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Customs and 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations

By Ben Nkem Oramalugo
10 May 2022   |   2:31 am
In intellectualism, we don’t assume that knowledge is at the doorstep of every individual at the same period and at the same pace. We always believe that the human mind is like a tabula rassa and whatever you impress on it..


In intellectualism, we don’t assume that knowledge is at the doorstep of every individual at the same period and at the same pace. We always believe that the human mind is like a tabula rassa and whatever you impress on it, makes a lasting and elastic impression. Some may be aware of particular knowledge and some may not. Even those that have a grasp of modicum knowledge may lack a deep dimension of it.

Therefore, we should not take for granted that every Nigerian knows the meaning and functions of the Nigeria Customs Service and even the meaning, dynamics, history of International Law and the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. It would not be otiose to start this discourse with the exploration of the major subject matters. For the sake of emphasis, readers of this article need to be alerted that sub-topics like  “Nigeria Customs Servic,” “ International Law “ and  “ 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations “ are discussed extensively in order to accommodate readers with different academic and professional backgrounds. Therefore, the exhaustive therapy of the above topics is deliberate with an intention to reach a wider audience. Res ipsa loquitur (The fact speaks for itself).

Nigeria Customs Service is the sole agency of Custom administration in Nigeria, which started in 1861 after the annexation of Lagos Colony. The act establishing the Nigeria Customs as it is presently constituted is the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) of No. 55 of 1958, CAP C45 L.F.N 2004.

The functions of Nigerian Customs are three-fold. First, it collects revenue vital to the Nigerian state. Second, it exercises security functions, combating smuggling and in collaboration with other agencies, ensuring standards and keeping out narcotics and illegal weapons. Thirdly, it is the primary enforcer of trade policies, administering differential tariffs, anti-dumping measures, valuation, trade embargoes and facilitation of trade.

The Nigeria Customs is expected to fulfil the above roles with minimal disruption to international trade and the universally accepted international conventions and treaties, to enable the country to thrive in a globalised and competitive world.

It needs to be stated that Customs is unique among government organizations in that it is neither wholly a domestic or international agency but an agency positioned on a country’s international borders looking both inward and outward (Michael Lane 1998).

1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was an offshoot of International Law. Oppenheim, a standard authority, defined International Law in 1905 as “the name for the body of Customary and Conventional rules which are legally binding on civilized states in their intercourse with each other”. He added that it is a law for the intercourse of states with one another, not law for individuals and that it is a law between, not above, the single states. Every Stonewell, writing in 1931 argued that international law embodies certain rules relating to human relations throughout the world which are generally observed by mankind and enforced primarily through the agency of the government of independent communities into which humanity is divided. Korovin in 1961 defined Contemporary International Law as the international code of peaceful co-existence (Palmer et al 2007).

In an anarchical system, where there is no centralized police force, government or prison, some regulations must exist to guide the behaviour of sovereign states. Europe was not the first to develop international law. The first recorded treaty was signed in the Euphrates valley in 1278 B.C between King Ramses II of Egypt and King Hartusi of the Hittites. The peace treaty which had within it, the basic principle of International Law, “the good faith of agreement” is involved in the pact signed by two parties (Alaba Ogunsanwo 2016).

However, the first spokesmen to formulate some kind of regulation were the Catholic theologians who were inspired by the Conviction that the amount of violence among states was immoral. Their major concern was to persuade states that God did not want them to act violently and that precepts of God forbade the making of war. The only sanctions were the theological sanctions which were not enough to serve as deterrents but the seed of International Law had been sown.

Hugo Grotius has been regarded as the Father of International Law. A Dutch Scholar, influenced by his experience of 30 years of war (1618-1648) and his exposure to Law wrote a monumental treatise “On the Laws of War and Peace” (De Jure Bello Ac Pacis) in 1625. He argued that community relations had been based on regulations and that International Law emanated from the actual practices of states, customs and natural Laws.

In the strict sense, the history of modern international law really began with the treaty of Westphalia (1648). Here Europeans met and dissolved the empire of the Church and broke into nation-states which therefore brought about the concepts of Sovereignty, territorial integrity, equality and non-interference. These principles formed the basis of modern International Law (Akinboye et al 2005).

To be continued tomorrow
Dr. Oramalugo is an expert in history, strategic studies, International politics and diplomacy and a fellow of Nigeria Institute of Management (Chartered).