Almost everyday, I receive telephone calls and emails from clients, asking one question or another on Notarization of documents. Many of these callas and emails come from Nigerians who desire to submit applications either to an Embassy or to a university abroad.

I understand the anxiety and uneasiness that accompany submission of applications. No one wants to gamble or make any avoidable mistakes. These questions range from where and how to get a genuine Notary Public to how much it costs to notarize a document, the kinds of documents to notarize and what notarization is used for. I have attempted a simple response to fifteen of the most frequently asked questions. I suppose that you may have a question that has not featured in this series. I will be delighted to answer them if you can reach me on the number and email address below. I will also like to read your comment below.

1. Who is a Notary Public?

A Notary public is a legal practitioner appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria to exercise the functions or witnessing signatures, preparing copies of paper work and authentication of documents. By the Notaries Public Act of 1936, a Notary Public is deemed as an officer of the Supreme Court.

2. Who can be appointed a Notary?

Only legal practitioners who meet the requirements can be appointed as Notaries Public for Nigeria. The law requires that only fit and proper persons who are legal practitioners are eligible to be appointed as Notaries Public


3. What does a Notary Public do?

A Notary Public’s functions and duties are to authenticate and certify signatures, authority and capacity relating to documents which are to be used abroad. A Notary Public acts as a Commissioner for Oath. By the Notaries Public Act, a Notary Public for Nigeria can perform same duties and exercise same functions as a Notary in England.


4. Are there conditions or requirement to be appointed a Notary?

There are conditions which a legal practitioner must meet before he can be appointed as a Notary Public. A legal practitioner must have evidence of active legal practice and payment of Bar Practice Fee for a consecutive period of seven years. Also he must provide a letter of recommendation from such number of judges within his jurisdiction as the Chief Justice of Nigeria may require.


5. Can a Notary Public’s powers be suspended or revoked?

The appointment of a Notary Public can be revoked or suspended by the Supreme Court Justice. Any Notary who has been convicted of any misconduct whether in his capacity as a Notary or otherwise may have his appointment revoked as a Notary by the Supreme Court, Also the Supreme Court has power to suspend any Notary.


6. What kind of document or materials can be notarized?

The function of a Notary Public is to authenticate the signatures on any document and to certify that a document is the exact copy of the original which he has sighted. Therefore, a Notary can notarize all kinds of documents for which authentication is required.


7. How much does it cost to notarize a document?

The cost for notarization of document is determined by the Notary and the number of pages. Also, the bargaining power of the client may assist in ensuring cheaper notarization fees. The average notary fee may range between N5,000 and N10,000 per page.


8. How do I know that a notarized document is authentic?

Any notarized document must bear the stamp and seal of the Notary Public. It must also state the name of the Notary as well as the place and the date the notarization was done. Any notarized document which does not possess the above features may be rejected.


9. My friend is a lawyer, can he notarized any document for me?

Only a Notary Public can notarize a document. Not all lawyers are Notaries. A Notary Public must be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria upon the satisfaction of all conditions and criteria for appointment.


10. I took my notarized documents to the Embassy and they were rejected. What could be the reason?

A notarized document may be rejected by the receiving institution if it does not meet the required criteria for notarization which include the name, stamp and seal of the Notary as well as the place of notarization. No institution is permitted to reject a properly notarized document.

You must ensure that only duly appointed notaries are approached for notarization. Any document authenticated by a fake may be identified and rejected.


11. I have some original certificates and photocopies of other certificates. How do I know which to notarize?

Notarization is used to authenticate a document and certify that the signature is authentic or that the document is the true copy of an original. Authentication is done on copies of original documents. In some circumstances, original documents may be notarized.


12. The Notary Public refused to notarize my document. Why?

A Notary Public may refuse to notarize or authenticate any document if the circumstance appear to him to be suspicious or if appears to him that notarization is not required. Where a Notary refuses to act, he is required to mark on the document his refusal, his signature and the date.


13. My documents were notarized by a Notary Public in Nigeria. Are they valid outside Nigeria?

Any document properly authenticated or certified by a Notary Public in Nigeria is valid in any other foreign countries. Notarization is internationally recognized and recognition is accorded any document notarized in Nigeria. Also, Nigerian government and agencies recognize any documents notarized abroad.


14. I do not want anyone to know the location where my document was notarized. Is there any problem with that?

Failure to indicate the name and address of the Notary Public on the face of the document may result in the rejection of the notarized document. It is highly recommended that all formal compliance including affixing the stamp and seal of the Notary be met.


15. I have further enquiries. Where can I go to?

There are many Notaries Public in Nigeria. An online search may reveal some of the notary offices.

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