The process of giving domestic effect to treaties in Nigeria and the United States

Authors Muyiwa Adigun

ISSN: 2521-2605
Affiliations: None
Source: Journal of Comparative Law in Africa, Volume 6 Issue 1, p. 85 – 114


There is no doubt that the volume of interaction among states has grown exponentially in modern times, thus making treaty making among states inevitable with the attendant consequence of incurring international legal obligations. But the domestic effect of treaty obligations is purely a constitutional matter. This study therefore examines the process of giving domestic effect to treaty obligations in Nigeria and the United States. The comparison is informed by the fact that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 was inspired by the Constitution of the United States of America, Nigeria and the United States share a common law tradition and both are federal states. However, while the United States has much influence at the international level, Nigeria does not enjoy identical sway. The study finds that the approach adopted by Nigeria is the complete opposite of that of the United States. Thus, while no treaty has effect in Nigeria unless enacted into law, all treaties take effect in the United States unless not self-executing. The position maintained in the United States and Nigeria can be likened to drawing a circle clockwise or anticlockwise with anything outside it being excluded. Thus, both the United States with great global influence and Nigeria without identical powers of persuasion see the reason why international norms should not be given domestic effect without being filtered. The study argues that while the law on the domestic effect of treaties is clear in Nigeria, treaties with international organisations are not contemplated, whereas in the United States while the law on the domestic effect of treaties is not clear because of the notion of self-execution which is confusing, the law contemplates treaties with international organisations. The study therefore recommends that Nigeria should amend its Constitution to take cognisance of treaties with international organisations while the United States should dispense with the notion of self-execution and make all treaties effective domestically unless otherwise declared by the Congress.