By Gift Chapi Odekina
The House of Representatives on Tuesday commenced its process to review and amend the Treaties Act of 1993.
Declaring its one day public hearing held in Abuja opened, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila explained that when the amendment Bill becomes law, it will make the country’s laws on treaties and protocols fully compliant with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and ensure that it aligns with global best practices.
The Speaker who was represented at the hearing by Hon. Sani Daura further reiterated that repealing the Treaties Act of 1993 represents a bold and long overdue step in our forward march towards a more perfect democracy. This is because the existing law is the product of a military decree, and as such is an aberration that ought not to still exist twenty years after we returned to democratic government in Nigeria.
Chairman, House committee on Treaties, Agreement and Protocol, Ossai Ossai while making presentation at the hearing noted that Nigeria is a state party to over 400 International Instruments for which a few (less than 5%) have been domesticated while over 95% of such Treaties, Protocols, Agreements, Conventions, Pacts, Accords etc., have not been operationalized into becoming part of our laws.
Mr. Ossai therefore lamented that Nigeria is losing out from the benefits derivable from such Instruments after much public resources have gone into their negotiations and adoption.
He further expressed worry noting that with this development “some of these instruments may have been selectively internalized through a process of Executive fiat which is a clear infringement of our Constitution”.
According to Mr. Ossai, the Treaties (Making Procedure) Act of 2004, which was a 1993 promulgation of the Military, essentially encouraged the exercise of Executive fiat upon these International Instruments of co-operation, peace and unity among nations. Twenty years after the advent of our 1999 Constitutional democracy, the situation has remained regrettably the same.
At an interactive session, chairman of Nigerian Law Reform Commission, Prof. Jummai Audi in her submission explained the need to distinguish between Treaties and Agreement.
She further clarified that Treaties entails deals between two countries while Agreement concerns organisations.
Also in his submission, Prof. Peter Akper SAN, Director of Research Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies explained that the power to ratify Treaties is not the power of the parliament. He however emphasized on the need for a synergy between the three Arms of government before signing of Treaties.
To this end, the hearing was adjourned sine die with the expectation that further input will be made by the House.