A group of lawyers with common interest in space law and related fields, led by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) has launched Space Law and Arbitration Association of Nigeria (SLAA).
According to the association, its objective is to promote the area of space law as well as its interplay with the arbitration in Nigeria; engage in driving space policy discussions for the development of space law and policy; encourage the development of literature on space law and policy through the promotion of legal and academic writing and contribute to ongoing conversations at national and international level on issues concerning space law and policy development regarding government-related and private or commercial space exploration efforts and international cooperation in outer space activities.
In a statement during the inauguration, Interim Chairman, Advisory Board of SLAA, Dr. Agbakoba said it has become necessary for a coalition of Nigerian space lawyers to come together as disputes are envisaged and new legislations expected in the sector.
“The highly confidential, technical, and international nature of space-related disputes make arbitration an increasingly popular method of resolving them, which is why SLAA was launched by “The Space Law Practice Group” of Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL),” he stated.
Agbakoba explained that the body intends to work closely with the National Assembly, policymakers, and, in particular, the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) to help strengthen the legal, institutional, and regulatory framework that governs space in Nigeria.
According to him, it includes reviewing and analysing the current space policy and creating a new policy that covers more aspects of space activities, (e.g. military policy, public policy, commercial policy); harmonising national laws with principles in international law and ensuring all areas/aspects of space activities are covered by domestic legislation.
His words: “It is also worth noting that Space policy should be part of Nigeria’s new National Development Plan 2021-2025. As Nigeria diversifies away from oil, Space has the potential to be a massive revenue earner.
“It is important to set a small narrative on the historical background of Nigeria’s space activity. When, in 1962, a 40-pound meteorite from Mars – named Zagami – landed in Nigeria, it was a significant space encounter for the nation.
“Soon after, in 1963, was the equally historic first-ever live satellite telephone conversation between America’s then youngest President, J.F. Kennedy, and Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Interestingly, space activities did not formally start until 2001 when we launched a space policy and established the NASRDA.
“The Space policy was to make Nigeria build indigenous competence in developing, designing, and building appropriate hardware and software in space technology as an essential tool for its socio-economic development and enhancement of the quality of life of its people.”
The global space industry, he said, has evolved over the years. He noted that the first space race was by states – a 20th-century competition between two Cold War adversaries, the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States of America (USA), to achieve superior spaceflight capability.
According to him, it had its origin in the ballistic missile-based nuclear arms race between the two nations following World War I.
He added that it ended with American footprints on the Moon and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, unable to keep up the pace, both economically and technologically.
“The second space race is more complex and multifaceted than the first. It is driven mostly by commercialisation and led by emerging economic powers like China, India, United Arab Emirates, and risk-taking private citizens like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson alongside other entrepreneurs and investors.
“The global entrants to this race are ushering in next-generation small satellite capabilities with enormous value to commercial and government customers, including organisations in the energy, mining, manufacturing, transportation, finance, agriculture, and communications; thousands of these satellites will be produced and launched in the next decade.
“The nations that win this race will gain the 21st-century military edge — much like the aviation leaders did in the 20th century — and take advantage of the space economy’s nearly $3 trillion expansion.
“African countries who were completely absent in the space “race” initially, are beginning to stake their place by adopting and institutionalising national and regional space programmes.
“The African Union 2017 established the African Space Agency (AfSA), headquartered in Cairo, Egypt. There is also talk of an International Space Centre currently registered in Virginia, USA, and seeking international status,” he said, adding that the satellite industry is undergoing profound restructuring in the area of launches and telecommunication services.
“We already have SpaceX, an American company founded by Elon Musk seeking necessary licenses to bring its internet service into Nigeria,” remarked.