There are set of laws governing persons and affairs in Nigeria. The art of making laws and publishing them is also vested on some persons by law. A federal legislation, Acts Authentication Act, which has been in operation since 1st January 1962 regulates how federal laws made by the National Assembly are printed and circulated in Nigeria. See section 1(1) and (2) of the Acts Authentication Act 1962
By the 1962 federal law, when a law (at this stage it is still a Bill) is made by the National Assembly, copies of the bill and schedules showing the bill are made and are sent to the President of Nigeria for assent (the signing and impressing of the public seal of the Federation) on it. See section 58(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian 1999 (as amended). See also section 2(1) & (2) of the Acts Authentication Act 1962
As soon as the copies of a bill are signed and sealed by the President of Nigeria, the bill becomes law and a copy must be sent to the Clerk of the National Assembly. The Clerk must ensure that a copy is published in the Federal Gazette. And, a copy of a Federal Gazette is the final evidence of an enacted law. See section 3(1)(2) of the Acts Authentication Act 1962
Every Act when numbered must be immediately arranged in fair and legible type by the Government Printer and must have been endorsed on the back that it is published by authority; and an impression in triplicate from the type set up shall be struck off by the Government Printer on vellum or on paper of an enduring quality. See section 5(1) of the Acts Authentication Act 1962
The Clerk of the National Assembly shall retain one copy for his records and deliver one copy to the President and the other copy to the Chief Justice of Nigeria to be enrolled in the Supreme Court. See section 5(2) of the Acts Authentication Act 1962
Every Act which purports to be published by authority and bears a number and reference to a year and a date of commencement or reference to a section shall be received in all Courts and by all persons as sufficient evidence that it has been assented to in the President’s name. See section 6 of the Acts Authentication Act 1962
Across the states in Nigeria, there are Authentication Laws, designed by states to be equivalents of the Acts Authentication Act. The Acts Authentication Act smells and speaks of its age. It is over five (5) decades old and its equivalents in states are quite old too.
Obviously, they need to be amended to meet the realities of our society. There is need to have a statutory duty vested on the Clerk and Government Printer to publish all laws on “free to access” online platforms. And, access should be free!
It is disappointing that from pre-independence to date, there is no single comprehensive online depository of all the laws of Nigeria; Whether there is a physical depository of all the laws of Nigeria has been a huge debate.
The website of the National Assembly is far from what it should be. I must commend the efforts of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and other few law blogs maintaining deposits of recent laws made by the National Assembly. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse but this can only be after the government has made and ensures that copies of laws are available.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nnamseh Aniekan Aloysius is a writer, a poet, motivator, author reseacher and the sole founder of “Wits Of The Law”.His area of interest are International Humanitarian Law (I.H.L), Criminal Litigation, Intellectual Property Law, Tax Law and Health Law.
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