Customs and the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations – Part 3 | The Guardian Nigeria News


From the above, it is clear that Customs does not have the right to collect duties or impose taxes on the personal and official property of diplomats and their families (in violation of CEMA), except in case of serious suspicion of import or export of contraband goods. However, suspicion is a controversial issue in international law. Nevertheless, it has given positive results on some occasions. For example, in 1984, Israeli secret agents and some Nigerians tried to smuggle Umaru Dikko (former Nigerian Transport Minister 1979-1983) out of London, in a diplomatic container. It was this “suspicion clause” of the 1961 Vienna Convention that was invoked, which enabled London security agents to open the diplomatic container and rescue Umaru Dikko.

Without prejudice to the Presidential Order that anti-smuggling activities should not exceed more than 10 km from the border, we all know that CEMA authorizes Customs to engage in anti-smuggling activities within point of entry and distribution. No wonder we see customs swarming markets, warehouses, etc., looking for contraband goods.

In this context, the 1961 Vienna Convention prohibits Customs from carrying out its anti-smuggling activities on embassy premises and the residence of diplomats and their families. Article 22 of the 1961 Vienna Convention stipulates that the premises of embassies and the residences of staff are inviolable. This then means that customs cannot conduct anti-smuggling activities in the above places. It is absolute immunity. This must be emphasized, otherwise one day we may wake up to the news that overzealous customs officers have invaded the homes of embassies and the residences of diplomats in search of contraband goods.

However, there are some exceptions to the above. The storage of arms and ammunition smuggled into the host State, on the premises of the diplomatic mission, constitutes a violation of article 41 (3) and, as such, may result in the closure of the mission and the severance of diplomatic relations between the sending state and the receiving state when it is clear that the authorities of the country of origin of the diplomatic mission have approved or encouraged such activity (Alaba Ogunsanwo 2016) . Although not perpetrated by customs, a good example of the “inviolability clause” was violated on November 4, 1979 when Iranian mobs stormed the American Embassy in Tehran in Iran. It lasted 444 days.

The world rose in unison to condemn this despicable act. America and its allies imposed sanctions on Iran and supported Iraq against Iran in the 1980-1988 war for violating the 1961 Convention. Since that incident, no event of this magnitude has occurred. is produced.

If we allow these misunderstandings to continue, which could result in breaches of the Anti-Vienna Convention (if any), there are repercussions. The international community may decide to point the customs administration of any ECOWAS country, to their seats of government, ECOWAS, African Union, United Nations, etc. This would not be acceptable to these wandering states, as most of their economies are import-dependent economies.

They need foreign direct investment to survive. Having this kind of horrible character, would be sick of foreign partners. In international relations, we have what we call the principle of “reciprocity”. In other words, the measure you give is the measure you receive. If this impunity continues to be in ascending order, instead of descending, the international community may have no choice but to impose retaliatory measures on our diplomats abroad. It may not be unpleasant to hear that Nigerian Customs or any other Customs administration in ECOWAS territory is the harbinger of this heinous diplomatic blunder. A few years ago South Africa deported Nigerians for violating yellow fever vaccination card regulations, Nigeria retaliated by deporting more South Africans from Nigeria. It was the power of reciprocity at work.

We can avoid or reduce this impending diplomatic Armageddon by taking the following steps. Most customs officers and other security agencies are unaware of existing international laws. Nemo dat quord non-baset (You don’t give what you don’t have). Therefore, they must be educated. It is the view of this paper that the curriculum of customs and other security service training schools should be restructured to include international law, where the Vienna Convention and other international treaties, conventions, etc. will be taught comprehensively. Management may issue circulars specifying the details and consequences of breaching the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Seminars can also be held for officers and men of various security agencies at our international airports on the above conventions. When this is done, slowly but surely, Officers will grasp the basics of international law because the world is a global village. Above all, a system of reward and punishment must be introduced. Those who treat diplomats with respect and dignity should be rewarded while officers who engage in these idiotic archaic behaviors should be punished to deter others.
Dr. Oramalugo is an expert in history, strategic studies, international politics and diplomacy and a Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Management (Chartered).


Comments are closed.