By G9ija

House of Representatives has passed for second reading a bill to tackle fake notary public officers and penalize them.

Titled “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Notaries Public Act and for Related Matter( HB.1259)”, it essentially seeks an amendment to the Notaries Public Act 1936 to review upwards the penalty imposed for misfeasance and for other offences under the Act.

Notaries Public Act provides for the appointment of Notaries Public in Nigeria, their registration and regulations.

A Notary Public is an officer, usually a lawyer, appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria and authorized to perform acts in legal matters, particularly witnessing signatures on documents, verification, and authentication of documents amidst other functions.

Under section 2(2) of the Notaries Public Act of Nigeria, a notary appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria shall perform the same duties and exercise the same functions as a notary in England

Leading the debate on the general principle of the bill at plenary, the sponsor, Hon. Serguis Ogun representing Uromi Federal Constituency of Edo State said that bill “The bill has four clauses. Clause one is the enactment clause. Clause two and three are the amendment clauses, while clause four is the citation clause.”

Ogun said that the need to uphold professionalism for the public good was what motivated them to sponsor the amendment bill.

He also called for the review of the penalties from just N100 to N500,000 and 4 months imprisonment to 3 years.

“The need to have notaries carry out their function with a sense of responsibility and a readiness to promote public good at all times the reason for bringing this amendment bill. Also, the need to discourage persons who are not notaries from performing the functions of a notary also accounts for why I have introduced this bill. Increasing the penalty imposed for the commission of offences under the Act would deter notaries from committing offence(s) under the Act and also prevent non-notaries from impersonating the role and duties of notaries in Nigeria.

“Mr. Speaker and my dear colleagues’ Section 15 of the Act is amended by replacing the word “two” with the word “seven” as follows:

“Any notary public or another person who willfully certifies or propounds any
false statement or document, or who fraudulently or with intent to deceive conceals, withholds, or perverts any fact or document pertinent to the subject of a protest or other notarial act, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction, to imprisonment for a term of seven years.” While section 16 of the Act is amended by replacing N100 with “N500,000″, replacing the phrase “four months” with “three years” and inserting the phrase “or both” after the phrase “four months” as follows:

“Any person who is suspended from practicing as a notary or whose name is
not on the register as a notary who makes, does, exercises or performs any act, matter or thing appertaining or belonging to the office, function or practice of a notary public or who is suspended from practicing as a notary purports to act in any capacity as a notary public is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of N500,000 to imprisonment for a term of three years, or both”, he said.