Samoa Convention: NASS should amend Nigeria's Treaty Making Act - ALDRAP Secretary General, Jaja

Samoa Convention: NASS should amend Nigeria's Treaty Making Act – ALDRAP Secretary General, Jaja

Amid ongoing controversy over the Samoa Agreement recently signed by the Nigerian government, legislative drafting expert, Dr. Clinton Jaja, has called on the National Assembly to amend Nigeria’s Treaty Conclusion (Procedure etc.) Act 1993.

The Act provides for the process of ratification of treaties and agreements by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

According to a post dated June 28, 2024, by Nigeria’s Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union (EU), Obinna Onoh, Nigeria and other member states of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) met at the OACPS Secretariat in Brussels to sign a new partnership agreement called the Samoa Compact.

Most of the 79 OACPS member states signed the agreement on 15 November 2023 in Apia, Samoa, and the agreement has come to be known as the “Samoa Agreement.”

Explaining the agreement to X-Post, Onoh said, “The Samoa Agreement serves as an important legal framework for cooperation between OACPS and the European Union with the aim of promoting sustainable development, combating climate change and its impacts, generating investment opportunities and enhancing cooperation among OACPS member states on the international stage.”

However, doubts have been raised over reports that the Samoa Agreement contains a clause requiring the Nigerian government to recognise the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Nigerian government, through its Minister of Information and National Policy, Mohammed Idris, denied the allegations, but the furor sparked by the signing of the agreement is yet to die down.

The Nigerian government also threatened to sue a national newspaper (not the Daily Post) that reported that the Samoa Agreement had anything to do with gay rights.

The House of Representatives has intervened in the issue, calling on the Nigerian government to suspend the implementation of the agreement.

Reacting to the controversy, Jaja, who is also a Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) and Executive Director, Association of Legislative Drafting and Advocacy Practitioners (ALDRAP), said the Nigerian government should learn lessons from the development.

According to him, since the Nigerian government has already signed the Samoa Agreement, it cannot challenge any provision or clause of the said agreement.

In a statement titled: “A Comparative Analysis of International and Domestic Legislative Processes: Lessons Nigeria can Learn from the Samoa Agreement 2023”, Jaja said: “Online newspapers yesterday reported that the House of Representatives and National Assembly passed a resolution directing the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to halt the planned implementation of the Samoa Agreement 2023.

“The motion which led to this resolution was reportedly sponsored by Senator Aliyu Madaki and 87 other MPs. Their main argument was that the language in the Samoa Agreement on equality between men and women was “against the morals of the Nigerian nation.”

“Yesterday, I enquired with a Professor of International Law at the University of Benin (Amos Enabulele) and was informed that under Articles 19 and 23 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Nigeria cannot at this stage raise any objection or ‘reservation’ to any provision or clause contained in the legislative instrument of the Samoa Agreement.

“The reason is that under international law governing international treaties and agreements, when a country like Nigeria ratifies an international treaty or agreement, such country is bound to implement the provisions of such international treaty or agreement.”

Jaja added: “This position of the law is supported by the Nigerian Supreme Court ruling in Abacha v. Gani Fawehinmi (2000).”

“International law provides that any country may make “reservations” before ratifying an international treaty or agreement. In simple terms, reservations are a technical term whereby a country such as Nigeria informs the United Nations, European Union and other international organisations signing the treaty or agreement that the country does not agree with and will not recognise the implementation of a particular clause or section of the international treaty or agreement.”

According to him, the House of Representatives resolution calling on the Nigerian government to suspend the implementation of the agreement “should have been tabled as a reservation to the Samoa Agreement at the time that the Nigerian authorities would have ratified it in July 2023.”

“The opportunity to file reservations occurs prior to ratification and once ratified by Nigeria there is no longer any opportunity to abrogate any part of the Samoa Agreement,” Jaja stressed.

To support his argument, the legislative drafting expert cited Articles 6(1), (2) and (3) of the Samoa Convention, which states:

“The Agreement consists of a General Part (Parts I to VI), three Regional Protocols (the “Regional Protocols”) and annexes. The General Part and the Annexes are legally binding on the Contracting Parties. The Regional Protocols are legally binding on the EU Contracting Parties and the OACPS Member States in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, respectively. Nothing in the Regional Protocols and their interpretation and implementation shall affect or derogate from the provisions of the General Part and the decisions of the OACPS-EU Council of Ministers.”

Jaja said the National Assembly should amend the country’s Treaty Making Act to ensure Nigeria does not find itself in a similar situation in the future.

“The long-term solution is for Parliament to amend the Treaty Conclusion (Procedure, etc.) Act 1993 to allow Parliament to provide input before any treaty or agreement of national importance is ratified by officials of the executive branch of government,” he said.

“It is UK Parliamentary practice that before ministers ratify international treaties or agreements that impose financial obligations on the UK, such treaties or agreements are subject to debate by the UK Parliament,” Jaja added.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *