A total of 385 nationals of other countries on Saturday became Nigerians citizens by Registration and Naturalization to 385 Foreign Nationals at a ceremony held at the Nigerian Correctional Service Headquarters in Abuja.
Among the 385 recipients of the 2023 Nigerian Citizenship are British national, Prof. David Jowitt and several Americans including Mrs. Janice Okpanachi, all of whom have made their marks in different spheres of the Nigerian society, impacting many lives.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said at the event that Nigeria’s cultural diversity, hard work, innovation and infectious optimism of its people are some of the attributes that make it a great country, one that welcomes all classes of people from all over the world.
Prof. Osinbajo stated that Nigeria’s greatness can be partly attributed to its diversity.
“Nigeria is a nation brimming with cultural diversity. We have a rich history of immigration from all over, Africa and beyond. The greatness of our nation can be partly attributed to this. Numerous contributions have been made by immigrants to the Nigerian society throughout our history.
“A lot of our current traditions, music, food and art have been richly influenced by people and cultures beyond our borders. We are diverse but we remain bound and united by a shared history, undergirded by constitutional guarantees of liberty and equality. We celebrate our diversities believing from knowledge, history and experience that we are strengthened by these differences.”
Osinbajo said, ”it was a thing of joy and pride when foreigners settle in the country, feel at home, and thrive”.
When these foreigners “feel so connected to the land that they choose to become one of us, it is indeed an honour,” he further noted, adding that “I welcome you all into the Nigerian family with great pride. Irrespective of your country of descent or origin or your mother tongue, Nigeria is now your country, our history and traditions are now yours.”
He urged the newest citizens of the country “to go beyond your pledge of loyalty to the flag, our laws, as well as the high ideals of the anthem and national pledge to do what you have pledged in your daily lives and in all situations.
“By earning an honest living, paying taxes and dues, volunteering for national and local causes, and making positive and useful contributions to the advancement, progress and well-being of the communities you reside in, you can live up to the words of our anthem…to serve our Fatherland with love and strength and faith.”
Highlighting what it means to be Nigerian, the Vice President affirmed that “we are a hardworking and innovative people, a people of never-ending optimism and abundant capacity for hope. A warm and generous people, connected by a vast social network of family and friends. Many friends are even closer than family.
“We love our festivals, and family celebrations, who can beat the Nigerian wedding? Our music and films are everywhere in the world, our doctors, engineers, scientists, sports and literary figures are excelling daily, everywhere.”
Speaking further, the VP buttressed the very important and strategic role Nigeria plays in Africa and globally.
He said, “we have always shown ourselves to be our brothers’ keeper, leading peacekeeping forces in several troubled parts of our subregion and the continent, our young men and women in the armed forces have given their lives and well-being in defending the peace and security of our brothers.”
Prof. Osinbajo added that through the African Union and the sub-regional body of ECOWAS, Nigeria has been at the forefront of regional economic integration and the promotion of the well-being of the African people.
“The Nigerian citizen is a citizen of Africa,”he stated, just as he further emphasized the great attributes of Nigerians as a resilient and peace-loving people.
Despite the country’s challenges, the Vice President observed that nation-building takes time and the collective efforts of all citizens.
“So much has happened in this country that would have torn other nations apart, yet we are still here, growing and thriving. But let us be clear, we cannot and do not ignore or downplay our challenges and they are many. And we have said many times that in order to forge ahead and succeed as a nation, we must constantly reinvigorate the social contract with our people and deepen the meaning of our Nigerian citizenship.
“Nation-building is not a walk in the park, nor a day’s work. Yet while we fully appreciate our challenges, we must not underestimate how far we have come in just six decades of nationhood. Nations that are centuries older than us are still grappling with identity politics, nationalism, social equality, national and internal security and the assurance of decent lives and livelihoods for all.”
Commending the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Vice President noted that the Minister and his team saw “this process through which has presented us with 385 new citizens today. I also commend the honourable Minister for the far-reaching innovations he has announced today, all of which have the President’s full and enthusiastic approval.”
Welcoming the 385 newest citizens of the country, on behalf of the President, the VP also disclosed that he has directed the Nigerian Immigration Service to expedite the process of issuance of Nigerian Passports to the new citizens of Nigeria.
On his part, the Minister, Rauf Aregbesola noted the reforms by the Buhari Administration to enhance the process of earning Nigerian citizenship, noting that awarding citizenship to foreigners had positive implications on the nation’s economy.
The Minister commended the beneficiaries of the 2023 Nigerian Citizenship for believing in the country in spite of the challenges, noting that the Buhari Administration had laid the foundation for making it easier for more foreigners to contribute meaningfully to the development of the country as citizens.
He said that due to improvements in the processes of awarding citizenship to non-Nigerians, more foreigners have received citizenship under the Buhari Administration than any government in the history of the country.