Nigeria has inaugurated a 16-man inter-ministerial committee to handle issues of stateless persons in the country.
The High Level-Steering Committee was part the country’s National Action Plan on the eradication of statelessness by 2024.
According to the UNHCR, there are more than 10 million stateless persons across the globe, who don’t belong to any country.
The committee, inaugurated on Friday in Abuja, is headed by Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, with that of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Farouk, as Co-Chairman.
Its mandate include identifying vulnerable persons at the risk level of statelessness in the country and develop measures and actions to regularised their status in tandem with the national action plan.
It will also identify factors or laws that might create new cases on stateless persons and propose measures or amendment to the law.
The committee has the mandate to identify existing gaps or discriminatory provisions in the nation’s laws that tend to promote or create the status of stateless persons and suggest remedies.
It is to examine and identify gaps in registration of children at birth and work out a seamless process of birth registration.
The committee unveiled a campaign with the hashtag: #Ibelong, to create awareness at National, States, Local Government and Community levels on the dangers and security implications of stateless persons, and the need to put an end to it.
Aregbesola said they would fashion out a roadmap to achieve the objectives and goals set out in the NAP to end statelessness.
According to him, Nigerians often take nationality for granted, especially those born within a country where their race and ethnic nationalities are significantly represented.
Aregbesola, however, said that not every human was so fortunate to have such privilege.
The UNHCR describes stateless persons as individuals who are not considered citizens or nationals under the operation of the laws of any country.
This can arise from several factors including displacement by war and natural disasters, conflict of law, transfer of territory, ambiguity in marriage law, discrimination, lack of birth registration, denationalisation.
And renunciation, when an individual rejects the citizenship of his country, without taking up the citizenship of another.
According to the minister, stateless persons usually have no legal protection and right to vote.
He said: “They often lack access to education, employment, healthcare, registration of birth, marriage or death, and property rights.
“They are vulnerable to exploitations and human trafficking.”
The Minister added that statelessness was a global challenge in which Nigeria had been working in concert with other nations to find solution.
Aregbesola said: “Nigeria is a signatory to various International Treaties, Conventions or Declarations 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 organised by ECOWAS and UNHCR.
“It was a milestone declaration which recognises statelessness as a significant issue in West Africa and set out specific measures on how to put an end to statelessness between 2014 to 2024.
“The milestone declaration was endorsed by Nigeria at the ECOWAS Summit of Heads of State in May 2015 in Accra, Ghana.”
Aregbesola said Nigeria had domesticated the protocols and plan of action developed by ECOWAS to put an end to statelessness in the country.
The Minister said that the committee would work with relevant MDAs, the National Assembly, civil right organisations, among others, towards the speedy and timely implementation of the plan.
He said the robust engagement was to ensure the realisation of the 2024 timeline for an end to statelessness in West Africa.
He said: “The determination and commitment of Nigeria towards an end to statelessness is demonstrated by signing various treaties, conventions and declarations on the subject.
“Nigeria has developed and approved the NAP on statelessness, participated actively in programmes organised by UNHCR to garner support from ECOWAS member states in ending statelessness as a national agenda.”
Farouk said that the UN General Assembly mandated UNHCR to lead global efforts to end statelessness.
She said: “On this premise, the UNHCR inaugurated the ‘I belong campaign’ and in consultation with states, developed the UNHCR Global Action Plan to end statelessness.
“Resolve existing situations of statelessness through reforming domestic laws to grant citizenssip to children born in stateless territories.
“Remove gender discrimination from domestic laws to allow women acquire, change and retain their nationality on an equal basis with their male counterparts.”