In 1998, Mr. Ijeoma arrived in South Africa to pursue studies at the University of Pretoria. Despite earlier renouncing his Nigerian citizenship, the professor of public sector economics at the University of Fort Hare faced the revocation of his South African citizenship by the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs, rendering him stateless.
Accused of fraudulent reliance on a bigamous marriage to a South African woman for naturalized citizenship, Mr. Ijeoma obtained permanent residency in 2000 due to his marriage exemption from immigration restrictions. However, in 2007, he divorced his South African wife, citing infertility as the reason, as reported by Times Live.
Subsequently, he entered into a relationship with a Nigerian woman, Anne Tomo, who, in her application for permanent residence, revealed her 1993 marriage to Mr. Ijeoma in Nigeria. This disclosure alerted home affairs officials to the possibility of bigamy.
In his submissions to immigration authorities, Mr. Ijeoma listed Anne Ijeoma as his sister, not his wife. Officials contended that his marriage to the South African woman was solely for citizenship acquisition, leading to the Ministry of Home Affairs revoking his citizenship.
This decision followed a lawsuit against the ministry, with the Bhisho high court upholding the 2020 judgment, deeming Mr. Ijeoma guilty of falsifying his marital status and nullifying his South African citizenship. The acting judge, Mickey Mfenyana, deemed the ruling non-appealable, stating that Mr. Ijeoma was disingenuous and dishonest.
Ms. Mfenyana emphasized the improbability of an academic, described as an intellectual giant, remaining ignorant of the implications of concealing his Nigerian marriage during immigration matters. Despite Mr. Ijeoma’s defense, citing his intellectual contributions and role at NEPAD, the judge maintained that marriage was the basis for his exemption, rejecting the plea for compassion in obtaining citizenship.