A citizen is defined as a legal member of a state with full constitutional or legal rights in the country in which he or she resides. 

Non-citizens —also known as Aliens— are not nationals of a state where they reside but visitors — for business, leisure, residence, education, or other factors.

RECOMMENDED: What are the Rights of A Nigerian Citizen?

What’s the difference between them?

According to Section 28 of the Nigerian Constitution, here are the various ways one can identify a citizen and a non-citizen:

Means of citizenship

A Nigerian automatically gains the right to citizenship by birth. 

Soft life privilege

Non-citizens, however, must hustle to gain citizenship through naturalisation and registration. Even then, their application could still be denied by the Nigerian government if it’s not satisfactory.

RECOMMENDED: What Are the Types of Citizenship in Nigeria?

Political rights

Nigerian Citizens have the right to vote and contest for political office, unlike non-citizens. However, a non-citizen is still allowed freedom of speech and can support or oppose a political candidate.

Crime and punishment

A citizen’s citizenship cannot be revoked even if they commit a crime, as it is not a privileged status. 

However, the citizenship of a naturalised Citizen can be revoked if convicted of a serious crime. In short, a naturalised citizen’s enjoyment of citizenship is subject to good behaviour.


A citizen owes allegiance to Nigeria, but the loyalty of an alien is usually to their country of origin.

Duration of residence

Citizens in Nigeria are allowed to stay in the country for as long as they please. 

However, the movement for non-citizens is more restricted. Individuals outside of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) need a tourist visa to stay in the country for up to 90 days

ECOWAS residents, however, can stay in Nigeria with the aid of a residence permit.


Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.