How The Seventh National Assembly Failed Nigerians & Darkened Lawmaking Process In Nigeria ( part 2)
(Parliamentary Accountability, Onitsha Nigeria, 18th May 2015)-Archaic Laws/Legislative Items Begging For Attention: There are numerous archaic Acts of the Federation and Laws of the States begging for legislative attention as it concerns their amendments or repealing. There are also hundreds of new legislative items waiting to be legislated into law for improved order and good governance of the country or any part thereof. Yet, the present legislative chambers at the Federal and State levels have turned blind eyes on them and stuck to the pursuit of illicit or ill-gotten wealth and other primordial interests. In the Criminal Justice sector, most of the criminal laws at the Federal and State levels have remained archaic. Except late minute (March 2015) passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law few days ago; many others are left outdated.
The Police Act of 1930 labeled the NPF Act of 2004 is still in use. Others are the Firearms Act of 1990, the Robbery & Firearms Act of 1984, the Prisons’ Act of 1972, the Private Guards Act of 1986, the Children & Young Persons Act of 1944, the Juvenile Court System, the Federal High Court Act of 1973, the Custom & Excise Act, and the Immigration Act. There are also other Acts relating to the country’s Court and Criminal Justice systems and their procedures found inconsistent with present realities. The EFCC Act and the ICPC Act of 2004 still lack adequate penalties for convicted white collar criminals as well as other weak provisions or ouster clauses.
There are civil Acts of the Federation begging for amendment and upgrading to be brought in tune with present socio-cultural realities. They include the National Open University Act of 1983, the National Universities Commission Act of 1974 and the Nigerian Traffic Warden Act (Decree) of 1975, to mention but few. In the areas of trade, investment and management of natural resources, there are archaic Acts related to them requiring upgrading as well as new bills needed to be put in place. One of such important bills is the PIB (Petroleum Industry Bill), which has laid un-passed at the National Assembly since 2007. At the States level, similar cases are obtainable. Most of their laws are anachronistic and anti modernity. Some States still retain colonial period Magistrate/Area/District Courts and Coroner’s laws.
Abandoned International Treaties & Conventions: One of the major ways to rate and respect a democratic country regionally and internationally is its regional, international and municipal (full) involvement in the implementation of international multilateral or bilateral agreements. To do this, there are three processes called signing, ratification/accession and domestication particularly in the case of Nigeria. The non-domestication of these treaties and conventions render them inoperable and un-enforceable in the country or any part thereof. By Section 12 (1) of the 1999 Constitution: No treaty between the Federation and any other country shall have the force of law except to the extent to which such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly.
Section 12 (2) states as follows: 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 implementing a treaty. By Section 12 (3): A bill for an Act of the National Assembly passed pursuant to the provisions of subsection 2 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. The above mentioned fundamental constitutional requirements and duties imposed on the National and the State Legislatures particularly the outgoing Seventh National and State Assemblies are grossly observed in breach and with reckless abandon. While the Federal Executive Council is charged with the task of signing and ratifying treaties, the National Assembly and the State Legislatures are constitutionally charged with the responsibility of enacting or domesticating them into law.
Despite the creation and existence of the Senate and the House of Reps Committees on Treaties & Agreements with public funds fully allocated to them as and when necessary; it is clearly observed that most of the country’s ratified treaties and conventions have not been domesticated till date. Domestication processes of any treaty can either originate from a Private Member bill initiation or Executive bill process. Combination of these has denied Nigerians rights and privileges associated with these treaties and conventions including right of individual citizens to complain and get justice. Treaties and Conventions include arms trade, environmental security and safety, trade and investment, maritime, offensive and hazardous technological and chemical substances, aviation safety, human rights and humanitarian issues.
Non-Domesticated Treaties & Conventions: Nigeria has one of the world best records of ratifying key regional and international treaties, yet it retains notoriety as one of the modern countries with least number of domesticated treaties and conventions. One of the country’s newest ratifications is the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which came into force on 24th December 2014. Nigeria ratified it in August 2013, yet it has not been domesticated. Another newest ratification is the UN Convention against Corruption of 14th December 2005, which Nigeria ratified on 14th December 2014. It is yet to be domesticated by the National Assembly. The Chemical Weapons Convention of 29th April, 1997, which Nigeria ratified on 20th May, 1999, is yet to be domesticated. There is also the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992 & its Protocols. Though Nigeria has ratified them, but they are yet to be domesticated. The same thing applies to the Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992, which Nigeria ratified on 27th November 1994. There is yet another important convention called UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances of 1988, ratified by Nigeria on 1st November 1989. It is yet to be domesticated.
In the area of humanitarian treaties, Nigeria is yet to domesticate the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951 & its Protocol, which the country ratified on 23rd October 1967 and 2nd May 1968 respectively. The Genocide Convention of December 9, 1948, which Nigeria ratified on 27th July 2009, is yet to be domesticated. The Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court of 1998, which came into force on 1st July 2002, was ratified by Nigeria on 27th September 2001, but it is yet to be domesticated. The UN Convention on the Prevention & Punishment of the Crime of Genocide ratified by Nigeria on 29th July 2009; is yet to be domesticated. Conventions, Treaties and Statutes are legally binding on State Parties such as Nigeria.
Other humanitarian agreements that are not in practice, municipally, in Nigeria are the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force & Firearms by the Law Enforcement Officials (28th August-7th September 1990), the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Personnel (17th December 1979), the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the UN Basic Principles & Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy & Reparation for Victims of Gross Violation of International Humanitarian Law, and the UN Basic Principles & Guidelines on Development based Evictions & Displacement. These sets of rules and principles are morally binding on Nigeria.
In the area of human rights conventions and treaties, the all important International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights of 1966 (ICCPR), which Nigeria ratified on 29th October 1993, is yet to be domesticated. Its first and second Protocols (on the establishment of an individual complaint mechanism and abolition of death penalty respectively) are yet to be signed and ratified, not to talk of being domesticated. Another important international covenant called International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights of 1966 (ICESCR) & its Protocol, which Nigeria ratified on 29th October 1993, is yet to be domesticated. Others are the Convention against Torture & other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), ratified by Nigeria on 28th July 2001 as well as its Protocol ratified on 27th August 2009. They are yet to be domesticated.
There is also International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers & Members of their Families, ratified by Nigeria on 27th July 2009. It is yet to be domesticated. Another is International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, ratified by Nigeria on 27th July 2009. It is yet to be domesticated. Yet another important treaty is the International Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities & its Protocol, ratified by Nigeria on 24th September 2010. They are yet to be domesticated. The International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination(CERD), was ratified by Nigeria on 4th January 1969, but it is yet to be domesticated by the National Assembly; likewise the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its Protocol, ratified by Nigeria on 13th June 1985 and 22nd November 2004 respectively. Till date, they have not been domesticated. To note also is the fact that 12 out of the 36 States of Nigeria have not domesticated the Convention on Right of the Child (CRC)of 1990.
ACJ Act Of 2015 As A Consolation To Nigerians: However, the only consolation to Nigerians from the outgoing Seventh National Assembly is the recent passage and presidential assent of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act of the Federation 2015. This also appears to be the only Civil Society originated Private Member Bill; with the last being the Freedom of Information Act of 2011. With the amendment of the country’s archaic Evidence Act carried out in 2011, the legislative and presidential assent of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act is considered a major milestone by the stakeholders in the Criminal Justice Administration. The enacted Act seeks to repeal the Criminal Procedure Act, Cap C4 Law of Nigeria (2004) and the Administration of Justice Commission Act, Cap A3 Law of Nigeria (2004). Its aim is to abolish the dichotomy that presently exists between the Criminal Procedure Code (in operation in Northern Nigeria) and the Criminal Procedure Act (in operation in Southern Nigeria) by repealing both Acts.
The Act further seeks to establish a central criminal records registry with the Nigeria Police Force at its headquarters. The central criminal records registry system is established in Part 2, Section 16 of the Act to serve as a veritable database of all offenders in the country. The main foundation of the Act is to ensure speedy trial of accused criminal citizens and an end to judicial injustice using holding charge and detention without trial by the First into Criminal Justice System called the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
Note: The concluding part of this Legislative Scorecard Appraisal of the outgoing Seventh Assembly of Nigeria & their States counterparts will be out in the next 24 or 48 hours.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons) Criminology & Security Studies
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Chiugo Onwuatuegwu, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program