How to Certify Documents & Make Affidavits Without Courts.

How to Certify Documents & Make Affidavits Without Courts. Daily Law Tips (Tip 775) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

 Introduction:  

Most Nigerians will only visit a court of law, when in need of an affidavit or to authenticate a power of attorney/land document. With the growing call for the declaration of assets of pubic officers and employees of financial institutions, the need for Commissioner for oaths in courts have increased, tremendously. Also, the demand for affidavits of loss by telecommunication companies before reissuing lost telephone numbers as well as the demand for affidavits of facts by dispute resolution centers have equally increased the demand for Commissioners for oaths. Many school applications, job applications, loan applications and contract bidding forms all require declaration to be taken before Commissioner for Oaths, among other persons. Hence, aside dispute resolution (litigations), the Nigerian courts play vital role in the ease of doing business and in the everyday lives of Nigerians. 

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Like any other government institution/sector in Nigeria, the courts (judiciary) are not beyond temporal blackouts/strikes. Like in the Nigerian educational and health sectors, the judiciary (especially, court staff) often have to embark on a nationwide strike before federal or state governments will listen to their demands for their earned benefits. One wonders the fate of disputants and prisoners, whenever the courts are shutdown. Also, what is the fate of many Nigerians, who wrongly believe that oaths, affidavits and authentication of documents can only be made in courts by the commissioners for oath, during such strikes? 

Well, this work will expose the alternatives (licensed persons) that can perform the duties of Commissioners for Oath at all times, whether there is strike or not. These are persons that are permitted by the laws in Nigeria to administer oaths, swear-in public officers, sign affidavits, authenticate and certify documents across Nigeria, just like the courts and their Commissioners for Oath.

Alternatives to Courts and Commissioners for Oath:

Nigeria is a country created by law and governed by law. All persons and offices that perform official roles are also created by law and bound their respective laws. To ensure people state only facts, people are made to make affidavits. To ensure that documents are not forged or made out of fraud, documents are required to be certified and authenticated. Then, to administer oaths, swear-in public officers, sign affidavits, authenticate and certify documents across Nigeria, the laws in Nigeria have empowered some classes of persons to perform such duties. 

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  1. Here are persons that can administer oaths, swear-in public officers and sign affidavits in any part of Nigeria; “… the Chief Justice of Nigeria, a Justice of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal and any judge of the Federal High Court, a Notary Public, and any Commissioner for Oaths”. So, where there is a strike or shutdown of courts, it may affect judges and Commissioners of Oath, since there may not be able to access their offices/instruments and to perform their roles. However, at all times Notaries Public are available at their respective offices and homes, and never affected by court strikes. Click this link to learn more about Notaries Public; <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/requirements-for-a-lawyer-to-be-appointed-as-a-notary-public-for-nigeria/>. 
  2. Here are persons that can administer oaths, swear-in public officers and sign affidavits outside Nigeria; “Every Nigerian official of the rank of Secretary or above in a Nigerian Embassy or delegation may in any country where he exercises his functions, administer any oath and take any affidavit and also do any notarial act which a notary public can do within Nigeria.” So, where the Judges, Notaries Public and Commissioners for Oaths are not accessible in Nigeria, one can visit any Nigerian Embassy in any country to access such services. Also, for persons outside Nigeria, there is no need to send documents to Nigeria, simply stop by the nearest Nigerian embassy. 
  3. Here are persons that can authenticate and certify documents (power of attorney) in any part of Nigeria; “… a notary public or any court, judge, magistrate, consul or representative of Nigeria or, as the case may be, of the President …”. Generally, when a power of attorney is executed (signed) before any of the listed persons and authenticated by such person, the power of attorney is presumed by court to have been truly signed by the parties that claimed to have signed it. This is the simple reason that make many persons to rush to courts and Notaries Public to authenticate their power of attorney. A detailed work on this issue can be accessed via link; <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/effect-of-power-of-attorney-not-executed-before-a-notary-public/>. 

Conclusion:

The strike by court workers and the total shutdown of courts across Nigeria has a huge implication, however, it is for the greater good of democracy and the entire country. Judiciary must be truly independent (including, financially), for it to be impartial. While the courts are shutdown, Judges and Commissioner for Oaths may not be able to administer oaths, swear-in public officers, sign affidavits, authenticate and certify documents across Nigeria. 

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Since the laws in Nigeria will never allow a vacuum to exist in any office or role, the shutdown of courts does not mean there are no alternatives to courts and Commissioner for Oaths. The Notaries Public (senior legal practitioners that have been sworn-in as Notaries Public) across Nigeria, in their law firms, offices, homes and even remotely, are always available to administer oaths, swear-in public officers, sign affidavits, authenticate and certify documents across Nigeria. Whatever a Commissioner of Oath can do, can also be done by a Notary Public and even more. 

My authorities, are:

  1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
  2. Sections 1, 10, 12 of the Oaths Act, 1963
  3. Sections 1 and 2 of the Notaries Public Act, 1936
  4. Section 1, 258 and 259 of the Evidence Act, 2011
  5. The Judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on the functions of Notary Public for Nigeria) in the case of Buhari V. INEC & ORS (2008) LPELR-814(SC)
  6. The Judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on the effect of Power of Attorney not Executed before a Notary Public) in the case of MELWANI V FIVE STAR INDUSTRIES LTD (2002) 1 SC 120
  7. The Judgment of the Court of Appeal (on the effect of Power of Attorney not Executed before a Notary Public) in the case of CHIEF G.N. OKOYE v. MR. NONSO DUMEBI (2014) LPELR-24155(CA)
  8. Onyekachi Umah, “Effect of Power of Attorney Not Executed Before a Notary Public” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 23 March 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/effect-of-power-of-attorney-not-executed-before-a-notary-public/> accessed 14 April 2021
  9. Onyekachi Umah, “You Don’t Need To Register Any Agreement In Courts or With A Notary Public” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 2 December 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/you-dont-need-to-register-any-agreement-in-courts-or-with-a-notary-public/> accessed 14 April 2021
  10. Onyekachi Umah, “How To Make Power Of Attorney To Be Genuine And Acceptable.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 16 April 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/how-to-make-power-of-attorney-to-be-genuine-and-acceptable-daily-law-tips-tip-312-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/>  accessed 14 April 2021
  11. Onyekachi Umah, “Agreements in Nigeria Do Not Require Signatures of Notaries Public or Magistrates or Court Staff to be Legal and Binding” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 13 January 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-121-agreements-in-nigeria-do-not-require-signatures-of-notaries-public-or-magistrates-or-court-staff-to-be-legal-and-binding/> accessed 14 April 2021
  12. Onyekachi Umah, “Stamps and Seals of Courts and Commissioners for Oath Are Not Needed for Agreements To Be Valid.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 8 June 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-118-stamps-and-seals-of-courts-and-commissioners-for-oath-are-not-needed-for-agreements-to-be-valid/> accessed 14 April 2021
  13. Onyekachi Umah, “Requirements For A Lawyer To Be Appointed As A Notary Public For Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 3 June 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/requirements-for-a-lawyer-to-be-appointed-as-a-notary-public-for-nigeria/> accessed 14 April 2021
  14. Onyekachi Umah, “It Is Not “Notary Public Of Nigeria” But  “Notary Public For Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 30 January 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/it-is-not-notary-public-of-nigeria-but-notary-public-for-nigeria/> accessed 14 April 2021
  15. Onyekachi Umah, “Power Of Attorney Can Not Transfer Ownership/Title Of A Property” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 19 July 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-145-power-of-attorney-can-not-transfer-ownership-title-of-a-property/?> accessed 14 April 2021
  16. Onyekachi Umah, “Contents of a Valid Affidavit of Change of Name” (LearnNigerianLaws.com,17 May 2018) <Contents of a Valid Affidavit of Change of Name> accessed 14 April 2021
  17. Onyekachi Umah, “Things that Cannot Be Contained In An Affidavit” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 15 May 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-101-things-that-cannot-be-contained-in-an-affidavit/> accessed 14 April 2021

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