How true is the claim that Nigeria has not signed the EU-ACP agreement?

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ON November 16, 2023, the Spokesperson of Nigeria’s ministry of Foreign Affairs, Francisca K. Omayuli, signed a Press Release posted on X (formerly Twitter) by the Presidency with a claim that Nigeria has not signed the Samoa Agreement.

The release reads: “The attention of the Federal Government of Nigeria has been drawn to diverse pronouncements and publications on the implication of Nigeria signing the New Partnership Agreement, known as the Samoa Agreement, between the Member States of the Organisation of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and the European Union (EU).

“The general public is invited to note that Nigeria was not represented at the Signing Ceremony, which took place in Samoa on Wednesday, 15 November 2023 and hence has not signed the Agreement.”

The X post by the Nigerian Presidency has garnered over 50,000 views and over 200 reposts since it was published on the social media app over a month ago.

 

CLAIM

Nigeria has not signed the EU-ACP agreement.

 

THE FINDINGS

release published on the European Union’s website stated that the EU and its member states have signed the new Partnership Agreement with some Member States of the Organisation of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

But before and after the reported ceremony, many Nigerians on the internet have raised eyebrow and questioned the rationale behind Nigeria allegedly endorsing the new Agreement.

An X user, @HbonesMedia, who tweeted about it stated: “It’s a no brainer! Nigeria can NOT sign this document on Nov 15 promoting LGBTQ as planned…”

However, the argument among the populace is that if the nation signs the Samoa agreement, it is going to contravene Nigeria’s domestic legislation that prohibits LGBTQ activities in the country.

To verify the claims and counter-claims, this reporter sent an email to Maria Ruiz-Nievas, the Press Officer of the EU Council, requesting the list of all the countries that have signed the agreement.

In an email response, Ruiz-Nievas shared a list of 43 countries tagged “the list of signatory countries” with this reporter. A look at the list shows that Nigeria is not included.

The listed signatories include: The Republic Of Angola, Barbados, Belize, Burkina Faso, The Republic Of Cabo Verde, The Republic Of Cameroon, The Republic Of Chad, The Union Of The Comoros, The Republic Of The Congo, The Cook Islands, The Republic Of Côte d’Ivoire, The Democratic Republic Of The Congo, The Republic Of Djibouti, The Dominican Republic, The Federal Democratic Republic Of Ethiopia, The Republic Of Fiji, The Gabonese Republic, The Republic Of The Gambia, The Republic Of Ghana, The Republic Of Guinea, The Republic Of Haiti, The Republic Of Kenya, The Republic Of Kiribati, The Kingdom Of Lesotho, The Republic Of The Marshall Islands, and The Republic Of Mauritius.

Others are: The Federated States Of Micronesia, The Republic Of Mozambique, Niue, The Independent State Of Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent And The Grenadines, The Independent State Of Samoa, The Democratic Republic Of Sāo Tomé And Príncipe, The Republic Of Seychelles, The Republic Of Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, The Republic Of The Sudan, The Republic Of Suriname, The Democratic Republic Of Timor-Leste, The Togolese Republic, The Republic Of Vanuatu, The Republic Of Zambia, The Republic Of Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, on the EU Council’s website and the agreement document, Nigeria was found to be among the countries (OACPS member-states) expected to sign the Samoa Agreement, according to an infographic on the EU website.

An infographic showing 48 African countries who are expected to endorse the Samoa agreement.
An infographic showing 48 African countries who are expected to be part of the Samoa agreement.

 

EU-ACP: What got people talking?

Beyond Nigeria signing the EU-ACP Agreement, the major controversy was drawn from the four hundred and two paged document of the Partnership Agreement. On the document, there are different articles that highlight each focus of the agreement that will serve for the next twelve years. But on November 13, 2023, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) however advised Nigeria against signing it, saying it is deceptive.

According to the EU Council, the EU-OACPS Partnership Agreement will serve as the new legal framework for EU relations with 79 countries – 48 African, 16 Caribbean and 15 Pacific countries. The agreement was designed to cover around 2 billion people with some of the key areas on democracy and human rights, sustainable economic growth and development, climate change, human and social development.

The EU release stated that the provisional application of the Agreement will start on 1 January 2024, noting that the Agreement will enter into force upon consent by the European Parliament and ratification by the Parties, i.e. all EU Member States and at least two thirds of the OACPS Members.

However, when a video, where CSOs and Human Rights Organizations openly criticized the agreement, appeared on the internet, the claim that it is going to support same sex union, marriage, or public display of same sex relationships in Nigeria – leading to information disorder among the general public, and thus raised questions about the credibility of information provided by the nation’s Foreign Affairs ministry.

 

What does it mean to sign an international treaty?

For context, Nigeria has an existing domestic law since 2014 that criminalizes same sex relationships with 14 years imprisonment and the bill was passed by the National Assembly under the former President Goodluck Jonathan. So, it is difficult to assume that the Nigerian government has signed an agreement that will repeal the Same Sex Prohibition Act without passing through the National Assembly.

Kanzullahi Hibatullahi, a legal practitioner at G. Elias, a Nigerian law firm in Lagos state, said that it is not enough for an international treaty to be signed and become a law in Nigeria.

“That is different from some other countries – where the moment it is signed, it becomes a law in the country that signs up to that agreement. Nigeria has to pass through the process of domestication.

“For example, if Nigeria signs or if Nigeria had signed that agreement, it will not contravene any domestic law because the domestic law would always reign supreme over and above an international treaty that is merely ratified but not domesticated,” he said.

Kanzullahi added: “An international treaty, like the Samoa Agreement, is a formal and legal agreement between two or more international countries. To domesticate an international treaty or agreement, is for such treaty or international agreement to become binding within the borders of member countries”.

On the other hand, he explained that when you go deep into the provisions of the agreement and you escalate and try to bring out the hidden and inner meaning of some of these agreements or some of the words that were used in the agreement, you can come to a conclusion that there is a bit of contradiction between the agreement and Nigeria’s domestic law.

However, Kanzullahi sees the Samoa Agreement as not a big deal “because it is not as if the agreement went in too deep in relation to its LGBTQ stance; it is not all that clear.”

 

THE VERDICT

The claim that Nigeria has not signed the EU-ACP agreement is TRUE; the EU Council confirmed via an email shared with the FactCheckHub.

 

* This fact-check was written by Salako Emmanuel, a fellow of the ICIR’s Countering Misinformation and Promoting Media Literacy project, supported by the German Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.

Salako Emmanuel

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