THE United Nations (UN) describes statelessness as a situation in which an individual is not considered a national by any state under the operation of its laws.
It notes that such a person is said to be invisible, without an identity and deprived of his or her fundamental human rights.
According to it, more than 10 million people worldwide are in this situation with more than 750,000 of them found in West Africa.
The organisation admits that statelessness has a grave impact on the lives of individuals and a country’s stability.
This is because tension and conflicts may arise where groups of people are denied access to nationality and, are therefore, are not availed of the minimum standards of treatment,’’ it observes.
It attributes causes of statelessness in Africa to gaps in nationality legislation, administrative practices, historical and contemporary migration and decolonisation process, among others.
Considering the impact of the situation, the UN insists that combating statelessness across the world has been its concern.
It notes that this concern has motivated the development of several legislative frameworks to protect human rights and nationality.
According to it, among the frameworks are the 1954 Convention on Protecting the Rights of a Stateless Person and the 1961 Convention on Preventing and Reducing Statelessness.
Renewing commitments to the frameworks, particularly the 1961 Convention on Preventing and Reducing Statelessness, the UN organised a ministerial conference in Geneva in 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of the convention.
The participants at the convention, especially the ECOWAS member-states, made pledges related to ending the situation.
In a similar effort, Mr Antonio Guterress, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, recently inaugurated IBelong campaign, aimed at ending statelessness by 2024.
Further to this, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in partnership with ECOWAS recently organised a ministerial conference in Abidjan to adopt the declaration on eradicating statelessness in the region.
The conference featured speeches bordering on opinions, information, experiences, and recommendations by technical experts and representatives from member-countries on how to end statelessness in West Africa.
The theme of the conference was: Partnership to resolve statelessness’ ‘ with the objectives of providing a common understanding to the root cause of statelessness, the consequences and recommendations for the identification of stateless populations.
Other objectives were fostering comprehensive strategies in preventing and reducing statelessness, cultivate a common approach to information sharing and cross-border coordination of responses that involves two or more governments. Member-states, at the end of the conference, signed the declaration that enlisted ways on identifying and protecting stateless persons which could be achieved by member-states that accede to the 1954 Convention on Protecting the Rights of a Stateless Person.
Member-states also declared that countries in the region should reform constitutional, legislative and institutional laws related to nationality to include appropriate safeguards against statelessness.
They further stated that in preventing statelessness, member-states that had yet to implement the 1961 convention should do so.
They agreed that where stateless persons had been identified, countries should implement required law and policy reforms to grant nationality to stateless persons based on his or her birth in the territory and long-term residency. President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’ Ivoire, during the conference, called on member-states to show more commitment, political courage and solidarity to a fight against statelessness not just in the region but across the African continent.
He insisted that it was imperative for member states to immediately adopt a nationality code aimed at ending statelessness by 2024.
The Government of Cote d’ Ivoire has shown determination to end the scourge by ratifying and implementing both the 19S4 and 1961 conventions and other legislative frameworks on upholding human rights.
we have conducted major awareness campaigns and delivery of birth certificates to persons born or living on Ivorian soil for several decades.
with the growing rate of statelessness, if no global action is taken, it would pose a great danger to us all.
The implication could be grave as some of these stateless persons could become targets of terrorist groups and used as mercenaries, ‘‘ Ouattara said.
In the same vein, the Federal Government also pledged to work with the UNHCR  ECOWAS and other stakeholders in fighting statelessness.
Mr Abba Moro, the Minister of Interior, said that the ministry was collaborating with the National Identity Management Commission to ascertain the identity of both Nigerians and non-Nigerians in the country.
Represented by Mr Sunday Omoigaide, the Nigeria’s Ambassador to ECOWAS said that the Federal Government had made national identity a major focus as the security of the nation depended largely on an effective national identity management system.
To strengthen the fight against statelessness, Ms Angele Dikongue-Atanga, the UNHCR Representative in Nigeria, said that the agency had embarked on enlightenment campaigns to prevent displaced persons in Nigeria from becoming stateless.
She urged everyone to join the online campaign by clicking on the link – IBelong – to fight against statelessness
She said that UNHCR Nigeria was aware of the situation of the Bakassi people who were currently at risk of being stateless as a result of the International court of Justice ruling that ceded the territory to Cameroon.
Many of the displaced persons from Bakassi Peninsula are settled in cross River, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom.
“We are working to forestall the risk of their being stateless and also to find a solution to their displacement issues,’ ‘ she said.
Dikongue – Atanga, therefore, urged relevant authorities to take into consideration the cases of those affected by different forms of displacement and resolve them to curb statelessness.
All in all, observers insist that the right to nationality is a right to live which every individual should have.
In the light of this, they opine that it is important for countries across the world to take concrete measures to put an end to the situation of statelessness.

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