The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a law firm, Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL), on the regulation and licensing of space activities.
It followed the enactment of Regulation on Licensing and Supervision of Space Activities, which empowers NASRDA to license all space activities in Nigeria.
OAL had written 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 investment.
This led to the first national space council meeting chaired by President Mohammadu Buhari, at which he reaffirmed NASRDA as the premier space agency in Nigeria.
The President directed all stakeholders in the space sector to abide by the regulatory framework provided by NASRDA.
He aso 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.
At a briefing in Lagos, OAL Senior Partner, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), noted that one of the most critical missing legislation is the licensing framework for space activities.
He said: “NASRDA and OAL have worked together to fill this gap by the enactment of Regulation on Licensing and Supervision of Space Activities, 2015 (Vol.108, No.106, of 28th September 2021, Government Notice No.158, Page3 B4209-4235) which empowers NASRDA to license all space activities in Nigeria.
“‘Space activities’ in the Regulation include ‘space objects and their control/management’.
“NARSDA and OAL have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding, (MOU) to operationalise the Regulation.
“This entails 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.”
Agbakoba, a former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, believes the Regulation “is a great leap forward in Nigeria’s quest to develop and harness the many potentials of space”.
This, he said, is because hitherto unregistered space activities will now be registered.
Noting that while no one knows how many space objects are within Nigeria’s jurisdiction, Dr. Agbakoba believes revenues from licence fees will run into billions of naira.
“Given government’s very scarce resources, additional income from licensing revenue will add substantially,” he said.
Head of Public Sector Practice Group at OAL, Collins Okeke, said the firm was 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.
The firm, he said, was also working to enact legislation to give effect to some international conventions.
They include the 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 and the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space 1976.
Head of Space Law Practice Group, Anne Agi, said OAL was the only law firm in Nigeria with a practice group dedicated exclusively to space law.
“OAL 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, the NASRDA to help strengthen the legal, institutional, and regulatory framework that governs Space in Nigeria.
“This includes reviewing and analysing the current space policy and creating a new policy that covers more aspects of space activities, (e.g. military policy, public policy, commercial policy); harmonising national laws with principles in international law and ensuring all areas/aspects of space activities are covered by domestic legislation,” Agi said.