By Abdul Hassan Fackie
Popular social activist and philanthropist, Nasser Ayoub, has said that if Government goes ahead to enforce the legislation that naturalized citizens should pay the sum of three thousand Dollars ($3,000.00) to acquire a Sierra Leonean passport, this country will go down in history as the country where people pay the highest amount of money to secure a single passport.
According to the businessman, there is nowhere in the world where a citizen of a particular country is asked to pay such a whopping amount just to secure a passport. He argued that he was born here and the country’s constitution permits him, like any other Sierra Leonean, to hold a national passport.
“For some of us this is right. We were born and bred here and Sierra Leone is the only place we can call home,” he maintained, observing that “This new law is just another means to deny us Sierra Leonean passports and I urge President Ernest Bai Koroma to look into this issue especially for some of us who were born here.”
He added: “We want to know who took this decision and on whose behalf? We also want to know what they plan to do with that money.” Ayoub said he understands that the Government needs to raise money but that they can do so from people who are not born in Sierra Leone but want to acquire Sierra Leonean passport through naturalization.
“Sierra Leone cannot do this its own people,” protested Ayoub. “We feel marginalized. I can understand if someone from China or India wants to acquire our passport through naturalization and they ask him/her for such a colossal amount but not a Sierra Leonean who was born and bred here. I think this is not fair.”
He opined that only people with bad intentions for this country will pay such an amount to acquire a passport, because according to him, they know what they will get at the end of it.
He appealed to President Koroma and other state authorities to look into this new law and review the fee to a more reasonable sum. He further called on the authorities, including the Office of the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone and various, civil society, non Governmental organisations and foreign embassies to pay attention to this new law.
It could be recalled that Nasser Ayoub mounted a campaign some two years ago to claim his citizenship rights. The owner of Hotel Africanus and the Ayoub Academy who was born in Sefadu, Kono district, he made international headlines after he threatened to go on a hunger strike if his full citizenship rights were not granted.