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Opportunities in Space Law for Nigerian Students

Opportunities in Space Law for Students

Nigerian Law Students and Space Law Opportunities. 

By Testimony Akinkunmi


This article is a keen wake-up call to Nigerian law students. Rather than lay their eyes on saturated legal fields. Opportunities that other fields especially space law should be recognised. A brief history of how space law has evolved in the world at large and even in Nigeria is described. The problems that enthusiasts may faced are discussed and opportunities which even as developing countries we can take advantage of is mentioned. In conclusion, the article ends with a note about the trouble and problems the Nigerian legal field would face if enough learned personnels are unavailable.


Humanity is developing. In the spatial dimension, the most promising direction of human development is boundless outer space, which extends from the atmosphere, from a height of 100-110 kilometres, the cradle of humanity — the planet Earth, at least 13.8 billion world years. The ancients wisely determined that the cosmos is the order (from the ancient Greek κόσμος — “order”). This word was used as a counterbalance to the world disorder. Now a significant kind of space order is the legal space order, as a system of norms of space law. 

More than 100 years of history has the category of “space law”, which was first mentioned in the scientific works of French scientists (1910). Space law of that time was an amorphous idea without form and content. The first special monograph on space law was published in 1932. Short scientific publications that were devoted to space law appeared in the 1930s and 1940s, the first doctoral dissertation on this subject was defended in 1953.

The Soviet space legal expert, Evgeny Korovin, defined Space Law as a set of rules regulating the legal relations 

between people and between states in outer space. This definition has the merit of emphasizing the legal regulation of the order in outer space, the rules of both international and national law being implied. Accordingly, the sphere of operation of Space Law is confined to outer space.

Space is governed by five key international treaties, known informally as the Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue Agreement, the Liability Convention, the Registration Convention, and the Moon Agreement (their formal names are much, much longer). All are under the auspices of the delightfully named United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs.

In 1999, when Nigeria became a democratic government under President Obasanjo, the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) was formed and the government then began to pursue formalized space projects.2  In 2003, Nigeria procured the launch of its first satellite, NigeriaSat-1, an Earth observation satellite that became part of the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC).3 Since then, Nigeria has launched a total of five satellites, with three still operational as of 2020.4 This includes the first satellite designed and built by engineers from African countries, NigeriaSat-X.5 Nigeria’s current president, Muhammadu Buhari—elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019—is supportive of the Nigerian space program.


There are a wide range of factors that makes law students lack interest and in some circumstances be ignorant of what space law can do. Out of the many reasons, ignorance has been the most dominant. According to llmstudy, no Nigerian Universities offers space law as a course. The few law faculties who have anything to do with space law are those that are association-based as available in Obafemi Awolowo University and Niger Delta University. Or in some cases merely an appendage of International law. So before even finding space law as a wide and deeply dedicating course of work. They do not even know what it means.

Even in this 21st century, there are still some people who are curious as to how what happens in Space relates to us. The simple answer is that with such a large portion of the country living in poverty, the Nigerian government could utilize the investments in its space program to ultimately benefit the people of Nigeria more broadly. Two popular methods are internet access and climate change mitigation, but other avenues are available. There are multiple issues that affect Nigerian citizens directly that the government could focus on through earth-observation technology—crop planning, climate change monitoring, desertification tracking, and fighting Boko Haram. When these are done, applying space technology to benefit the lives of Nigerians would  present an opportunity to gain public support for investment in these space programs.

No doubt, opportunities afforded by the emerging markets abound for every lawyer, particularly young lawyers, to take advantage of. However, many lawyers are still in the traditional practice model, i.e. litigation through the court. Chief among the reasons for the low participation of lawyers in the emerging fields of practice is unemployment. Thousands of lawyers are called to the Nigerian bar every year, but there is little or no jobs to cater for all. And sometimes they give up to stay in the unrewarding world of traditional litigation or perhaps they think it is too late to specialise.


Like all emerging law fields, space law has a bulkload of opportunities that law students can make use of.

Even as Nigerian law students in the developing world, our eyes should be open to what we can achieve. 

Nigeria has now become more ambitious and is planning inter alia to design, build, and launch a satellite of its own from a domestic launch site by 2030. This also meant the legal framework need to be upgraded, to allow meeting the challenges imposed by such ambitions in an orderly fashion as well as remaining compliant with Nigeria’s obligations under international space law. The world community urgently needs international standardization of space terms and expressions in the legal sense. And who best to provide this than lawyers?

In 2018, two space lawyers – Christopher Hearsey and Nathan Johnson – founded the Space Court Foundation, a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit corporation that promotes and supports space law and policy education and the rule of law. The Space Court Foundation produces educational materials and scholarship. Surprisingly, special consideration are given to developing world law students.

The role of Contract in space law is fundamental. And Nigeria has consistently been in the role of an offeree. Importantly, without national technical capabilities, the Nigerian space program is still reliant on the capabilities and personnel of foreign governments like China. A nation knowing for putting it national interest first. Only a lawyer well-versed in space issues can ensure a beneficial contract is agreed to. The contract with China isn’t the only one, Nigeria through NASDRA wants to build a national technical base, NASRDA is also working with the U.K.-based company Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) to build satellites. And such relationship should only be based on contract formed by space-savy lawyers.

Internship opportunities are numerous for Nigerian law students which they can take advantage of. NASA, HAVARD and so many institutions are more than prepared to accept enthusiastic space law students. Since it is a emerging field, it is a less saturated but highly rewarding field in Nigeria.

According to Valentin, there are new challenges to space law, which cannot be described in one article. We will try to determine the directions of development of space law, which in our opinion are:

  1. Formation and approval of international standardization of space terms, expressions in the legal sense.
  2. To encourage the involvement of private capital in space programmes on the basis of fair competition. This will lead to the development in geometric progression of space exploration, the emergence of new and cheaper existing space and related space services. Outer space is an inexhaustible source of high prof i ts for private companies and social progress for humanity as a whole.
  3. Adoption of the foundations, and in the following, the rules of private space law, so that private space companies of different States can interact with each other on the basis of acceptable norms in advance, without applying each time for permits to their governments. This will significantly increase the efficiency of attracting funds from private international companies to the development of outer space, the creation of powerful international transnational private space companies.
  4. The resolution of the problems of space debris with the international space law. First of all, it is necessary to register at the international level the concept of “garbage”, as well as to determine the types and amount of legal responsibility that will be applied in public or private companies in the case of leaving garbage in the orbit of the Earth.
  5. Settlement of ownership of space bodies. Just ignore this problem noting that they are not covered by the classical ownership will not work. Private space companies are already planning to use the natural resources of space bodies. This process can become a conf l ict, which on the one hand hinders the development of natural resources that are on/in space bodies, on the other hand can lead to space conflicts, including military ones. 
  6. Development and adoption by the UN security Council of a new international agreement on the use of the resources of the moon and other space bodies for scientific and industrial purposes. Now on the moon actively working probes of China, in the near future will join them at the expense of public programs and private companies of the United States, Russia, Israel. With the creation of transnational space companies, this process will move into an active phase, which sooner or later will lead to conf l ict situations. 
  7. Private companies of space States plan to provide services to people from space tourism in large volumes. These issues require special legal regulation to ensure the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of space tourists. A simple analogy of international law of the sea is no longer sufficient. 
  8. The world community must work out and approve the agreement of the space powers on legal sanctions that can be applied in private space companies for violation of the norms of space law. An international space court should be established to ensure their fair application and to resolve civil conf l icts between private space companies. As for the sanctions that the UN or individual space States may apply to space States or States that seek to become such, they should be spelled out, what actions are subject to sanctions.


After a long period of relative stability (stagnation) of space law. humanity has moved to a new stage of its development, which is characterized by the use of outer space at the expense of finances and funds of private companies. Therefore, the world community and space law face new challenges. Objectively, space law is beginning to develop actively. The leading directions of space law development should be: standardization of legal space terms, approval of private space law, promotion of private capital involvement in space programs, development of the theory of the right to use space bodies, regulation of the rights and legitimate interests of space tourists, development of sanctions agreed by the world community for violation of space law, subjects and procedures for their application.

Space law’, as the law relevant to outer space and space activities, is a relatively young area of law, which moreover is expanding rapidly in scope. Practical, down-to-earth applications of space activities abound, more and more of a commercial nature. Also the number and variety of actors is growing – not only states, but international organizations and private entities are increasingly involved in space activities. As a consequence, the traditional field of research of space law is widening so as to include or interfere with such other fields as telecommunications law, intellectual property rights, trade and commercial law, EC law, transport law and so on. 

As Nigerian law students, space law is an untapped field with little native expertise available. It is now more than ever we should take advantage of opportunities before they become traditional and archaic.



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This publication is not a piece of legal advice. The opinion expressed in this publication is that of the author(s) and not necessarily the opinion of our organization, staff and partners.


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