Foreign nationals who wish to make Nigeria their home and those planning to invest in the country can now become citizens through a legal instrument called “The Brown Card.”
The announcement was made in Abuja by Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola during a ceremony to confer citizenship on 385 deserving foreign nationals from different countries.
The minister confirmed that the Buhari administration approved the highest number of naturalised citizens in the country’s history.
Aregbesola said the government had laid a solid socio-economic and political foundation that would elevate Nigeria into one of the 20 world’s biggest economies.
He expressed Nigeria’s determination to attract foreign investors, resourceful individuals and people with rare talents and unbounded energy into the country.
“Between 2011 and 2013, 266 foreigners became Nigerians. In 2017, 335 people took up Nigerian citizenship. Last year, 286 foreigners, and now 385, making a total of 1006.
“I am still not pleased with this figure. In Europe and America, thousands of foreigners are inducted into citizenship every year”, the minister added.
Aregbesola said the bane of the smooth pathway to Nigerian citizenship is the constitutional requirement of continuous residency in Nigeria for 15 years.
He called it “a huge disincentive”, saying it is five years in the United States and most European countries where young and resourceful brains are absorbed “through easy pathways”.
The minister urged relevant institutions to consider reducing the number of years in the next effort at amendment to the constitution.
“I am happy to announce the Brown Card as the legal instrument to Permanent Residency. The Minister of Interior is now invested with the authority to confer Permanent Residency on non-Nigerians,” he said.
Explaining that the beneficiaries can live and work in Nigeria without the renewal every five years as was the case,listing those who are eligible:
”Foreign nationals of African descent who desire to make Nigeria their homeland through the ‘Privilege of Return; Foreign nationals who desire to invest in Nigeria in line with established guidelines.
”Foreign nationals with talents, knowledge and skills in Science, Technology, Medicine, Engineering, the Arts, Sports and other areas to be determined; Male foreign nationals married to Nigerian women for a minimum period of one year.
The minister added that specific details for application and processing will be announced later by the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).