* Inaugurates the High Level Steering Committee
The Federal Government yesterday launched a National Action Plan (NAP) to eradicate statelessness in Nigeria in line with international treaties and conventions on the status of stateless persons with a view to upholding fundamental human rights, ending vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking of stateless persons.
Launching the action plan yesterday in Abuja, Home Affairs Minister Rauf Aregbesola explained that statelessness, a situation in which one or more individuals are not considered citizens or nationals under the laws of a country, must lead to a number of abuses and difficulties such as the lack of legal right to protection and the right to vote, the lack of access to employment and education, the inability to process travel documents resulting in long-term separation from loved ones, among others.
He cited the main causes of statelessness as displacement due to war and natural disasters, conflict of laws, transfer of territory, ambiguity of marriage law, discrimination, lack of birth registration , denationalization and denunciation, among others.
Citing statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Minister said that there were more than 10 million stateless people in the world; they are told that they do not belong to any country hence the adoption of the NAP in 2020 and its launch now to meet the challenge.
The minister said that “Nigeria is a signatory to various treaties and conventions relating to the status of stateless persons or the reduction of statelessness in West Africa. In 2015, Nigeria joined other West African countries in signing the Abidjan Declaration organized by the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) and UNHCR.
“The declaration recognizes statelessness as a significant problem in West Africa and sets out specific measures on how to end statelessness between 2014 and 2024 and the endorsement of the approval of the protocols of the Plan of ECOWAS Action on the Eradication and Reduction of Statelessness., (EPAERS), by 2024, prompted Nigeria to develop and domesticate its own National Action Plan (NAP).
Urging Nigerians never to take their nationality status for granted, Aregbesola said, “We often take our nationality for granted, especially if we were born in a country where our race and ethnic nationalities are significantly represented, but all beings humans are not so lucky.
Speaking on the significance of the launch of the NAP, UNHCR Representative in Nigeria, Chansa Kapaya, said Nigeria had taken an important step to join other countries in the region in preventing statelessness and prevention of statelessness risks in the country.
She said: “I am particularly pleased with this milestone as UNHCR, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and other stakeholders for organizing this very important and long-awaited event because it is a question of human rights.
“The adoption of the NAP in November 2020 and its adoption now, Nigeria has joined nine other West African nations with a national action plan signifying a significant step towards preventing statelessness and reducing risks of statelessness in the country”.
She continues: “Statelessness is a serious human rights issue, a development issue and a humanitarian issue and it is estimated that at least 4.3 people worldwide are denied a nationality.
“As a result, they are often not allowed to enroll or go to school, see a doctor, get a job or open a bank account, own a SIM card because all of these require coins. identity that are denied to stateless people and furthermore have difficulty moving around.
Women’s Affairs Minister Pauline Tallen said women and children are the most vulnerable to rights violations resulting from statelessness. Therefore, the NAP is essential to address gender discrimination in terms of job opportunities and political offices and street children, among others.
Furthermore, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, noted that statelessness comes with many humanitarian consequences such as gender discrimination and religious discrepancies.
She said “those at risk of statelessness include refugees, migrants, children whose births have not been registered, nomadic herders and populations affected by border changes”.