Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Passport freedom for Nigerian women

Married Nigerian women no longer have to get their husband's permission to apply for a passport, thanks to a landmark court case (see below). The next step will be to give Nigerian women the right to grant citizenship through marriage (only Nigerian men can do this at present):

Court voids Immigration condition for issuing passports to married women
From Kelvin Ebiri, Port Harcourt
IT was victory for women as the current administrative policy of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) compelling a married Nigerian woman to produce a letter of consent from her husband as a condition for issuance of international passport has been declared unconstitutional by the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt.

The presiding Judge, Justice G.K. Olotu, made this declaration in a suit by Dr. Priye Iyalla-Amadi, wife of renowned author, Elechi Amadi, against the director general of the Nigeria Immigration Service (first defendant) (NIS), (second defendant) and the service itself.
Justice Olotu, in his judgment, said this requirement for processing of application for international passport as it concerns married women, is a violation of Section 42 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 18(3) of the West African Charter on the People's Human Rights, being discriminatory on grounds of sex, hence unlawful and unconstitutional.

Following the loss of her international passport, Dr. Iyalla-Amadi had applied to the NIS for the issuance of another passport and the officer who attended to her request gave a list of documents that she would attach to the her formal application, among them a letter of consent from her husband.

Irked by this condition, the plaintiff protested against it on the ground that a mature adult citizen of the country like her should not require the consent of any person before she could be issued a Nigerian passport, but her protest fell on deaf ears, thus the decision to file the suit against the NIS.

The defendants did not really dispute the facts adduced by the plaintiff in their counter-affidavit but sought to justify the requirement of a letter of consent from the husband of a married woman who wants to be issued a Nigerian passport on the basis that Nigerian married women are classified alongside with minors by the government as persons who require consent from the head of the family.

NIS argued that the requirement for consent was put in place to perpetuate the authority of the man over his wife, no matter the status she had attained in society. It also stated that the requirement was set to avoid unnecessary breakdown of marriage institution in the country.
Another argument advanced by the NIS was that obtaining a Nigerian passport from the Federal Government by a Nigerian is a privilege, hence any person applying must fulfil all the conditions laid down by the sole agent of the government, which is the NIS.

But counsel to the plaintiff urged the court to declare the requirement unlawful and unconstitutional on the ground that it discriminates between Nigerian citizens on grounds of sex, contrary to Section 42 of the constitution.

She added that the requirement offends the equality of citizens' principle enshrined in Section 17 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution.

Iyalla-Amadi's counsel argued that the condition for issuance of passport to married women violates internationally-accepted standards of non-discrimination against women, which to Nigeria is a signatory.

Justice Olotu explained that he had directed the plaintiff and the defendants to present the facts they wished to rely on for and against the plaintiff's action.

According to him, while the plaintiff complied with the order of the court, the defendants did not. He also stated that the defendants did not challenge the averments in the affidavits of the plaintiff.

He observed that the defendants seemed to have thrown in their towel after filing what he called their spurious and sociological dissertation in the name of counter-affidavit.

The judge observed from the wordings of the constitutional provisions in Sections 17 (1) (2) and 42 of the 1999 Constitution that all citizens of Nigeria are put on the same pedestal irrespective of sex and status.

Olotu declared that the policy is obnoxious, repugnant and unconstitutional, stating that the defence of the defendants merely showed that the policy was a cunning, surreptitious and high-powered calculated attempt to subjugate women as if they are still in the medieval times.
According to him, "this kind of policy has no place in the 21st Century Nigeria."


Anonymous,  7:32 am  

This is wonderful news! The next step is for a woman to be able to apply for a passport for her children without needing a letter of consent from her husband.

Onyeka 9:20 am  

I didn't even realize this was a law. It was a stupid one, I'm glad its gone.

Anonymous,  9:37 am  


Anonymous,  2:04 pm  

no parent should be able to apply for a passport for their children without the consent of the spouse or other parent. those laws are in place to prevent kidnapping and have nothing to do with gender discrimination

Lost at The End 3:38 pm  

Women are minors...the preservation of the man's headship...To prevent the breakdown of families. Fucking hilarious yo. The judge is on point: spurious fucking sociology.

To think that there are people who still think like this. Then again, it had to be Amadi's wife.

N.zeit 4:21 pm  

Agree with Annonymous @ 2:04. As long as it applies to both mothers and fathers, it is a GREAT LAW.

I didn't even know the law highlighted by Jerry was in existence in Nigeria!

Dade 5:23 pm  


Your own day too will come. Say amen!!

You can hasten the appearance of that day by following in the steps of Mrs Amadi. Just ask Oga Madam (Mrs Weate) to see her lawyers and set things in motion.

These 2 paragraphs in the news report could be useful:

1. "Iyalla-Amadi's counsel argued that the condition for issuance of passport to married women violates internationally-accepted standards of non-discrimination against women, which to Nigeria is a signatory."

2"The judge observed from the wordings of the constitutional provisions in Sections 17 (1) (2) and 42 of the 1999 Constitution that all citizens of Nigeria are put on the same pedestal irrespective of sex and status."

Bon chance!

Tochie 7:25 pm  

lol...very funny! hey..check out this Nigerian pidgin english dictionary and translator.

Ms. Catwalq 9:17 pm  

I was not even aware that this was the case...makes me wonder what other stipulations exist...

reality check,  9:05 am  

I'd say, "not yet uhuru"

I bet you a bottle of your preferred, ten years from now, the NIS will still be demanding this offensive requirement in the name of due process.

@ Anon. Still don't understand how a biological mother can kidnap her own children. But I accept the fact that that is how a lot of nigerians think.

sheik abdulahi 1:29 pm  

Are you planning to be Nigerian...go back to England please we dont want racists like you pretending to love us when it is money and untapped opportunities you are really seeking.

Please leave Nigeria you racist twat.

Anonymous,  2:32 pm  

@reality check, international parental kidnapping happens all over the world.
this is a U.S. statute that attempts to address the issue.

of course a mother can kidnap her own child, since the child belongs to the father as well. unless you are coming from the sexist position that children really belong to the mother and the dad is just an interloper? instead of throwing out some silly comment about "how nigerians think" why don't you educate yourself on the issue.

if a woman takes her child to a foreign land, away from the father, it is kidnapping and a crime in many countries. there is a current case between a US man and one in brazil that stems from this issue. There was also the Cuba/US issue involving elian gonzalez a few ears ago

Anonymous,  12:32 pm  

lol Sheikh - good to see that what I thought was a link to your blog is actually a link to Channels TV. WTF?

Why not campaign for reciprocity in citizenship qualification. In other words Nigerians would have to be resident for 15 years in the UK before applying for citizenship and in terms of citizenship through marriage the UK would be sensitive to gender and niether the male nor female Nigerian spouses would be entitled to citizenship.

I am sure no Nigerian would complain of the UK treating everybody equally?

StandTall-The Activist 6:56 pm  

At last! This is all I can say at the moment

get the fuck out 1:03 pm  

get the fuck out of Nigeria and return to London. Stop taking advantage of our niceness

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