Government may acquire some individual’s property for public use e.g. land, but with compensation.
- Citizens may be deprived of their lives: This could happen if they take another person’s life and are condemned by law.
- Type of government: The type of government in power may limit citizen’s right. For example, one party system, military regime, etc.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A CITIZEN AND A NON-CITIZEN
- A non-citizen is not a legal member of a state, whereas a citizen is a legal member of a state with full constitutional rights.
- A non- citizen does not owe any duty or obligation to the state but a citizen owes duties and obligations to the state.
- A citizen can serve his country in any capacity, a non-citizen cannot.
- A citizen must be ready to defend his country when called upon to do so, but a non- citizen cannot be called upon.
- A citizen must show loyalty to the state, a non-citizen may not.
- A non-citizen cannot vote or be voted for in any political election, a citizen can vote and be voted for.
- A citizen can take up any job of his choice, in areas of job selection, but a non-citizen cannot.
- The rights of a citizen are guaranteed while that of a non -citizen is not.
- The life of a citizen is fully under the protection of the state, that of a non-citizen is not.
Human Rights Situation in Nigeria
Human rights are best practised and promoted in a democratic setting than in a military regime. The democratic structure on ground allows for an independent and impartial judiciary to guard and promote the rights of citizens.
A written constitution defining these rights, the application of the rule of law and of course the press to write and express issues constructively and objectively are put in place to ensure that human rights are kept.
Throughout the military era in Nigeria, promotion and safe-guarding of the rights of man have no place or content as the system was dictatorial in all aspect.
Similarly, suspension of the constitution and the issuing of decrees and edicts are pointers to the fact that Nigeria during the military governments did not have their rights promoted but abused.
Impact of Human Rights on National Development
- It has been argued in some quarters that equal rights of men and women help greatly in promoting social progress and better standards of life and greater freedom.
- The activities of human rights have impacted on the civil and political rights of the people thereby guaranteeing freedom from fear.
- The government’s respect for economic, social and cultural rights is to ensure freedom of the populace.
- Many countries have enshrined the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their constitutions.
- The Day of its adoption 10th December 1948 is internationally observed every year as Human Rights Day.
Human Rights Groups
A remarkable increase of world-wide activity has been recorded by the rapid growth of the Human Rights Movement. Today, there are over a thousand independent domestic Human Rights groups and other organizations campaigning for human rights.
For example, in Nigeria, individual journalists, members of Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), politicians, Transparency International, educationists and trade unionists have all played their part in bringing human rights to the headlines. Infact, this has increased the pressure on officialdom and shifted the balance in favour of the protection of human rights.
Another international group of great repute is Amnesty International. It is a world wide movement of people trying in a very practical way to ensure wider respect for some of the fundamental rights proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This group is independent and impartial, not supporting or opposing any government or political system.
This movement was launched over 25years ago with more than 700,000 members and subscribers in over 150 countries and territories.
The movement is open to anyone who supports the goals of the movement and works together with the movement to raise all the funds needed. It does not seek or receive government money.
Activities/Functions of Human Rights Groups
- The groups seek the release of prisoners of conscience. Prisoners of conscience are the people detained anywhere for their beliefs, colour, sex, ethnic origin, language or religion, who have not used or advocated violence.
- They seek for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners.
- They oppose torture, victimization and executions in all cases.
- The body collects reports of human rights violations from all over the world. If the information is correct after verification and falls within the charter for action, contact is made with the government concerned, asking officials to make sure that the victims rights are protected.
The Declaration of Human Rights
In 1948, governments set a new world standard for human rights- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
These Human Rights were universally declared and adopted by the General Assembly of United Nations on 10th December, 1948.
This declaration has had an immense impact throughout the whole world. Many countries have enshrined its principles in their constitutions.
The Day of its adoption is internationally observed every year as Human Rights Day.