Validity of E-Signature in Nigeria:
Under section 93 of the Evidence Act 2011, where a rule of evidence requires a signature or provides for certain consequences if a document is not signed, an electronic signature satisfies that rule of law or avoids those consequences. Evidence that a person has complied with the procedure to verify their acceptance of an agreement (such as clicking on the “I accept” button) would satisfy any signature requirement.
In addition, under section 17(1) of the Cybercrime Act 2015, electronic signatures are binding in purchases of goods and other commercial transactions.
Furthermore, section 101 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 202,0 provides that an Electronic signature satisfies the requirements for the signing of documents requiring authentication by a company.
Although there is an absence of a statutory definition for E-signature in the Nigerian legal orbit, its validity is not in doubt. In Nigeria, E-signatures are just as valid as wet-ink signatures with respect to all transactions, unless otherwise expressly excluded by law. The authenticity of an E-signature and confirmation of approval by the person purporting to sign the document can be proved by evidence that such a person (with the same name, address, business, or occupation) exists. Indeed, whenever the authenticity of an E-signature is contested in any legal proceedings, the burden is on the contender to prove the E-signature is inauthentic. It should also be noted that forging the E-signature of another person is punishable by a term of imprisonment of not more than 7 years or a fine of not more than N10 million or both.
With respect to the proof of electronic signature, Section 17 (1) (b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015 (the “Cybercrimes Act”) provides in effect that when the authenticity or otherwise of electronic signature is in question, the burden of proof is that the signature does not belong to the purported originator of such electronic signatures but shall be on the contender. In the first place, this provision is only concerned with who should prove it. Secondly, the provision attempts to place a strict burden of proof on the person who denies the execution of an electronic transaction.