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Senate mulling on a bill to confer indigene to resident that has lived in a state for 10 years

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The Senate is currently working on an amendment to the 1999 Constitution with a view to conferring indigenship of a state on any resident that has consistently lived in that state for at least 10 years.

The proposed law is titled, “A bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to define who is an indigene of the state.”

The bill, obtained by Punch Newspaper on Friday, was sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.

The bill seeks to alter Section 31 of the Principal Act by inserting new subsections 2,3 and 4.

The new provision states that someone could become an indigene of a state if he or she was born in that state, or if he or she had lived in the state for a continuous period of not less than 10 years.

Such a person, according to the proposed legislation, should be able to show evidence of residency in a given local government area for a continuous period of not less than 10 years.

The person must also have evidence  of tax returns issued in the state for a period of not less than 10 years; and should not have been convicted for a criminal offence.

It reads,  “A person mentioned in subsection (2) of this section (3) shall be entitled to apply to the local government chairman for a certificate of indigeneship of the state.

“A woman who is married to an indigene of a state for a period of not less than five years shall automatically be an indigene of that state.”

The proposed law, however, gave conditions that could make a woman who was divorced or became widowed, remain an indigene.

It states that the marriage of the woman must have been for a period of not less than five years and that there must be children born in the marriage.

The bill would also alter Section 318 of the Principal Act to now define “indigene” as a citizen of Nigeria who is indigenously born to a state.

Such a person, it added, should have been granted indigeneship of the state after an application to the local government chairman.

A woman who is for a period of not less than five years married, divorced or widowed with children to an indigene of the state, the bill added,  is qualified to remain an indigene.

The issue of state of origin has become highly controversial in recent years.

It reared its ugly head last week again when members of the Cross River State House of Assembly failed to confirm Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the state.

Her main offence is because she is not an indigene of the state.

Ikpeme is of Akwa Ibom parentage. She was born in Calabar, Cross River, when Akwa Ibom was a part of Cross River.

She is married to a man from Cross River and has been working for decades as a judicial officer, including being a director of public prosecutions and a judge in Cross River.

Akwa Ibom was created out of Cross River State on September 23, 1987, by the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida.

But the Cross River State House of Assembly, Tuesday, declined to confirm  Ikpeme as the chief judge on the grounds that she could become a ‘security risk’ to the state because of her ties with Akwa Ibom.

She had been in acting capacity since December 3, 2019, following the retirement of a former Chief Judge of the state, Justice Michael Edem.

Ikpeme’s tenure in acting capacity ended Monday, March 2, 2020.

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