The House of Representatives has begun moves to scrutinise all agreements the Federal Government signs with foreign countries or companies before they become effective.
The move followed the some “worrisome” clauses said to have been discovered in the Chinese loan agreements, especially those ceding Nigeria’s sovereignty.
A Bill to Repeal the Treaties Act of 2004 and replace it with a Treaties Act 2020, which will make the Ministry of Justice a depository of all treaties and agreements and subject them the approval of the National Assembly, has passed the first reading in the House.
Sources close to the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreement told The Nation that officials of the Federal Ministry of Justice claimed ignorance of the “draconian clauses” in various loan agreements the Federal Government has signed.
The Bill, sponsored by the Chairman of the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreement, Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), was first read on the floor of the House on July 21, 2020.
It states 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”.
It also reads: “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.
“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.”
It stipulates that “a Bill for an Act of the National Assembly passed pursuant to the provisions of Sub-section 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.
“Treaties and Agreements, which deal with mutual exchange of culture, education and any other facilities, shall be ratified by simple majority of the National Assembly.
“Treaties and agreements constituting rules, which govern inter-state relationship and co-operation in any area of endeavour and which have the effect of altering or modifying existing legislation or which affect the legislative powers of the National Assembly, shall be enacted into law.
“Agreements which impose financial, political and social obligation on Nigeria or which are of scientific or technical import, shall be enacted into law.”
The Bill also states 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.
“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.
“The Federal Ministry of Justice shall be the depository of all treaties or agreements entered into between the Federation and any 0ther 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.
“It shall be the duty of the 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.
“The Federal Ministry of Justice shall, to the exclusion of any other ministry or authority, have power to give notification on the conclusion of any new treaty or agreement to the Federal Government printer for purposes of publication.”