By Adedayo Akinwale
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that repealing the Treaties (Making Procedure, etc) Act of 1993 represents a bold and long overdue step in the country’s quest for perfect democracy.
The Speaker stated this Tuesday in Abuja during the public hearing on the Treaties (Making Procedure) Bill organised by the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, held at the National Assembly complex.
He noted that when the amendment Bill becomes law, it would make the country’s laws on treaties and protocols fully compliant with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and ensure that in this important area, “we are aligned with global best practices”.
Gbajabiamila stated: “Just as importantly, repealing the Treaties (Making Procedure, etc.) 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 20 years after we returned to democratic government in Nigeria.”
Speaking, the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, said it is common knowledge that Nigeria is a party to over 400 international instruments for which less than 5 per cent have been domesticated, while over 95 per cent of such treaties, protocols, agreements, conventions, pacts and accords have not been operationalised into becoming part of the laws.
According to him, “You can therefore imagine us losing out from the benefits derivable from such Instruments after much public resources have gone into their negotiations and adoption.”
Ossai stressed that as worrisome as this development is, some of the instruments might have been selectively internalised through a process of executive fiat which is a clear infringement of the country’s constitution.
He added that the Treaties Act of 2004, which was a 1993 promulgation of the military, essentially encouraged the exercise of executive fiat upon these international instruments of cooperation, peace and unity among nations, stressing that 20 years after the advent of our 1999 Constitutional democracy, the situation has remained regrettably the same.
Ossai said: “Section 1(1) of the Act clearly stipulates that the Act shall be applicable to the making of any treaty on matters contained in the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution. The question now is, what Law or Statutory provision applies to Treaty matters that are outside the Exclusive Legislative List? This lacunae was arrested by Section 12(2) of the Constitution, thereby necessitating the need to upgrade the extant Act as can be seen under Sections 1 and 4 of the Bill.”
The chairman explained that Sections 2 and 3 of the Act, which categorise the subjects of treaties and their respective treaty making procedures, were repulsive in subjecting the constitution to the Act because the provisions ignored and undermined any contrary provisions the constitution may contain.
He said the classifications gave room to the sublime exercise of fiat by the executive in treaty implementations.
Ossai pointed out that Sections 3(2b-c) in particular, created the leeway that enabled the government to conclude on certain treaties and financial agreements without recourse to the National Assembly as required by extant laws, such as the Constitution and Fiscal Responsibility Act, among others.
The chairman said consequently, the anomaly has been adequately addressed by Sections 3, 6, 7 and 8 of the Bill.
Ossai said it has therefore become necessary in order to put the country in good standing among the comity of nations.
He noted that this has necessitated this effort at repealing and re-enacting the Act to align with the provisions of 1999 Constitution as amended in order to unify and standardise the laws in this respect, and to further encourage the seamless domestication of the international instruments to which Nigeria is a party.
The chairman explained that Section 5 in the old provision which stipulates that: “A Bill for an Act of the National Assembly, passed pursuant to the provisions of sections (3) and (4) of this Bill shall not be presented to the President for assent and shall not be enacted unless it is ratified by a majority of all the Houses of Assembly in the Federation.”
The lawmaker said it would now make way for the new provision which stipulates that: “A Bill for an Act of the National Assembly, passed pursuant to the provisions of section (4) of this Bill shall not be presented to the President for assent and shall not be enacted unless it is ratified by a majority of all the Houses of Assembly in the Federation.”
Ossai added that Section 9 in the old provision will now make way for the new provision which stipulates that relevant Committees of the National Assembly shall be consulted with the full texts of every Treaty or Agreement, not later than 30 days before such Treaty or Agreement is signed.