Senate kicks against Buhari’s directive on Free Visa for Africans - SALIENT TIMES ONLINE

Senate kicks against Buhari’s directive on Free Visa for Africans

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...summmons Minister of Interior, Immigration boss .

Asks AGF to forward all treaties, agreements entered into by FG to NASS for ratification 

The Senate on Tuesday started move to checkmate President Muhammadu Buhari’s blanket directive to allow other African nationals free visa movement into Nigeria.  

The lawmakers rather called for legislative processes that will accord the policy legal backing. 

President Buhari had in Egypt last week said that beginning from January 1, 2020, all African countries do not need visa to enter into Nigeria.

 Consequently, the Senate has summoned the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, to appear in the company of the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, before the Senate to explain the logistic and legal implication of the directive. 

The Minister was summoned to “explain the technical, logistics, legal constitutional issues that are available and required for compliance before implementation of the same visa on arrival policy.” 

 The Minister of Interior and the Comptroller – General are to appear before Senate Committees on Interior, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters. 

The Senate noted President Buhari’s directive negated the provision of Section 12 of the nation’s Constitution which said that before entering Nigeria, one must have a valid visa and insisted that the provision must be amended before such a directive can be implemented. 

The resolution of the Senate followed a motion titled “Visa on Arrival Policy for Africans,” sponsored by Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi (Ekiti North). 

Senator Adetunbi, who came under Order 42 and 52, noted that the directive was premature and unconstitutional, adding that the National Assembly has not relegated its powers.

 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 to 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.

 In his contribution, the Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said that he supported that the policy be domesticated. 

According to him, a lot of Nigerians were worried that the insecurity is coming from some elements outside the country. Abaribe added that free visa policy will allow anyone to just come into the country and cause mayhem. 

He said: “Nigeria is the big brother of Africa, but sometimes, if you want to be big brother when you don’t have anything, there won’t be something left. 

We have to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of others.” 

Senator Gabriel Suswam, on his part noted that President Buhari made a policy statement, adding that it was not intended that it will be implemented without the laws been followed. 

He said as people saddled with that responsible, “let them bring the immigration act for them to amend.” 

Former governor of Ogun state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, said the government must domesticate the policy, adding that the presidential approval that has been given, will give room for anybody to just come into the country. 

He said those treaties that require legislation must be looked at. 

Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano Central) said that the policy is commendable and advised that necessary legislation should be done.

 Senator Abba Moro (Benue South) on his part, noted that when international agreements are entered, they should be domesticated, adding that visa issue must be looked at critically. 

He noted that part of Bakassi was ceded to Cameroon without an act of the National Assembly, explaining that there is free visa for Africans to enter Africa if it was visa on arrival.

 According to him, “it is free entry visa for Africans that needs an act of the National Assembly.” 

Senator Betty Apiafi, who said that the document should not be taken in piecemeal and should be brought to the National Assembly to look into, added that there was reason Nigeria was reluctant to sign the treaty. 

She, however, advised the lawmakers to seek experts’ advice. 

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.