In July 2022, our Dr Onyója Momoh embarked on her third visit to Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Justice. The Federal Ministry of Justice (MOJ) forms part of the executive arm of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Ministry proffers legal advice to the Federal Government, and is responsible for, amongst other things, drafting legislative Bills, advocating law reform, the administration of justice, advising the government on its treaty obligations, bringing cases before the judiciary, and collaboration with other stakeholder ministries.
Between 25and 27 July, Onyoja met with the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Mrs Beatrice Jedy-Agba OON MNI; as well as the Director, Deputy Director, and principal legal officers at the MOJ’s International and Comparative Law Department. In-depth meetings at the MOJ were both positive and valuable, all in the hope of reinforcing administrative cooperation and progress towards Nigeria becoming a member of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH). In the meantime, ongoing work concerning accession to key Hague Conventions is anticipated. Onyoja also met with the Head of the Sexual and Gender Based Violence Response Unit (SGBV), renewing discussions on the HCCH Children Conventions: the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, the 1993 Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention, the 1996 Hague Child Protection Convention and the 2007 Hague Child Support Convention. They explored how ratification or accession would not only benefit the work of the SGBV Unit at Federal level, but at State level; and more critically, strengthening the international framework where families and children are concerned in cross-border matters. The discussions echoed Dame Pauline Tallen OFR, KSG (Federal Minister of Women Affairs)’s endorsement of Nigeria’s accession to or ratification of the Children Conventions at the 2021 Abuja Mission.
The visit builds on collaborative endeavours to improve aspects of private international law/conflicts of laws in Nigeria. Following Onyoja’s first visit during the Abuja Mission in 2021 with Dr Christophe Bernasconi (Secretary General of the HCCH), His Excellency Mr Abubakar Malami SAN (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation) gave his formal commitment to ‘expedite actions in terms of membership with the HCCH and associated Conventions’. With over 150 connected States, representing all continents, the HCCH is a global intergovernmental organisation that develops and services multilateral treaties for the ‘progressive unification of the rules of private international law’; forging a network of judicial and administrative cooperation in a wide range of areas, bringing certainty and predictability to individuals and companies. The HCCH Conventions fall under three main categories, (1) legal cooperation and international civil procedure, (2) international commercial and financial law and (3) international child protection and family law. Joining the HCCH and ratifying/acceding to Hague Conventions would not only benefit Nigeria (see objectives of the NGPIL), but it would add to the visibility for Africa and beyond in cross-border situations across the globe.
Onyoja’s visit was funded by a grant award from the Centre for Private International Law, University of Aberdeen, and will support her role as coordinator of the anticipated Network of International Family Law in Africa and Asia, under the auspices of the Centre.