Samoa Agreement: NASS should amend Nigeria’s treaty-making law – ALDRAP Secretary, Jaja

As controversy continues to trail the Samoa Agreement recently signed by the Nigerian Government, a legislative drafting expert, Dr Clinton Jaja, has urged the National Assembly to amend Nigeria’s Treaty-Making (Procedure etc) Act, 1993.

The Act stipulates the procedure for ratification of treaties and agreements by the Nigerian Federal Government.

According to a post by Nigeria’s Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, EU, Obinna Onowu, on June 28, 2024, Nigeria and other members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, OACPS, came together to sign a new partnership agreement, referred to as the Samoa Agreement, at the OACPS Secretariat in Brussels.

Majority of the 79 OACPS member states had earlier signed the agreement in Apia, Samoa, on November 15, 2023, leading to it being referred to as ‘Samoa Agreement’.

Explaining the agreement, Onowu, in the X post, said, “The Samoa Agreement serves as a vital legal framework for cooperation between the OACPS and the European Union, with the aim of promoting sustainable development, fighting climate change and its effects, generating investment opportunities, and fostering increased collaboration among OACPS member states at the international stage.”

However, eyebrows were raised after it was reported that the Samoa Agreement contains clauses that mandate the Nigerian Government to recognize Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender rights.

Although the Nigerian Government, through the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, denied the claims, the dust raised by the signing of the agreement is yet to settle.

The Nigerian Government also threatened to sue a national newspaper (not DAILY POST) which reported the Samoa Agreement’s alleged links to same-sex rights.

The House of Representatives weighed in on the matter by asking the Nigerian Government to suspend the implementation of the agreement.

Reacting to the controversy, Jaja, a Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS, who is equally the Secretary of the Association of Legislative Drafting and Advocacy Practitioners, ALDRAP, said the Nigerian Government should learn lessons from the development.

According to him, having already signed the Samoa Agreement, the Nigerian Government can no longer raise any objection to any clause or article in the agreement.

In the statement titled, ‘A Comparative Analysis of The International and National Legislative Process: Lessons that Nigeria Can Learn from the 2023 Samoa Agreement’, Jaja said, “Yesterday, an online newspaper reported that the House of Representatives, National Assembly, had enacted a Resolution directing that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should discontinue any planned implementation of the 2023 Samoa Agreement.

“Hon. Aliyu Madaki, and 87 other legislators were reported as sponsors of the Motion that resulted in this Resolution. It was reported that their major argument was that there is a mention of “gender equality” within the text of the said Samoa Agreement “which violates the morals of the country”, Nigeria.

“Yesterday, I asked a Professor of International Law, (Amos Enabulele) at the University of Benin, he informed me that by virtue of Sections 19 and 23 of the Vienna Convention of the Laws of Treaties, 1969, Nigeria cannot at this stage raise any objection or “reservation(s)” to any clause or Article contained inside the Legislative text of the said Samoa Agreement.

“The reason is because under international law that governs international treaties and agreements, after a country such as Nigeria has ratified any international treaty or agreement, such a country is bound to implement the provisions of such international treaty or agreement.”

Jaja added: “This position of the law is buttressed by the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of Abacha vs. Gani Fawehinmi (2000).

“Under international law, there is a provision for any country to enter “Reservations” prior to ratification of any international treaty or agreement. In simple terms, reservation is the technical term whereby a country such as Nigeria informs the United Nations, the European Union or any other international organisation with whom it is signing any treaty or agreement that the said country does not agree and would not allow the implementation of certain Articles or Sections of any international treaty or agreement.”

According to him, the resolution of the House of Representatives, which asked the Nigerian Government to suspend implementation of the agreement, “ought to have been entered as a Reservation to the Samoa Agreement at the point when officials of Nigeria were ratifying the said Samoa Agreement as at July 2023”.

“The opportunity to enter Reservations is before ratification, after ratification by Nigeria, there is no longer any opportunity to renege on any portion of the said Samoa Agreement,” Jaja stressed.

Buttressing his point, the legislative drafting expert cited Article 6 (1)(2) and (3) of the Samoa Agreement, which states as follows:

“This Agreement consists of the General Part (Parts I to VI), three Regional Protocols (“the Regional Protocols”) and Annexes. The General Part and the Annexes shall be legally binding on the Parties. The Regional Protocols shall be legally binding on the EU Party and on the African, the Carribean and the Pacific OACPS Members, respectively. Nothing in the Regional Protocols and their interpretation and implementation can affect or deviate from the provisions under the General Part and the decisions of the OACPS-EU Council of Ministers.”

To ensure that Nigeria does not fall into a similar situation in future, Jaja said the National Assembly should amend the country’s Treaty-Making Act.

“The long-term solution is for the National Assembly to amend the Treaty-Making (Procedure etc.) Act, 1993, to allow for inputs by the National Assembly before ratification by officials of the Executive Arm of Government to any treaty or agreement of national importance,” he said.

“This is a practice of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, before any Minister ratifies any international treaty or agreement that imposes financial obligations upon the United Kingdom, such a Treaty or Agreement is subjected to debate by the Parliament of the United Kingdom,” Jaja added.

Samoa Agreement: NASS should amend Nigeria’s treaty-making law – ALDRAP Secretary, Jaja

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