Is Electronic Signature Legal in Nigeria?

Electronic signature has become quite popular in most countries as businesses and corporations are now able to execute contracts and transactions with their customers remotely. In Nigeria, however, many businesses are hesitant to embrace electronic signatures as an option for executing contracts and transactions with their customers. Some business owners do not know if the use of electronic signatures is legal in Nigeria, hence the hesitation to embrace it. In this article, we will discuss the legality of e-signature in Nigeria. 

Is Electronic Signature Legal in Nigeria

  • Is Electronic Signature Legal in Nigeria?

Yes. Electronic signatures are accepted for general business use in Nigeria according to Section 93 (2) and 3 of the Nigerian Evidence Act, as well as the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015. However, some transactions in Nigeria cannot be concluded using electronic signatures. Some examples of transactions where the use of electronic signatures is not binding include Death certificates, Birth certificates, the creation and execution of wills, and the cancellation of utility services.  

  • What is the Position of the Law on Electronic Signatures in Nigeria?

In Nigeria, the use of electronic signatures is permitted where a document must be signed for it to be valid. More so, the use of electronic signatures is permitted in situations where a document needs to be signed to avoid certain consequences.  That means, using electronic signatures for contracts or a transaction is generally accepted, except excluded by the Cybercrimes Act. 

The enacted legislation in Nigeria that recognize electronic signatures as enforceable in Nigeria are the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015, and the Nigerian Evidence Act. Section 17 (1) (a) of the Cybercrimes Act states that:

“Electronic signatures in respect of purchases of goods and other transactions shall be binding.”

Electronic signatures are binding in all types of contracts and transactions, except for those that have been expressly excluded by the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act. Below are some transactions and contracts in which electronic signatures are legally accepted and valid: 

  • Employment contracts 
  • Privacy notices
  • Consumer agreements, e.g. account opening documents, service agreements, etc
  • Non-disclosure agreements 
  • Commercial agreements are required not to be under seal, e.g. purchase orders, invoices, distributions agreements, sales agreements, etc

However, not all types of transactions and contracts can be concluded using electronic signatures in Nigeria. The exceptional cases where electronic signatures are not binding in Nigeria are contained in Section 17 of the Cybercrimes Act, 2015. The excluded transactions which cannot be concluded using electronic signatures in Nigeria are listed below: 

  • Any instrument required to accompany any transportation or handling of dangerous materials either solid or liquid in nature 
  • Any document ordering the withdrawal of drugs, chemicals and any other material because such items are fake, dangerous to poor people or the environment, or expired, by any authority empowered to issue orders for withdrawal of such time 
  • Any cancellation of utility services
  • Death Certificate 
  • Birth Certificate 
  • Issuance of court orders, notices, and official court documents, such as affidavits, pleading motions and other related judicial documents and instruments
  • Creation and execution of wills, codicils, and/or other testamentary documents 
  • Matters of the family such as marriage, divorce, adoption, and other related issues

The Nigerian Evidence Act and Cybercrimes Act of 2015 further prescribe penalties for unauthorized interception, alteration, and use of electronic signatures. The law specifies that if a person unlawfully intercepts, forges, or fraudulently alters the electronic signature of another intending to defraud or misrepresent another person, the defaulter, if convicted, is liable to 7 years imprisonment.

  •  What is an Electronic Signature? 

An electronic signature, commonly referred to as an e-signature, may be any mark, symbol, or data in the digital form attached to an electronically transmitted document evidencing signatory identity. 

The following are examples of electronic signatures that are used in Nigeria:

  • A typed name underneath a digital document 
  • A scanned image of a handwritten signature
  • A hand signature created on a smartphone or tablet using a stylus or hand
  • An individual agreeing to the terms and conditions by ticking on a web form which indicates the individual ticking the box accepts all the relevant terms

We advise parties that embrace electronic signature as a means of executing transactions and/or contracts first agree on the mode of e-signature to be used to prevent future disputes. 

  • What Issues Are Associated With the Use of Electronic Signatures in Nigeria? 

There are two major concerns that business owners who’ve adopted the electronic signature option for binding their contracts and transactions usually face. These issues are of security and confidentiality of the use of electronic signatures in Nigeria. Most businesses and corporations maintain that although electronic signatures defy geographical boundaries, they are less secure than traditional signatures. The reason why e-signatures are perceived to be less secure than their traditional counterparts arises from the possibility of a third party intercepting electronic documents and using them for questionable purposes. 

On the issue of confidentiality, documents that have already been signed electronically could be altered when intercepted. Internet fraudsters may easily forge intercepted electronic documents if the documents aren’t adequately protected. 

Fortunately, individuals, businesses, and organizations can adopt the use of “digital signature” to deal with both issues associated with the use of electronic signatures in Nigeria. Digital signatures give businesses and corporations the assurance that signed documents are less likely to be intercepted, copied, or altered by unscrupulous third parties when transferred electronically. 

We believe individuals, businesses and corporations in Nigeria who were hesitant to adopt electronic signatures because they were unsure of the position of the law on the subject matter might consider embracing this option as it’s legal in Nigeria. Businesses, individuals, and organizations considering incorporating e-signatures for executing contracts and transactions remotely should opt for the digital signature option which is more secure and has more sophisticated security measures than other forms of e-signatures. 

Note, not all transactions and contracts can be concluded using electronic signatures in Nigeria. In this article, we mentioned the contracts and transactions in that electronic signatures are admissible and enforceable and those excluded by the Cyber Act. 


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