THE VALIDITY OR OTHERWISE OF ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES IN NIGERIA
A cursory look at the sub-heading would reveal that there are two sides to the concept of electronic signature in Nigeria. We shall consider under this sub-heading whether Nigeria has joined other developed nations of the world to legalize the use of electronic signatures, and if it has done so, what are the limitations thereof?
It would interest you to know that the Nigerian Government is not lagging when it comes to this aspect of digitalizing commerce for business owners and investors alike. The use of electronic signature has been made lawful by virtue of Section Section 17(1) (a) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act, 2015 which provides as thus:
“Electronic signature in respect of purchases of goods, and any other transactions shall be binding.”
The import of the above section is that electronic signatures are considered valid when used in commercial transactions. The section has also widened the scope of transactions and that electronic signature will be deemed valid and proper.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it appears that the Cybercrimes Act has placed some embargos on the acceptability of electronic signatures with respect to certain transactions, as we shall see in the succeeding paragraph.
Section 17(2) of the Cybercrimes Act provides as follows:
“The following transactions shall be excluded from the categories of contractual transactions or declarations that are valid by virtue of electronic signature:
(a) Creation and execution of wills, codicils and or other testamentary documents.
(b) Death certificate.
(c) Birth certificate.
(d) Matters of family law such as marriage, divorce, adoption and other related issues.
(e) Issuance of court orders, notices, official court documents such as affidavits, pleadings, motions and other related judicial documents and instruments.
(f) Any cancellation or termination of utility services.
(g) Any instrument required to accompany any transportation or handling of dangerous materials either solid or liquid in nature”.
It is clearer now, more than ever, that electronic signatures are valid just as the ones crafted with ink on paper, even though they will not suffice in every instance.
HOW THE USE OF ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE HAS PROPELLED COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS IN NIGERIA
Recent studies have shown that more than 50 per cent of companies still spend Billions every year on paper just to carry out commercial transactions and this has largely affected the turnover of companies. Albeit, since the legalization of electronic signatures in Nigeria, companies need not spend so much on paper in a bid to seal commercial deals whether local or international. This has helped companies in saving well over 55 per cent cost of running their business.
Furthermore, the legalization of electronic signatures has improved the time turnaround for documents as commercial deals that will ordinarily take days to be completed, are now completed within hours. Business owners need not send documents to business partners physically to append their signatures. All of this rigour has been assuaged by the legalization of electronic signatures.
According to a recent report from BMO (Canada’s 4th largest Bank), the use of electronic signature has also improved workplace efficiency by 60 per cent.