The duties, roles, procedures and steps undertaken in notarizing documents in Nigeria are contained in detail under the Notaries Public Act 1936, (the Act). The Act was a received English law from Britain in 1900 and has since been amended to suit the present developments across the world.
The Act provides in detail the process for the appointment of a Notary public. The Chief Justice of Nigeria is responsible for the appointment of notaries in Nigeria. Generally, Notaries public act as officers of the Supreme Court and can with that authority attest to the authenticity or verification of documents made in Nigeria or to be used in Nigeria.
Every country of the world offers services from Notaries public that can attest to the authenticity of a document. Documents usually notarized are believed to be binding and true and require no additional evidence to show their authentic nature. To that end, if a document turns out to be false or unaccepted, the affected party can bring charges against the notary public in court.
In Nigeria, only legal practitioners who have practised for no fewer than 7 years, and are in a fit and proper standing in the legal profession and the society at large, this is provided in Section 2 of the Act.
Duties of Notary Public
Notaries public have varying duties under the law, the Act provides some major duties and advances the power to the Chief Justice to transfer additional duties to Notaries. Some of the duties performed by Notaries public are below
1. Bills of Exchange authentication
Notaries authenticate bills of exchange done in Nigeria. A bill of exchange is a transferable financial instrument, which is addressed to the buyer by a seller authorizing the buyer to pay for the goods immediately or at a future date. The significance of bills of exchange is their transferability. For instance, A can transfer a bill of exchange for B to pay $3000 to C, this means C will claim ownership of the amount on the bill of exchange.
Notaries public are vital to the bill of exchange because they can authenticate its significance for it to be accepted as a negotiable instrument and subsequently be transferred. Take for instance, if A notarized the bill of exchange, C would gain further confidence in the instrument following that authentication.
2. Authenticating Affidavits and Declarations
People make affidavits for varying reasons, from the loss of an identification card to the correction of a misspelt name on a document. Notaries authenticate if the contents of the Affidavit or declaration are real and true.
Affidavits will not be accepted by institutions if not notarized or witnessed by the Commissioner for oaths.
3. Verification of due process
This is perhaps the most significant duty of the Notary public. Notaries offer services that are tailored towards authenticating documents to be used in Nigeria. For instance, if a transfer document is prepared by a United States firm for the transfer of shares to an American.
The lawyers in the United States might be unsure of the Nigerian process, and having the documents notarized by a Nigerian Notary public assists to scale the process of doubt. The document would be assumed to have gone through the standard process unless the contrary is proven.
4. Preparing of certificates of good standing
Notaries public offers certificates of good standing to ascertain the way of behaviour of an individual. This vital duty takes the Notary through investigations of the person’s character and standing in society.
Persons in need of this requirement may want to gain admission into an institution, a job in a company or a visa to a country.
5. Administration of oaths
Witnesses willing to give evidence in trials usually have their testimonies taken by Notaries or the Commissioner for Oath. The testimony would not be entered into evidence by the court unless such testimony has been authenticated by a Notary public.
Witnesses usually meet Notaries in their offices and have Notaries read their testimonies to have them authenticated.
6. Due process in Execution
Notaries offer authentication on the process of execution for agreements. When a contract is drafted and the parties are unsure as to how the contract is to be executed, having a Notary Public authenticate the document provides a stamp of due execution and can be accepted in any country around the world.
How to notarize in Nigeria
To Notarize a document in Nigeria takes a step that has to be followed religiously, failure to follow the rules might prove fruitless to the notarization process.
1. The Meet up
The process begins with the meeting of the Notary Public. Intended persons seeking their documents to be notarized must visit the Notary in his office or the agreed place for a meeting among the parties.
The meeting usually starts with an interview by the Notary with the applicant to try and get the necessary information to be notarized.
2. The Sealing
Sealing is undertaken after the Notary has interviewed and understood the required information for which he is to authenticate.
The Notary shall sign the document and place his seal on the bottom of his signature. The seal serves as evidence that the document had been Notarized by the Notary.
After sealing the document, the Notary public shall register the details of the applicant into an official register kept for the purpose.
This cause for this is for standard verification when the applicant or a third party wants to confirm the notarization.
Notaries in Nigeria are guided by the Act, the duties of notarizing all over the world is a highly regulated one that countries seek to maintain.
The standard is that a Notary is trusted in every country of the world as a strong authentication of documents that are legally accepted in a country as well as the overall due process applicable to a country.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Notaries can authenticate documents ranging from birth certificates to contracts, documents from public records, and other documents that require proof of their authenticity.
Yes, documents by notaries public across the world is accepted in every country.