Reps move to compel Executive to get NASS approval before signing agreements

The House of Representatives on resumption from the two months recess scheduled for Tuesday, 29th September 2020 is expected to commence debate on the general principles of a bill which seeks to compel the Executive to get the approval of the National Assembly (NASS) before signing Agreements and Treaties, in response to the public outcry over the controversies trailing the series of commercial agreements signed between Nigeria and China.

The bill which seeks to repeal and re-enact the Treaties (Making Procedure, etc.) Act, scaled through First Reading on Tuesday, 21st July 2020, was sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Treaties, Protocols & Agreements, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai.

Clause 2 of the bill provides that: “all treaties and agreements to be negotiated and entered into for and on behalf of the Federation by any Ministry, Government Agency or Department, body or person, shall be made in accordance with the Constitution and with the procedure specified in this Act or as may be modified, varied or amended by an Act of the National Assembly (NASS).

Clause 3 further stated that: “Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), all Treaties and Agreements to be made between the Government of the Federation and any other country shall not have the force of law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly(NASS).

As provided in Clause 4 of the bill, the National Assembly may make laws for the Federation or any part thereof with respect to matters not included in the Exclusive Legislative List for the purpose of making or implementing a Treaty.

In giving power of force to the proposed legislation, Clause 5 stated that “a bill for an Act of the National Assembly passed pursuant to the provisions of subsection 8(3) and (4) of this section 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.”

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Clause 6 also provides that: “Treaties and Agreements which deal with a mutual exchange of Culture, Education and any other facilities shall be ratified by a simple majority of the National Assembly.

According to Clause 7, all the “Treaties and agreements constituting rules which govern inter-State relationship and cooperation in any area of endeavour and which have the effect of altering or modifying existing legislation or which affects the legislative powers of the National Assembly shall be enacted into law.”

Clause 8 also provides that: “Agreements which impose a financial, political and social obligation on Nigeria or which are of scientific or technical import shall be enacted into law.”

In the bid to address the lacuna in the extant Act, Clause 9 of the bill provides that: “approval must first be sought and obtained from the two Houses of the National Assembly before any Ministry, government agency or department, body or person signs any Treaty or Agreement for and on behalf of the Federation of Nigeria with any other country or foreign-based company or foreign body.”

As encapsulated in Clause 10 of the bill: “Upon the signing of any Treaty or Agreement, the Ministry, government agency or department, body or person, who is a party in the Treaty or Agreement, shall within the period of one month transmit such Treaty or Agreement to the Federal Ministry of Justice and to the two Houses of the National Assembly.

Clause 11 further provides that: “The Federal Ministry of Justice shall be the depository of all treaties or agreements entered into between the Federation and any other country or a foreign-based company or individual. Accordingly, all treaties entered into between the Government of the Federation and any other country or foreign-based company or foreign body by any Ministry, government agency or department, body or person shall be deposited with the Federal Ministry of Justice for record purposes.”

Clause 12(1 & 2) further confer powers on “Federal Ministry of Justice to prepare and maintain a register of treaties and agreements (in this Act referred to as “the register”) for the purpose of this Act. The register maintained under sub-section (1) of this section, shall be open at all reasonable times for inspection by members of the public on the payment of a token fee as may be determined from time to time by the Federal Ministry of Justice.”

Similarly, Clause 13 stipulates that: “The Federal Ministry of Justice shall, to the exclusion of any other Ministry or authority, have the power to give notification on the conclusion of any new Treaty or Agreement to the Federal Government Printer for purposes of publication.”

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