Known as a Nigeria’s leading Space Law Advisory Practice, OAL is dedicated to the development of the regulatory framework surrounding Nigeria’s space programme. We advised various government space agencies including the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASDRA) on International best practices and laws relating to Space Administration in Nigeria.
OAL has provided draft legislation for consideration at the National Assembly. The following is a broad summary of the Advisory to enhance Nigeria’ Space Administration, as Nigeria strives to become a big player in Space Exploration.
OAL has advised that there is a compelling need to broaden Nigeria’s Space law framework in light of expanding space activities in the world. It is important that Nigeria invests financial and human resources in the legal, regulatory and institutional framework relating to space in order to make Nigeria gain benefits of space activities which include, national security, urban planning, food management, and security, communications, agricultural management, and disaster management etc.
OAL advised the need to involve the private sector in space exploration activities as many nations, like South Africa, has involved the private sector in their Space industry. This Advisory reviewed the 10-year-old NASRDA ACT and compared it to the recently enacted UK Space Industry Act, 2018, to make recommendations to the government of Nigeria.
Space Law in Nigeria – NASRDA ACT 2010
OAL noted that the primary legislation governing space activities in Nigeria is the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) Act 2010 which established the National Space Research and Development Agency. The Agency was set up to build capacity in space science technology development and to manage the development of satellite technology. OAL noted that the Act has adopted many of the provisions of the UK Outer Space Act. The NASRDA Act makes provision for the National Space Council (NSC).
The Act sets out the functions of the Agency and powers of the NSC.
OAL noted that the NASRDA Act needed to advance the current space law regime, especially in light of many space legislation around the world. OAL not only compared the NARSDA Act to the recently enacted UK Space Industry Act (SIA) 2018, but also reviewed the International Space Law framework.
Nigeria is a signatory to four space related international treaties. OAL noted that the conventions, all require to be passed as domestic legislation. The conventions are:
- Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies 1967, also known as Outer Space Treaty encapsulates the basic framework on international space law, including principles such, the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind; outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States; and States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities.
- The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space 1968, which imposes obligations on State parties that are aware that any personnel of a spacecraft is distressed to notify the launching authority and the Secretary General of the United Nations and provide all possible assistance to rescue the personnel of a spacecraft.
- The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects 1972, also known as the Space Liability Convention imposes international responsibility on any member party for all space objects launched within their territory, regardless of who has launched the space object. States may be jointly and severally liable for any damage caused by space objects. Claims under the Liability Convention must be brought by the claiming state.
- The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space 1976, commonly known as the Registration Convention, requires states to provide the United Nations, with details about the orbit of any space object. The register is kept by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
In engagements with the National Assembly, OAL advised that Nigeria is required to enact legal legislation to give effect to these conventions.
OAL also advised that NASDRA Act needed to incorporate aspects of the UK SPACE INDUSTRY ACT 2018 VIS A VIS THE NASRDA ACT.
Some of the Relevant Provisions of the UK Legislation to Incorporate include:
- Definition of Space Flight Activity.
- Sanctions for failure to obtain License before embarking on Space Activity.
- Incorporate Requirement for Sending Notice to Persons That May Be Affected By Space Activities.
- Requirement of Risk Assessment before embarking on Space Activities.
- Empower NSC To Revoke and Approve Transfer of License.
- Liability on Operators for Non-Compliance. Section 34 of the SIA provides that the operator will be liable to pay damages where injury is caused to lives and properties during its operation of space activities. The liability will however not arise where the activity is carried out in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Act. The NASRDA Act does not contain any related provision but it is important to amend the Act to contain such a provision especially in view of the Outer Space and Liability convention which imposes liability on member state for space activities carried out by private sector within it.
- Space Risk Insurance. Section 38 of the SIA empowers the UK Space Industry Regulator to demand that an operator of Space activity be insured in respect of prescribed risks and liabilities. Again, the NASRDA Act does not provide for insurance against space risks. The essence of including a provision for insurance os space risks under the NASRDA Act cannot be over emphasised especially in view of how expensive it is to engage in the space industry.
- Criminalise Offending Acts arising from Space Activities. Sections 51 to 58 of the SIA provides for offences that can be committed under the Act. It criminalises acts performed in a Spacecraft launched from the UK, which acts would normally constitute an offence if it occurred in the UK. Now, there is no Section of NASRDA Act that bothers on Offence and Sanctions. It is however important to infuse a provision on offences and sanctions under the NASRDA Act, so as so to confer jurisdiction on appropriate Nigerian Courts to entertain criminal cases emerging from space activities.
OAL advisory recommended a review of the Nation’s Space Policy and urgent amendment of the NASRDA Act. OAL Advisory is under active consideration.
Recognising this position, Nigeria’s has in recent years turned its focus to developing a well defined institutional and regulatory system that will effectively manage Nigeria’s Space program.