There is a movie (I can’t remember the title now) by the veteran actor -Nkem Owoh (Osuofia)-, wherein the actor insisted that no matter how harsh an agreement may be, the agreement is still an agreement (Agreement Na Agreement Principle). Following the Nkem Owoh’s principle of “Agreement Na Agreement Principle”, once there is an agreement, the agreement is valid between the makers. Let us find out what the Nigerian law says about this principle.
An agreement (contract) can be made orally or in writing. A contract is “legal” when it contains the essentials of a contract which makes it enforceable in court and accords it a legal beam. For example, an agreement made by two adults for the supply of cannabis (Indian hemp), human parts and stolen cars cannot be said to be a Legal Contract in Nigeria. It is surely, not a legal contract because the subject-matters (Indian hemp, human parts and stolen cars) are illegal; hence such a contract can never be enforceable (recognisable) in law.
An agreement can be written on a cartoon, wall, tissue paper, match box, sugar packet or on anything that can accept marks and can be written on. With the federal law on evidence in Nigeria (Evidence Act made in 2011), written agreements can be made through exchange of mobile phone text messages, emails, whatsapp, blackberry pings, yahoo chats, 2go and other electronic devices and platforms.
An agreement can be made by the parties to the agreement, with or without the services of a legal practitioner. In all parts of Nigeria, only legal practitioners have the powers to charge fees and prepare any document relating to rent, tenancy, lease, mortgage, sale, transfer, gift, land, landed property, extracted and not-extracted minerals resources, mines, buildings, structures or relating to probate, letters of administration or any proceedings in court in Nigeria.
When Can An Agreement Be Taken To Court/Notary Public:
An agreement is an agreement and there is no need for an agreement to be registered in court, for the agreement to be valid. However, there are only 2 circumstances where an agreement can be taken to a court or notary public for authentication. The first circumstance is compulsory and it is where any of the parties to an agreement is an illiterate.
Where a party to an agreement is an illiterate, the illiterate must be protected as provided in our laws; Illiterates Protection Laws. Such an agreement must contain a “Jurat”. A Jurat is an undertaking to be signed be person (Interpreter) other than the parties to the agreement, stating that he/she had read and interpreted the agreement to the illiterate in the language of the illiterate, and that the illiterate appears to have understood it all. This is one of the special contracts, which must be made before a Notary Public or a Commission of Oath.
The last circumstance where a document may be to be taken to court or a notary public is where the document is a “Power of Attorney” and it is optional. A power of attorney may be taken to a court or notary public for the “Power of Attorney” to have a higher evidential value. By evidential value, it means that the courts will presume and refer to the document as properly made and signed unless proven otherwise, so far as it is stamped (authenticated) by a notary public or any court, judge, magistrate, consul, representative of Nigeria or the President of Nigeria.