Nigeria is one of the leading countries in the African space sector. During the tenure of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the President in an unprecedented move by any African leader at the time, began discussing the future of Nigeria as one that extended beyond our planet and into space. As a result of these discussions, a staggering sum of $93,000,000 was directed into the creation of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) at the federal level in 1999.1 In 2001 Nigeria's national space policy was approved.
These strides resulted in the launch of the country's first satellite Nigeriasat-12 in 2003, which is the Nigerian contribution to the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) project. The country also launched its telecoms satellite Nigcomsat-1 in 2007. In 2010, the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) Act 2010 was passed into law. Nigeria is also in the process of revising its national space policy and strategy3 and in enacting further regulations – the Regulations on the Licensing and Supervision of Space Activities 2015 Draft. The NASRDA Act 2010 and the Draft Regulations, make Nigeria one of the African countries to have national space legislation and one of the even fewer African countries to have national legislation and policy regarding outer space.
In 2016, Nigeria announced its desire to send a man to space by 2030.4
Nigeria and International Space Law Framework
Nigeria is signatory to four international space treaties which consequently imposes obligations on the country. These treaties include:
- The Outer Space Treaty 1967:
This is the foundation of international space law for signatory nations. It provides that the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind; outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States; and States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities.5
- The Rescue Agreement 1968:
This Agreement imposes an obligation on any State party that becomes aware that the personnel of a spacecraft are in distress to notify the launching authority and the Secretary-General of the United Nations and provide all possible assistance to rescue the personnel of a spacecraft.
- The Liability Convention 1973:
This Convention imposes responsibility on any member party for all space objects launched within its territory which cause any damage to the earth, aircraft, space object or personnel of another state regardless of who launched the object in question.
– The Registration Convention 1976:
This Convention requires state parties to furnish the United Nations with information about space objects launched within the Earth's orbit.6 The register is kept by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
The Rescue Agreement of 1968 and its regime may become relevant once private manned space flights in Nigeria become feasible. The other three treaties however are most relevant to Nigeria as they provide the main structural principles for any national law dealing with private space activities.7
The NASRDA Act 2010
The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) Act 2010 is Nigeria's foremost legislation on space and its related activities. As such, it is the focal point between Nigeria and outer space regulation. This Act is divided into six parts as follows:
– Part I:
This part establishes the National Space Research and Development Agency (the Agency) and the National Space Council (the Council). It sets out the members of the council, tenure and cessation of office and remuneration of non-Ex-officio members of the Council.
– Part II:
This part sets out the functions of the Agency and the powers of the Council. An explicit function of the Agency is to ‘develop national strategies for the exploitation of outer space and make this part of the overall national development strategies, and implement strategies for promoting private sector participation in the space industry'.8 As well as strengthen capacity building in space science technology development amongst others. The Council on the other hand, is conferred power amongst others to approve opening of domiciliary accounts for the Agency, for the Agency to partner with third parties on space-related activities, and to appoint consultant technicians to advise it from time to time.
– Part III:
This part addresses and puts in place the structure of the Agency and mandates that a register of space objects be maintained by the Agency. This part also states that to achieve the objectives of space policy, the Agency shall operate through the following development centers:9
- National Center for Remote Sensing, Jos
- Center for Space Science and Technology Education, Ile Ife
- Center for Satellite Technology Development, Abuja
- Center for Space Transportation and Propulsion, Epe
- Center for Geodesy and Geodynamics, Toro
- Center for Basic Space Science and Astronomy, Nsukka
– Part IV:
This part provides for the staff of the agency, specifically, the duties, tenure and qualification for the office of the Director General.
– Part V:
This part contains the financial provisions of the Act. It establishes a fund for the Agency and provides for how this fund should be disbursed.
– Part V1:
This part contains miscellaneous provisions.
The NASRDA Act is a significant landmark in Nigeria and Africa's space development as it expresses Nigeria's commitment to the development of its space capabilities. It also implements most of the country's international obligations. The Act provides an excellent foundation upon which Nigeria may build a solid space law framework, but no more.10 Despite the Act's relatively progressive nature, it is only a skeleton and cannot be relied upon for the continued development of the Nigerian space sector.11
From the summary of its parts highlighted above, it is obvious that the legislation is more administrative than it is technical, as it addresses primarily how the Agency should be run and managed. The Act's definition of “space activities” is limited to remote sensing satellite data and nothing regarding core activities relating to space travel or spacecraft. As Frans von Der Dunk puts it, “While the NASRDA Act thus established the basic competence of the Agency to issue licenses as well as the general framework for compliance with the major international obligations of Nigeria … it still left more detailed questions in this regard unanswered”.12
The Regulations on the Licensing and Supervision of Space Activities 2015 Draft
Perhaps in recognition of the loopholes or inadequacies present in the NASRDA Act and in light of the evolving space sector, a regulation on licensing and supervision of space activities is in the works. This is the first major effort to fill the gaps in the NASRDA Act.
The first and most commendable aspect of this regulation is its attempt to define “space activities”. The Draft Regulations define space activities within its regime to include “space objects and their control”13 and “the operation, guidance, and re-entry of space objects into, in and from outer space and other activities essential for the launch of, operation, guidance and re-entry of space objects into, in and from outer space”14 This means that scope of space activities recognized by the law has broadened and is not limited to remote sensing satellite operations anymore.
Also, the Draft Regulations define ‘outer space' as ‘anything beyond 100km above sea level'15, effectively making Nigeria the fourth state to offer a distinct number as regards altitude.16 This falls in line with a broader trend of recognizing the virtual 100km altitude line as the most appropriate lower boundary of outer space.17
The Draft Regulations have specific provisions on licensing space activities and granting launch permits to private individuals.18 Furthermore, the draft mandates licensees to provide insurance (to a sum not exceeding US$5,000,000) with respect to damages that may trigger the Liability Convention's application.19 This is to protect the Federal Government of Nigeria from any liability resulting from the activities of private persons. This provision is in itself essential as an expansion of local private participation directly links to an increased risk of liability borne by Nigeria, resulting from accidents in engaging in space activities.
As commendable as this regulation may seem, it is still a draft and has not been passed into law or given any enforcement power. It is imperative that the regulations be passed into law to give the country an even playing field in the space sector. There is still a lot to be done in drafting regulations for the Nigerian space sector to meet up with emerging trends in the field.
The purpose of this paper is to bring to light the connection between space law and Nigeria and it has done just that. This shows that Nigeria has not been sleeping on the space sector. In enacting space regulations, it shows the country's commitment to creating an enabling environment for private persons who wish to delve into space travel and other space related activities. The international treaties ratified by the country, the NASRDA Act 2010 and the Regulations on the Licensing and Supervision of Space Activities 2015 Draft are all steps in the right direction to attaining Nigeria's ultimate space goal of sending a man to space in 2030.20
1 Omotayo Oyewole, ‘The Nigerian Space Conundrum' (2019) The Republic https://republic.com.ng/june-july-2019/nigerian-space-conundrum/ accessed 7th August 2021
2 Gunter's Space Page, https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/nigeriasat-1.htm accessed 7th August 2021
3 Nigeria to Revise its National Space Policy and Strategy, (2020) Space in Africa https://africanews.space/nigeria-to-revise-its-national-space-policy-and-strategy/ accessed 6th August 2021
4 Nicolas Giacomin, ‘The Nigerian Space Vision' (2021) Space Legal Issueshttps://www.spacelegalissues.com/the-nigerian-space-vision/ accessed 6th August 2021
5 Kofo Olabalu, ‘Space Law in Nigeria – A Call for the Review of NASRDA Act' (2019)https://oal.law/space-law-in-nigeria-nasdra-act/ accessed 5th August 2021
6 Article II, Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space 1976
7 Frans G. von Der Dunk, ‘The Second African National Space Law: The Nigerian NASRDA Act and the Draft Regulations on Licensing and Supervision'  Volume 59 Proceedings of the International Institute of Space Law 547-559
8 Section 6(k), NASRDA Act 2010
9 Section 7, NASRDA Act 2010
10 Joshua Faleti, ‘The NASRDA Act; Beyond a Domestic Implementation of International Space Obligations' (2021) Space in Africa https://africanews.space/the-national-space-research-and-development-agency-act-beyond-a-domestic-implementation-of-international-space-obligations/ accessed 6th August 2021
11 Ibid Joshua
12 Frans G. von Der Dunk, ‘The Second African National Space Law: The Nigerian NASRDA Act and the Draft Regulations on Licensing and Supervision'  Volume 59 Proceedings of the International Institute of Space Law 547-559
13 Section 3, Draft Regulations 2015
14 Section 43, para.3, Draft Regulations 2015
15 Section 43, para.6, Draft Regulations 2015
16 The other countries who have given a distinct altitude line include Australia, Kazakhstan and Denmark.
17 Frans G. von Der Dunk, ‘The Second African National Space Law: The Nigerian NASRDA Act and the Draft Regulations on Licensing and Supervision'  Volume 59 Proceedings of the International Institute of Space Law 547-559
18 See sections 12, 20(1) and 27(1), Draft Regulations 2015
19 See section 39(1), Draft Regulations 2015
20 Nicolas Giacomin, ‘The Nigerian Space Vision' (2021) Space Legal Issueshttps://www.spacelegalissues.com/the-nigerian-space-vision/ accessed 6th August 2021
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.