The Concept Of Sovereignty In International Law; Issues Challenges And Lessons For Nigeria

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The Concept Of Sovereignty In International Law; Issues Challenges And Lessons For Nigeria


New trends and innovations in modern communications and commerce have dealt a great blow on the political boundaries of states otherwise referred to as Sovereignty. Sovereign equality presupposes that each state enjoys the rights inherent in full sovereignty. This seems to be the basic principle of international law equally recognized by the United Nations. Sovereignty is the central pillar of the contemporary international system. No wonder, within the United Nations (UN) itself, sovereignty is not regarded as an obstacle to the maintenance of peace or the protection of human dignity. The lowest common denominator envisaged by this opening paragraph is that sovereignty is the basic principle of relations between states thus promoting non intervention, sovereign equality, inviolability of frontiers and the possibility of peaceful change.

There is no doubt that, while respect has been accorded independent states particularly in the area of non intervention in their domestic affairs, new issues have continued to emerge in international law and that is the area of human rights protection. Thus human rights has made a significant impact on international law. More recently, allegations of the possession of weapons of mass destruction, protection of democracy amongst others have variously been listed as grounds upon which the sovereignty of a state was tempered with. These new issues have no closed category and have variously threatened emerging states of its survival as this concept no longer possesses the limitations which it earlier had. More also civil unrest’s and factional fighting as in the case of Liberia, Sierra – Leone etc equally affected their sovereign status at the height of those crisis which necessitated the intervention of Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) at that time led by Nigeria to stop the senseless killings in those countries.

There exist several Literatures on international law dealing with this subject matter. Attempt however have been made to deal with this subject matter as well as to highlight the Nigerian experiment and the growing danger on the limitations accorded this concept. In view of the foregoing, an attempt has been made by this research work to highlight these problems and make recommendations by categorizing the thesis into seven chapters.

Chapter one forms the introductory part of the thesis. It consists of the statement of the problem, scope of the research, aims and objectives, literature review, research methodology, organizational layout and finally justification as to the benefits of this research to the public.

Chapter two basically touches on the concept of statehood. It begins with the definition of state as viewed from international law perspectives on the subject matter. It proceeds to evaluate the philosophies of the state and went further to identify the attributes of statehood premised on population, territory, government as well as capacity to enter into relations with other states. The chapter finally examines the doctrine of recognition of states as practiced by different entities.

Chapter three, though closely connected with chapter two however moves further to examine the meaning and development of the concept of sovereignty. Other issues associated with sovereignty such as independence has equally been considered. This chapter further highlights the limits of independence by exposing such issues like science and technology, economics, politics, poverty as well as the role of International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Paris and London clubs of creditors in touching the independence of states.

Chapter four, which is basically theoretical and represents the views of lawyers and academicians both from the West and their African counter parts examines the role of sovereignty in the contemporal world order. The chapter touches basically the doctrine and role of sovereignty, international instruments recognizing sovereignty, arguments in defence and against the usefulness of sovereignty. This theoretical component further highlights the problems in this field of research as viewed from different perspectives.

Chapter five is based on the factors rendering the concept of sovereignty nugatory. Such diminishing issues which have continued to be check on the doctrine of sovereignty have been considered. Issues such as self-determination, intervention, human rights, International Humanitarian Law as well as states incapable of guaranteeing security, law and order have been highlighted. The treaty obligation of states as well as the numerous exceptions to the doctrine of non-intervention have equally been expoused.

Chapter six brings us to the examination of state sovereignty, with special emphasis on Nigeria. Here, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Republics were scrutinized. Further examined in this chapter are the military regimes of 1965 – 1979, the Nigerian civil War and the military regimes of 1983 – 1999. Other issues such as military coups and democracy in Nigeria as well as ECOMOGs intervention in Liberia and Sierra – Leone have been considered. These issues touch on several aspects of sovereignty as it affects Nigeria and other West African countries traumatized by civil unrests.

Chapter seven concludes the thesis work by summarizing the major issues discussed in the previous chapters as well as raising observations and making recommendations on the subject matter.

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