Meaning and Types of Citizenship


Citizenship therefore is the legal right a person has to belong to a particular society. Legal right means certain laid down conditions that enhance the citizenship of a person in a country. Put simply, Citizenship means belonging to a recognized community, country, or state. A citizen is an accepted member of a community, state, or country. Not everyone that resides in a particular country is a citizen of that country.

Who is a citizen?

A citizen is a person who has the legal right to belong to a particular country or society.  A citizen is a person who is a legal member of a country and owes allegiance to that country.


There are three kinds of citizens and they are:

  1. The good or active citizen
  2. The passive citizen
  3. The bad citizen

Ways of acquiring Nigerian citizenship

  1. Citizenship by birth
  2. Citizenship by naturalization
  3. Citizenship by registration.
  4. Citizenship by descent

Citizenship by birth:

If a person is born in a country where his parents are citizens, the person automatically acquires the citizenship of that country by birth. In Nigeria, this means that such a person must be born in Nigeria and one of his or her parents must be a citizen of Nigeria.

On the other hand, if a person is born outside of Nigeria and either of the parents is a citizen of Nigeria, such a person is a citizen of Nigeria.



Citizenship by marriage or registration:

Citizenship can also be acquired through marriage. This is a method by which women acquire citizenship through marriage. If a Ghanaian woman is legally married to a Nigerian man, she can become a citizen of Nigeria by registration. A foreign child adopted by Nigerian parents can also become a Nigerian citizen by registration.


Citizenship by decent:

This is a method whereby a person claims citizenship of another country as a result of the fact that his grandparents are citizens of the country. For example, a man whose father is a Togolese might choose to be recognized as a citizen of Nigeria because his grandmother is a Nigeria.


Citizenship by exploits or honorary citizenship:

This is a when citizenship of a country is granted to a distinguished or eminent foreigner without the usual requirement as a mark of honour. Some Syrians, Lebanese and other foreigners who have distinguished themselves in different fields of national life have been accorded this honour.


Qualifications for citizenship

These are qualifications or conditions an individual has to satisfy before he could become a citizen of another country.

However, these conditions are not the same in countries.

Here are some of the qualifications.

  1. Statutory age
  2. Good character
  3. Residence (duration and acceptability
  4. Making contributions towards the progress of the country
  5. The willingness to live and stay

Process of becoming a Nigerian citizen

To become a citizen by naturalization, a non-Nigerian makes an official application to the president of the President of Nigeria for certificate of naturalization. Any person who wishes to become a citizen of Nigeria by naturalization must:

  1. be above 18 years and of good character.
  2. have spent at least 15 years in Nigeria before such application is made.
  3. show a clear intention to continue to reside in Nigeria until death.
  4. take an oath of allegiance as prescribed in the constitution of Nigeria.
  5. declare that he/she now wishes to be identified only as a Nigerian.



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