The Federal Government says it does not have an accessible, comprehensive and updated register of treaties and conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory.
The government stated that the nation lacked a list of both multilateral and bilateral treaties, not to talk of published compendium.
This, according to the new ‘National Policy on Justice 2017,’ has left the provisions of many of international agreements, such as human rights treaties and conventions, unimplemented, among other things.
The document read in part, “For example, in the case of human rights treaties and conventions, the international community expects Nigeria to implement the provisions through local legislation and other enforcement measures.
“Some treaties also impose the obligation to submit periodic reports to identified international monitoring bodies.
“Discharging such obligations is fraught with difficulties and challenges that the country needs to address.”
Giving reasons for the failure, the document stated that the federal ministries that represented Nigeria in various treaties often failed to transmit endorsed copies of such treaties to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, which is supposed to be the custodian.
The new national justice policy stated in part, “There does not exist currently, an accessible, comprehensive and updated register, let alone a published compendium of all treaties (multilateral and bilateral) entered into by Nigeria.
“Although, the Office of the Attorney General of Federation bears the responsibility of taking custody and creating a depository of all ratified treaties by Nigeria, it often happens that government ministries that represent Nigeria in treaty-creating negotiations regularly fail to transmit endorsed copies of such treaties to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation for proper custody.”
The document signed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), on August 21, 2017, also identified as major challenges, lack of consultation on treaty ratification and failure to involve the National Assembly, essential for facilitating subsequent domestication, at the early stages of negotiation.
“There is no effective arrangement for ensuring consultation between relevant stakeholders within the country before the ratification of treaties, or early involvement of the National Assembly, which is essential in facilitating subsequent domestication. This failure undermines the quality of input and negotiation to ensure full protection of the country’s interest.
“It also reduces the chance for consensus over implementation following the ratification of the treaty,” the document read.
Other challenges identified were limited expertise for negotiation, absence of collaboration in monitoring treaty implementation and poor dissemination of treaties.
On poor dissemination of treaties, the document stated, “This results in minimal or low level of compliance, since some of the institutions and functionaries who are burdened with implementation might not even be aware of the responsibility.”
On how to improve compliance with treaty obligation, the document stated that the Federal Government, through the AGF, “will order a comprehensive review and evaluation of the country’s level of compliance under the various United Nations and Regional Conventions.”
The move, according to the document, will lead to improved compliance, “including the strengthening of the Treaty Depository Division of the Federal Ministry of Justice under the International Law Department, an update in the cataloguing and compilation of the texts of all extant treaties in force and their publication in compendiums of treaties in force for better access.”
As another “strategic intervention” suggested by the document, “The Federal Government will review its procedures for negotiating, signing, ratifying and acceding to treaties to ensure that the country plays its vital role in the promotion of international peace and human progress very well and effectively promotes its national interest.”
The Federal Ministry of Justice had earlier, at a one-day summit held in Abuja on August 10, 2017, announced the new policy before it was signed by the AGF on August 21, 2017.
The ministry is currently embarking on national sensitisation to the new policy in various states of the federation.
Some of the themes captured by the policy are independence of the judiciary, synergy and cooperation across justice sector, fair, credible and violence-free electoral processes, legal and regulatory framework for commerce and economic activities, protection and promotion of human rights and justice sector and national security.