Space policy implementation, not on track, says Agbakoba
The 25-year roadmap for the implementation of the National Space Policy (NSP) as envisioned by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) is currently not on track, says Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN).
According to Agbakoba, who is the founder and chairman of the Advisory Board of the Space Law and Arbitration Association of Nigeria (SLAA), the country had, in its 2005 roadmap, stated that its main goals were to manufacture a Nigerian satellite; have a Nigerian astronaut, and create a launch vehicle to launch Nigerian-made satellites from a spaceport located in the country.
“As of today, however, there are no Nigerian astronauts or training programmes, and the only goal that has been accomplished has been the manufacturing of a Nigerian satellite,” he pointed out.
He explained that his law firm is the only one in Nigeria with a practice group dedicated exclusively to space law, adding that it has a long history of working with the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), the National Assembly, policymakers, and, in particular, NASRDA to help strengthen the legal, institutional, and regulatory framework that governs space in Nigeria.
This, he said, includes reviewing and analysing the current space policy and creating a new policy that covers more aspects of space activities, harmonising national laws with principles in international law and ensuring all aspects of space activities are covered by domestic legislation.
His words: “As recently as 2021, Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL) wrote to the Minister of Science and Technology proposing the need to review Nigeria’s space policy and the legal framework for space administration in light of growing private sector interest in space and to attract investments and development.
“This led to the first National Space Council Meeting chaired by President Mohammadu Buhari. At the meeting, the President reaffirmed NASRDA as the premier space agency in Nigeria. This is contained in the Presidential Address at National Space Council Meeting (Vol.108, No. 105, June 28, 2021, Government Notice No.166, Page A459-460), which directs all stakeholders in the space sector in Nigeria to abide by the regulatory framework provided by NASRDA.
“The President also directed the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonanya Onu, to urgently prepare and submit to the Federal Executive Council for consideration and approval ‘a revised 25-year roadmap’ for the implementation of the National Space Policy.
“Following the President’s directive, NASRDA and OAL collaborated to identify critical legislation and regulation to support Nigeria’s space administration. One of the most critical missing pieces of legislation is the licensing framework for Space activities. NASRDA and OAL have worked together to fill this gap by the enactment of Regulations on Licensing and Supervision of Space Activities, 2015 (Vol.108, No.106, September 8, 2021, Government Notice No.158, Page 3 B4209-4235), which empowers NASRDA to license all space activities in Nigeria.”
Agbakoba, in a media briefing at his Apapa, Lagos office, accompanied by OAL partners, among whom were the Head, Space Law Practice Group, Collins Okeke and the Head, Public Sector Practice Group, Anne Agi, explained that the “space activities” in the regulations include space objects and their control/management.
He revealed that NARSDA and his firm have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to operationalise the regulation.
This, he said, entails the creation of an Independent Directorate of Regulation, Licensing and Supervision of Space Activities, which shall be under the supervision of NARSDA, to aggressively drive and implement the regulation.
“OAL is working with the National Assembly to review the NARSDA Act to incorporate aspects of the UK Space Industry Act 2018 to bring it in conformity with international best practice. We are also working to enact legislation to give effect to the following conventions.
“Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 1967.
“The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1968.”
“The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, 1972.
“The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1976,” he explained.
According to the senior lawyer, the Regulations on Licensing and Supervision of Space Activities, 2015 is a great leap forward in Nigeria’s quest to develop and harness the many potentials of space because previously unregistered space activities will now be registered.
He stated that nobody knows how many space objects are within Nigeria’s jurisdiction, but expressed optimism that revenues from license fees would run into billions of naira.
“Given the government’s very scarce resources, additional income from licensing revenue would substantially add up,” he declared.