The Calamity of Dual Citizenship: Lessons from the Treason case of the Fugitive Nmandi Okwu Kanu in Nigeria

Preamble to a Dual Citizenship

Many people around the world are lucky, fortunate and glad to carry the legal status or immigration classification of a dual citizenship, meaning that such a person claims the privilege, rights and duties of being or to belonging to multiple countries or a claim to two countries with the attendant benefits simultaneously. Besides this writer’s definition, what is a dual citizenship? According to the online definition: Dual citizenship is concurrently regarded as a national or citizen of more than one country under the laws of those countries. So, such a citizen must/should strictly obey and keep to the laws of both countries, in the case of Kanu, he needs to keep to the laws of Great Britain as well as Nigeria.

The concept of dual citizenship isn’t a new phenomenon in international community and bi-lateral relations. The history of dual citizenship goes back to the post World War II, particularly with the establishment of the country of Israel in May 14, 1948, which gave the many Jews, who experienced persecution around the world, got the opportunity for having a Multiple/dual citizenship. Since then, many Jews immigrated from the Nazi Germany to other countries like the United States, Israel, Venezuela, etc., a practice which underscored the meaning of dual citizenship. Hence, Jews are known to be a holder of dual citizenship involving Israel and any other country like the United States.

In contemporary times, dual citizenship has taken a new dimension and popularity in the world. For instance, some  holders of dual citizenship found themselves in this legal status, because of a political persecution or a tyrannical government in power at home.
Many people around the world applied for and enjoyed the dual citizenship for one or another reason to obtain the Nigerian British, Nigerian American, Nigerian German, Nigerian Canadian, British American, etc. We shouldn’t forget that dual nationality is also acquired through birth. This acquisition of a dual citizenship occurs for many people, who served in the military and foreign service of the country. For example, the former U. S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, became qualified for a dual citizenship of the United States and Nigeria by a marriage to a Nigerian woman.
Most of the time, the goal of taking a dual citizenship is driven and bolstered by the obvious advantages and benefits that a holder of this immigration classification or legal status is capable of deriving from or enjoying from such accorded status. For instance, the holder of a dual citizenship, is provided an easy access to the country’s privileges it has to offer its citizens or as a holder of dual official passports, no visa is required to travel between the two countries. For example, as a holder of a Nigeria and British dual citizenships, you are free to travel between Lagos and London, considering that the person in question holds the appropriate official, valid documents- passports of both countries (Nigeria and Great Britain).
But, on the other hand, the least thought on anyone’s mind, is the calamity or troubles of or the negative consequences of a dual citizenship, particularly when a holder of such an immigration status is faced with a high criminal charges from one of the two countries like the case of Nnamdi Okwu Kanu. I chose the Kanu case, because it is a current event and is happening right before our very eyes. So, we are living witnesses to this historic event involving Kanu versus the Federal Republic of Nigeria. More importantly, what are some of the lessons of calamity of dual citizenship are we able to learn from the Kanu’s woes in Nigeria as a holder of a dual citizenship?

A brief background to the Kanu Treason case

In Nigeria, Kanu was charged to commit a treasonable felony by the Nigerian authorities. Kanu, a leader of a separatist movement in Nigeria, known as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which was founded in 2012. The purpose of IPOB was to achieve the separation of the Biafra Republic from Nigeria. Kanu, a holder of a dual citizenship involving the Nigerian and British citizenships. During his treason trial, the court granted Kanu a bail on a medical grounds or for a health reasons. However, Kanu in the ‘eyes of the storm’ in Nigeria, took advantage of the bail granted him by the court, first, he disappeared, went underground and invariably jumped bail and escaped to Great Britain. Hence, the Nigerian court declared Kanu wanted for the failure to appear in court for the continuation of his treasonable trial. Consequently, the court issued a warrant of arrest for Kanu since 2017.

This outstanding warrant for the arrest of the fugitive Kanu, got the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) interested and involved in the tracking, search and arrest of Kanu in a third country (probably in Kenya, because the Nigerian government has refused to disclose the location of his arrest). Kanu’s escape from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, led to a manhunt around the globe, but finally many efforts by the Nigerian authorities to have him extradited from Great Britain to Nigeria, but to no avail. What is extradition? According to the definition online: Extradition is the formal surrender of a person by a state to another state for prosecution or punishment. I think this extradition is impetus owing to a treatise or a legal agreement between two countries to take a reciprocal action in honor of a formal request for a return from one country to another in the case of a fugitive or a runaway from the law like Kanu. Also, I consider an extradition as an instrument for bringing about an alleged criminal to have a day in court in the requesting country. A country’s request for the return of a wanted person for a criminal offense goes into areas such as committing a capital crime- murder, illegal drug charges, fraudulent scheme involving the embezzling and stealing of government funds, treasonable offenses, etc.

The calamity of a holder of dual citizenship

In addition to the specific case of Kanu jumping a court bail in Nigeria, there are many celebrated cases of calamity, involving a dual citizenship around the world. It is known that the extradition of a dual citizen too often is a thorny issue and in fact, constitutes a tug of war between two countries in a bi-lateral relations environment, where a host country refuses to surrender or  approves or honors the request for the return of a fugitive or alleged criminal to face a legal prosecution or trial in the country.

A double edged sword of a dual citizenship

As the fugitive story of Kanu unfolds before our eyes, the negative consequences of his legal status are equally demonstrated, reflected and shared with the world. Of course, a dual citizenship carries a liability. Arguably, Kanu is in a tug of war situation, between the Great Britain and Nigeria, because he is a national of both countries. Today, the fugitive offender was intercepted in a foreign country, which is speculated in the social and main stream media to be Kenya and returned to Nigeria to continue his treasonable trial in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Meanwhile, Britain through its embassy in Abuja and the diplomatic channels, is asking for answers about the interception and arrest of its citizen, Kanu and his return to Nigeria? Also, it is my understanding that the British Embassy is offering a legal assistance to Kanu, as a citizen of the Great Britain. It seems that Kanu has found himself in a quagmire and caught in a web of dual citizenship, in this case involving the Great Britain and Nigeria. On arrival in Nigeria, Kanu appeared before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja and since remanded in prison, the location is unknown to the general public.

The future of the fugitive Kanu in Nigeria, is uncertain, unpredictable and unknown, at least for now and in the foreseeable future. Kanu’s past secessionist political activities for the Biafra Republic, inciting many Igbo indigenes against the Nigeria state and his record of jumping bail provided by the court, these are stark realities facing and threatening his existence as a dual citizens of Great Britain and Nigeria. As revealed by Kanu’s diabolical and tumultuous dual citizenship experiences so far, dual citizenship is surrounded by many land mines and traps, in spite of its enormous benefits that accrue to the holder of the legal status.
The best way to benefit from and enjoy a dual citizenship is to be in the good books of both countries by being a law abiding citizens, and reject any criminal tendencies and anti-state behavior. Undoubtedly, Kanu’s calamity and legal trial for treason are already imparting lessons on the holders of the dual citizenship in Nigeria and around the world at large.

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