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Why Is Nigeria a Commonwealth State?

The Commonwealth of Nations has existed for close to a hundred years now, and the organization continues to contribute to the growth of its member states.

You’re on the right page if you’re wondering why Nigeria is a commonwealth state, why we partake in the Commonwealth games, and other interesting questions.

What Is the Commonwealth of Nations?

A commonwealth is a group of individuals or groups who share the goal of bettering themselves, assisting one another, and exchanging information and resources.

The Commonwealth of Nations, or simply the Commonwealth, is an international organization of independent states. The Commonwealth of Nations was established in 1926, shortly after the dissolution of the British Empire, and was initially known by its original name, the British Commonwealth. This global organization has grown to include 54 nations. 

To join the Commonwealth of Nations, a country must have previously been a part of the British Empire. However, countries like Rwanda and Mozambique, which were never a part of the British colonial empire, were given special consideration and included.

To be clear, the Commonwealth of Nations is not a governmental body. Only six countries in the Commonwealth recognize Queen Elizabeth II as their monarch, including countries like Canada and Australia.

Throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, the day-to-day operations are overseen by a Secretary General. Neither the United Kingdom nor the Secretary-General has any jurisdiction over these nations, either directly or indirectly.

As a matter of fact, each of the 54 members is a sovereign nation. Together, these nations have formed an organization to advance their shared interests. They aim to strengthen monetary cooperation between countries, promote democratic practices amongst the participating nations, and ensure that all member states respect human rights.

Why Is Nigeria a Commonwealth State?

Nigeria is a member of the commonwealth because it was previously ruled (colonized) by Great Britain. The country became a British colony in 1914 and gained independence 45 years later, in 1960. Nigeria joined the commonwealth after gaining independence.

Nigeria has been involved in many important projects as a commonwealth nation. However, the country also has an infamous history with the organization. 

In November 1995, the Heads of Government decided Nigeria had broken the principles of the 1991 Harare Declaration. As a result, the country was kicked out of the Commonwealth.

At first, the suspension was for two years. Since 1995, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has been keeping an eye on Nigeria, as well as The Gambia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria started moving toward a civilian democracy in the middle of 1998 when a new head of state took power.

When the country’s democratically elected civilian president was sworn in on May 29, 1999, this ended the country’s suspension from the Commonwealth. Currently, Nigeria is a vigorous member of the organization.

Activities of the Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth is different from the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. It doesn’t have a formal constitution or set of rules. 

Members are bound together not by any formal or legal obligation but by common customs, institutions, and experiences, as well as material gain. Consultation between members, both in writing and in person, is the basis for Commonwealth action.

The capitals of all the other member states are visited by high commissioners, emissaries sent by each member state. The heads of government from each member state are the Commonwealth’s main decision-makers.

Historically held by the British Crown, the role of Head of the Commonwealth is primarily symbolic. Heads of Government decide on who will succeed them in office. Hence it is not a hereditary position.

A secretary-general oversees the Commonwealth Secretariat, managing and organizing Commonwealth operations and fostering friendly relations among member states. In this case, the Board of Governors consists of the high commissioners of the member states of the United Kingdom, who are accountable to the Secretariat.

The Chair-in-Office handles the Commonwealth’s representation at major international gatherings, which changes hands every two years among the member states. 

Every two years, the leaders of the Commonwealth gather for a summit. They discuss and affirm their commitment to advancing global stability, combating racism, challenging colonial dominance, and leveling economic playing fields. 

The British government and private companies have made substantial overseas investments in Commonwealth countries. Britain gradually eroded its trade advantages once it entered the European Economic Community (which became the European Union [EU]) in 1973.

Commonwealth nations can now access the European Union market thanks to newly established trade pacts. As of 2020, Britain will have left the European Union, while Malta and Cyprus will still be members of the EU thanks to their dual Commonwealth and EU membership.

As a group, Commonwealth nations are significant buyers of goods from one another. Investment in Africa was boosted when the Commonwealth Africa Investment Fund was set up in 1996. Nigeria notably benefited from it.

Many British educators teach in other Commonwealth countries, while a large number of students from other Commonwealth countries study in Britain. The Commonwealth Games, a multi-sport event conducted every four years, is another example of shared culture.

Bottom Line

The reason Nigeria is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations is simple – the country was a British colony until 1960. Nigeria benefits a lot from being a Commonwealth country.

However, not that Nigeria isn’t a part of the Commonwealth realms. The Commonwealth realms consist of countries that recognize the British monarchy as its head of state – Nigeria doesn’t.