Unknown-Court-Staff & the Affidavits Obtained During Court Strike.

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Unknown-Court-Staff & the Affidavits Obtained During Court Strike

Unknown-Court-Staff & the Affidavits Obtained During Court Strike. Daily Law Tips (Tip 802) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction:    

To ensure there is judicial autonomy, (specifically, financial autonomy of courts) the courts staff closed all courts and embarked on a nationwide strike. The strike has been on since 6 April 2021. This means that court premises are locked, cashiers are not receiving revenue, Commissioners of Oaths are not working and Judges are at their homes. 

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Surprisingly, some Nigerians have been obtaining court documents and affidavits from the closed courts that have no workers in them. While the court documents cannot be obtained remotely and without payments to the court cashiers, it is said that “Unknown-Court-Staff” are providing fraudulent services in some closed courts across Nigeria. This work focuses on the growing fraud in some of the locked courts and the legality or otherwise of fraudulently obtained documents. It reveals the offences that the concerned court staff and their customers should face. Also, alternatives to the court staff that are on strike (the Notaries Public for Nigeria) are provided. 

Unknown-Court-Staff and their Trade: 

One annoying but growing word in Nigeria is “Unknown-Gun-Men”. This term covers masked and unmasked persons that have destroyed or that may destroy public properties in Nigeria. They are no records of the true identity of “Unknown-Gun-Men” in Nigeria but their works are glaring and evident across Nigeria.

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Like the “Unknown-Gun-Men”, there is a growing web of “Unknown-Court-Men” (Unknown-Court-Staff). The Unknown-Court-Men are said to be court staff that still work secretly during the court strike for their selfish interests. Before you jump to celebrate the Unknown-Court-Men, note that the Unknown-Court-Men engage in fraud with court tools to make money for themselves while the court is on strike. They deprive the courts of revenue and sabotage of the court strike. They Prepare court documents and affidavits without following the laid down processes for such documents.

There are departments and sections in courts responsible for different roles, all designed to promote justice. For example, a person desirous of having an affidavit from a court, will visit the court and pay the statutory fees for affidavits to the selected bank account of the court. After payment is made, the proof of payment will be taken to the Finance Department of the court for verification. After verification of payment, the person in need of the affidavit is presented before a Commissioner for Oath. The Commissioner of Oath is a court staff, authorized to administer oaths and sign affidavits in courts. 

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So, where there is a court strike and closure of courts, all the departments in courts and the courts are closed. Hence, the courts staff cannot perform their duties and the courts cannot issue court processes and affidavits. It is rather disturbing that although the courts in Nigeria are closed due to the ongoing strike, many Nigerians are still obtaining affidavits, certified documents and other court processes from the closed courts. 

The present activities of the Unknown-Court-Staff are disturbing and disruptive. They have raised several questions.  Who receives monies and revenues generated from the activities of the Unknown-Court-Staff, since courts are closed? Who performs the roles of court staff and Commissioner of Oaths, since court staff are on strike? Who signs and stamps the court documents that are being obtained from courts during the court strike? Where are the receipts and proof of payment of

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statutory fees for services obtained from courts during court strike? Who are the court staff that are signing and stamping documents with false dates, falsely pre-dating the court strike (6 April 2021)? Who are the court staff that are ordinarily in possession of the court stamps, receipts, seals and other sensitive materials before the court strike? Will the infamous conducts of the Unknown-Court-Staff be investigated now and after the court strike? Who are the Unknown-Court-Staff and Unknown-Court-Men? 

Perjury and the Invalidity of Affidavits Obtained by Fraud:

Affidavits are one of the commonest documents Nigerians seek from courts across Nigeria. It could be for a change of name, loss of items, and the submission of bids and forms. So, aside litigants, majority of visitors to the Nigerian courts and the law firms of lawyers are in search of affidavits. Affidavits are solemn declaration of facts, made before the Chief Justice of Nigeria, a Justice of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, any judge of the Federal High Court, a Notary Public, and any Commissioner for Oaths. 

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The continued closure of courts across Nigeria has shutdown most court businesses across Nigeria. So, the departments of the courts that must interact for courts services to be performed are incapacitated. The closure of courts makes it impossible for the Chief Justice of Nigeria, a Justice of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, any judge of the Federal High Court, and any Commissioner for Oaths to perform his statutory duties, including the making of

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affidavits and authentication of courts. Although, the stamps and seals of courts can be in the possession of Commissioners of Oath and court staff, they cannot be used unless appropriate statutory fees are paid and verified in the courts. Commissioners of Oath and court staff are not to deprive government of its revenue, by making affidavits during court strike, when it is impossible to genuinely pay the needed statutory fees. The Unknown-Court-Staff should cease and desist from their despicable trade and avoid being prosecuted for economic sabotage and corrupt practices.  

Commissioners of Oath are not to sign affidavits without sighting deponents (the persons making affidavits). The present practise of Unknown-Court-Staff is alleged to offer affidavits without the sighting deponents, since courts are closed and their services are shady. Affidavits made outside the presence the Chief Justice of Nigeria, a Justice of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, any judge of the Federal High Court, a Notary Public, and any Commissioner for Oaths is invalid. Also, the deponent could be charged with perjury for lying on oath. The punishment for perjury in the Northern part of Nigeria is 7 years or life imprisonment and 14 years imprisonment or life imprisonment in the Southern part of Nigeria. The concerned deponents and the Unknown-Court-Staff should also be prosecuted for bribery and corruption. 

Conclusion: 

The ongoing court strike is really biting hard on all Nigerians. However, the court strike does not or should not affect Nigerians that are in need of affidavits since, private legal practitioners who are Notaries Public have powers to sign affidavit and perform all duties of a Commissioner for Oath. My earlier work, titled, “How to Certify Documents & Make Affidavits Without Courts” <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/how-to-certify-documents-make-affidavits-without-courts/> explains the role of Notaries Public. There is no need to engage in bribery and corruption over affidavits and services that can be easily obtained from a Notary Public. 

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Affidavits and court documents that are unlawfully obtained are invalid. The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) should take note of the activities of the Unknown-Court-Staff, who loiter around most courts across Nigeria or act through their aids. 

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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, 11, 12 of the Oaths Act, 1963
  3. Sections 1 and 2 of the Notaries Public Act, 1936
  4. Section 1, 112, 113, 114, 115, 117, 258 and 259 of the Evidence Act, 2011
  5. Sections 117 and 118 of the Criminal Code 
  6. Sections 156 and 158 of the Penal Code
  7. 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)
  8. 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
  9. 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)
  10. BBC News, “JUSUN Strike Update Today: FG, Staff Union to Meet as Nigeria Judiciary Paralyze” (BBC, 19 April 2021) <https://www.bbc.com/pidgin/tori-56798871> accessed 1 June 2021
  11. Kunle Sanni, “INVESTIGATION: Court officials, touts illegally issue affidavits during judiciary workers’ strike” (PremuimTimes, 1 June 2021) <https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/464989-investigation-court-officials-touts-illegally-issue-affidavits-during-judiciary-workers-strike.html> accessed 2 June 2021.
  12. Onyekachi Umah, “Banks Should Not Refuse Affidavits/Documents Made By Notaries Public” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 28 April 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/banks-should-not-refuse-affidavits-documents-made-by-notaries-public/> accessed 1 June 2021
  13. Onyekachi Umah, “FALSE TESTIMONY IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 25 April 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-88-false-testimony-is-a-criminal-offence/> accessed 1 June 2021
  14. Onyekachi Umah, “How to Certify Documents & Make Affidavits Without Courts” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 14 April 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/how-to-certify-documents-make-affidavits-without-courts/> accessed 27 April 2021
  15. 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
  16. 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 1 June 2021
  17. 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 1 June 2021
  18. 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 1 June 2021
  19. 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 1 June 2021
  20. 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 1 June 2021
  21. 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 1 June 2021
  22. 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 1 June 2021
  23. 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 1 June 2021
  24. 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 1 June 2021
  25. Onyekachi Umah, “An Alternative to Courts for Human Rights Cases” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 14 May 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/an-alternative-to-courts-for-human-rights-cases/> accessed 1 June 2021
  26. Onyekachi Umah, “Details of State Offices of National Human Rights Commission” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 27 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/details-of-state-offices-of-national-human-rights-commission/> accessed 1 June 2021
  27. Pic Credit: theGuardian.com

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