Nigeria’s Senate is taking steps to update legislation relating to the 46-year-old Atomic Energy Commission to bring it in line with present day requirements. The process began with a Public Hearing on two bills organised by Senator Uche Ekwunife. The bills are: the “Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) Act (Repeal & Reenactment) Bill 2022 and Nigerian Content in Programmes, Contracts, Science, Engineering, Technology & Innovation (Establishment) Bill, 2023”.

The NAEC bill was sponsored by Senator Emmanuel Orker-jev, and the Nigerian Content in Programmes, Contracts, Science, Engineering, Technology & Innovation Bill by Senator Sani Musa.

Introducing the NAEC bill, Ekwunife said it was crucial to the development of the science and technology sector. She noted that the act was enacted 46 years ago in 1976 adding that there had since been no legislative amendments to bring the commission in line with realities of global dynamics. “This Bill therefore seeks to repeal the Atomic Energy Commission Act (CAP.N91) Laws of the Federation to streamline its provisions. The Bill will make the commission cater for robust implementation of the National Nuclear Programme in line with acceptable international standards in accordance with Nigeria’s obligation under relevant international legal instruments.”

She explained that the intention was “to make the commission develop the ways and technical machinery to effectively explore, exploit and harness atomic energy for peaceful applications and for sustainable national development”. As to the Nigerian Content bill, Ekwunife said it aimed to harness domestic talents and the development of indigenous capacity in science and technology.

NAEC Chairman Professor Yusuf Ahmed noted that the decision to embark on a nuclear programme in Nigeria represented a long-term commitment to safety. However, he said the lack of a requisite legal framework was a challenge that had greatly slowed the activities of the commission and its ability to harness the potential of atomic energy. Ahmed, in particular, urged the Senate to amend Section 2 of the NAEC bill, which deals with the leadership structure of the commission. “This has been one of the major challenges in the implementation of the National Nuclear Energy Programme,” he said.