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

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In intellectualism, it is not assumed that knowledge is at the doorstep of every individual at the same time and at the same rate. We always believe that the human mind is like a clean slate and whatever you print on it, makes a lasting and resilient impression. Some may be aware of special knowledge and some may not. Even those with minimal knowledge may miss a profound dimension of it.

Therefore, we should not take it for granted that every Nigerian knows the meaning and functions of the Nigerian Customs Service and even the meaning, dynamics, history of international law and the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It would be useful to begin this speech by exploring the major topics. For emphasis, readers of this article should be advised that subtopics such as “Nigeria Customs Service”, “International Law” and “1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations” are widely discussed in order to accommodate readers with different academic and professional backgrounds. Therefore, the exhaustive therapy of the above topics is deliberate with the intention of reaching a wider audience. Res ipsa loquitur (The fact speaks for itself).

The Nigeria Customs Service is the sole agency of customs administration in Nigeria, which began in 1861 after the annexation of the colony of Lagos. The law establishing the Nigeria Customs as it is presently constituted is the Customs and Excise Management (CEMA) Act No. 55 of 1958, CAP C45 LFN 2004.

The functions of Nigerian Customs are threefold. First, it collects vital revenue for the Nigerian state. Second, it performs security functions, fighting contraband and working with other agencies, ensuring standards and preventing the entry of narcotics and illegal weapons. Third, it is the main executor of trade policies, administering differential tariffs, anti-dumping measures, valuation, trade embargoes and trade facilitation.

Nigeria Customs is expected to perform the above roles with minimal disruption to international trade and universally accepted international conventions and treaties, to enable the country to thrive in a globalized and competitive world.

It should be clarified that Customs is unique among governmental organizations in that it is neither an entirely national nor an international agency, but an agency positioned at the international borders of a country and facing both inward and outward (Michael Lane 1998).

The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is an emanation of international law. Oppenheim, a standard authority, defined international law in 1905 as “the name of the body of customary and conventional rules which are legally binding on civilized states in their relations with one another”. He added that it is a law for the relationships of states with each other, not a law for individuals and that it is a law between, and not above, individual states. Each Stonewell, writing in 1931, argued that international law embodies certain rules relating to human relations throughout the world which are generally observed by mankind and enforced primarily through the government of independent communities in which mankind is divided. Korovin in 1961 defined contemporary international law as the international code of peaceful coexistence (Palmer et al 2007).

In an anarchic system, where there is no centralized police force, government or prison, certain regulations must exist to guide the behavior of sovereign states. Europe was not the first to develop international law. The first recorded treaty was signed in the Euphrates Valley in 1278 BC. AD between King Ramses II of Egypt and King Hartusi of the Hittites. The peace treaty which had within it, the basic principle of international law, “the good faith of the agreement” is implied in the pact signed by two parties (Alaba Ogunsanwo 2016).

However, the first spokespersons to formulate some sort of regulation were Catholic theologians inspired by the belief that the amount of violence between states was immoral. Their major concern was to persuade states that God did not want them to act violently and that God’s precepts forbade war. The only sanctions were theological sanctions which were not sufficient to serve as a deterrent but the seed of international law had been sown.

Hugo Grotius has been considered the father of international law. A Dutch scholar, influenced by his experience of 30 years of war (1618-1648) and his contact with the law, wrote a monumental treatise “On the Laws of War and Peace” (De Jure Bello Ac Pacis) in 1625. He held that community relations had been based on regulations and that international law emanated from the actual practices of states, customs and natural laws.

Strictly speaking, the history of modern international law really begins with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648). Here the Europeans met and dissolved the empire of the Church and divided into nation states which thus brought the concepts of sovereignty, territorial integrity, equality and non-interference. These principles have formed the basis of modern international law (Akinboye et al 2005).

To be continued tomorrow
Dr. Oramalugo is an expert in history, strategic studies, international politics and diplomacy and a Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Management (Chartered).

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