*STATE CITIZENSHIP: A THREAT TO ONE NIGERIA*

 By The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi

Since time immemorial, the Nigerian state has been characterized by low-level of national integration which manifests in inter-ethnic rivalry, tribalism, feeling of marginalization on the part of the minorities and ethno-religious violence. Scholars and researchers over the year have therefore inquired into the issues responsible for national disunity among the peoples of Nigeria as well as recommending solutions to those issues. However, one of those issues responsible for national disintegration in Nigeria but unfortunately have been given less attention is the issue of state citizenship.

There is no gainsaying to the fact that in Nigeria of today, state of origin or state citizenship certificate is one of the documents required to be presented in most official engagement. While there is nothing wrong in issuing state of origin/citizenship certificate to indigenes of a particular state, there is definitely something wrong as regards to using state citizenship status as a determining factor for deciding; who gets what, when and how. There is no doubt in the fact that in Nigeria, the chances of getting a job(especially with a state government) or getting admission into a tertiary institution of learning depends largely on one’s state citizenship. This practice is not in any way integrative because it negates the principles of building an inclusive society.

Undoubtedly, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get a job with a state government which is not of one’s origin. What this implies is that in most cases, recruitment into state civil/public service is usually reserved for the indigenes of such state. No wonder the civil and public service in many Nigerian states is characterized by low level of effectiveness and efficiency. It is simply as a result of the faulty recruitment and selection process. To apply the round peg into the round hole, meritocracy is very essential. Hence, recruitment into the state public/civil service should be based on how qualified you are and not where you come from. More worrisome is the fact that non-indigenes, even though they are resident in a particular state which is not of their origin still find it difficult to get jobs with the state government where they reside despite the fact that they pay their tax to the state government. The desperation to gain access to the opportunities reserved only for indigenes/citizens of a particular state, have however made many non-indigenes swear false affidavit or get falsified citizenship certificate so as to claim the citizenship of such state.

It is pitiable that the ‘citizenship syndrome’ is more rooted in the Nigerian educational sector. In federal tertiary institutions, there is the issue of ‘catchment area’ which gives applicants from the states that constitute the catchment area of a particular school, a higher chance of being admitted. This practice as well is not integrative as it negates giving all applicants, irrespective of their state of origin, equal opportunity. The case is worse in state-owned tertiary institutions where non- indigene students are made to pay higher tuition than their indigene counterpart. Even in the United States where something similar is being practiced, it is fairer than the experience in Nigeria. In the US, there is the ‘in-state’ and ‘out-of state’ dichotomy. This implies that students who are residents or whose parents are residents of a particular state will pay lesser tuition in state-owned tertiary institutions of learning of such state than those who reside out of the state.

To justify the practice in the US, residents (not citizens only) of a particular state who have paid their tax to the state covert are made to pay less since the state schools are funded and maintained with tax payer’s money. Someone who resides in State of Michigan for instance and have paid tax to the covert of the state will pay lesser tuition fee than someone from Arizona who has never paid a dime to the covert of the Michigan state government. In contrast to the experience in Nigeria, non-indigenes whether they are residents or not or have paid their tax to the state covert or not have to pay higher in state-owned institutions. For instance an indigene of Imo state who have lived all his life in Abia State and have always paid his tax regularly will still have his children pay higher tuition fee if they are to attend state-owned tertiary educational institution in Abia.

In essence, the dual nature of citizenship in Nigeria is a factor that has disintegrated, and is still disintegrating the Nigerian state. Unlike India – a heterogeneous and plural country like Nigeria, where there is only one citizenship which is the Indian citizenship only, Nigeria has placed too much emphasis on state citizenship which in turn has contributed to the low-level of national integration. It is therefore apt to conclude that unless state citizenship is de-emphasized in Nigeria, a ‘one Nigeria’ will remain an illusion to be pursued but never attained.

Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice is the Best way to Go Raising Anti Corruption Crusaders fighting Injustices in a Violent and Immoral Society of Nigeria for a Better Nigeria come 2019.

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