Certification of documents in Nigeria involves verifying the genuineness or otherwise of a public document i.e., documents issued by government agencies. Certification can be by notarization, authentication, and or legalization
A Notary Public carries out the notarization of a document. A Notary Public is a public official, usually, a lawyer authorized to perform acts in legal affairs, in particular witnessing signatures on documents, verification, and authentication of documents amidst other functions. The office of a Notary Public and the Notarization of documents in Nigeria is regulated by the Notary Public Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. When a Notary Public notarizes a document,
such a document must be sealed with the notary's seal or stamp and recorded in a register permanently kept by him. A person who can notarize a document in Nigeria is a practicing lawyer who has been appointed as a Notary Public by the government.
AUTHENTICATION AND LEGALIZATION
Authentication, also called certification, is a procedure by which a document is confirmed for its authenticity by the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). It is a process that represents an apostille in Nigeria. For a document to be authenticated at the MFA, a prescribed fee must be paid, after which the government official will confirm whether such a document is authentic and duly issued in Nigeria. If the document is found to be genuine, the document shall be authenticated by pressing the official iron seal on it.
Legalization is a process by which a public official (e.g., a consular officer at an Embassy or a consul of a Consulate) certifies the genuineness of the signature, the seal, and the position of the person/official who has executed, issued, or authenticated a document.
STEPS TO AUTHENTICATE AND LEGALIZE A DOCUMENT IN NIGERIA
- The first stop is usually to notarize any document to be authenticated or legalized through a notary public in Nigeria, especially if such a document would be tendered abroad.
- After Notarization, the document shall be submitted for authentication at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Abuja, and the prescribed fee shall be paid in respect of it.
- After that, the applicant can apply for the document to be legalized at the relevant embassy and make payment of the prescribed fees at the embassy.
TYPES OF DOCUMENTS SUITABLE FOR LEGALIZATION
Any document issued by any authority in Nigeria may be authenticated or legalized. Moreover, any commercial documents can also be authenticated where required. By and large, the documents that are usually certified in Nigeria include marriage certificates; judgements of the court; divorce certificates; school certificates and academic transcripts; single status certificates; incorporation documents; business agreements; among others.
CERTIFICATION OF OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS FOR LOCAL USAGE
Under Nigerian law, a document can be certified locally by applying and obtaining the Certified True Copy (CTC) from the authority that issued it. Usually, documents that need to be used within Nigeria do not require either authentication or legalization, as legalization is only required for documents to be tendered outside Nigeria. Certification of documents in Nigeria for local usage can only be carried out by making an application to the issuing authority, either personally or through a solicitor, requesting for the CTC of such a document. The applicant shall pay the requisite fee for such certification.
In sum, authentication and documents are usually done at the Ministry of Foreign while legalization is done at the various embassies. Before any of the above processes, such documents need to be notarized by a Notary Public in Nigeria. A school certificate or academic record cannot be authenticated unless attestation has been done in respect of it with the Federal Ministry of Education.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.