The Senate on Tuesday spotted a fundamental oversight in the new Visa-on-Arrival policy for Africans and it is working to resolve it with the first step of inviting the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, to appear before its Committees on Interior, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to brief the upper chamber on the legal and constitutional issues surrounding the implementation the new policy.
The decision to invite the Interior Minister was reached sequel to the consideration of a motion brought to the floor on the “Urgent need to seek domestication of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement by an Act of the National Assembly prior to Implementation of the Proposed Visa On Arrival For Citizens of African Countries as recently directed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).”
Sponsor of the motion, Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi (APC, Ekiti North) who came under order 42 and 52 of the Senate rules, said that the Visa-On-Arrival policy is in furtherance of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement that was signed by Nigeria in July 2019.
According to the lawmaker, Section 12 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the Treaties Act, 1993, requires the National Assembly to enact legislation for the purpose of giving effect to all treaties after their ratification by the President and other members of the executive arm of government.
He said that “neither the Federal Executive Council nor a member of the National Assembly has yet submitted to the National Assembly any Bill for domestication or to enable effect to the said African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which is the necessary prerequisite before its implementation.”
He added, “it is premature and constitutionally and legally impossible for the provisions of the said agreement to have any effect within the territory of Nigeria.”
“The National Assembly has not delegated its powers to enact legislation for the domestication of international treaties and agreements as prescribed under Section 12 of the 1999 constitutional to either the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) or to any other agency or official of the Executive arm of government.
“The Presidential Executive Directive and the Nigerian Immigration Service that all Africans could come to Nigeria without visa from January 2020 is a clear usurpation of legislative powers of the National Assembly as prescribed under section 12 of the Constitution,” the lawmaker said.
Adetunmbi warned that Nigeria’s National Security, in view of the current insurgency and terrorist challenges of Boko Haram, could be jeopardized by the proposed 2020 visa-on-arrival policy of the Nigerian Immigration Service.
Senator Jibrin Barau (APC, Kano North) called on the National Assembly to provide legal backing to the visa-on-arrival policy through the enactment of required legislation.
“All that needs to be done in terms of legislation should be done before implementing this very commendable policy”, he said.
The lawmaker added that the visa-on-arrival policy is practiced in developed countries of the world, adding that same opens a country’s economy to emerging markets and investment opportunities.
Another lawmaker, Senator Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South), spoke in support of the domestication of the policy by the National Assembly.
“It is necessary for us to state here that when international agreements are entered into by Nigeria, they should be properly domesticated to give it a bite of legality and legitimacy.
“I think the visa aspect of this agreement needs to be looked into very closely and critically.”
He recalled that years back, a part of Nigeria in Bakassi was ceded to Cameroon and yet to be legally backed with a law to that effect by the National Assembly.
“Our people out there are in a quandary as to where they belong,” he said.
In his concluding remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, called on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to forward all treaties and agreements entered into by the Federal Government to the National Assembly for ratification.
“There are other treaties and agreements we have signed as a country, and I think the Attorney-General of the Federation should forward those to the National Assembly for us to ratify them appropriately and give them the legal backing that they require”, Lawan said.