Recently, the Court of Appeal in GTB Plc v. Abiodun (2017) LPELR -42551 (CA) held that a statement on oath or affidavit must comply strictly with Section 13 of the Oaths Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 for it to be valid. In the case, the concluding paragraphs of the statement on oath and further statement on oath in support filed by the respondent read as follows:
"That I swear to this affidavit in truth and in good faith"
"and that I swear to this affidavit in truth and in good faith"
The appellant challenged the validity of the statements on oath on ground that the statements on oath did not comply with the provisions of Section 13 of the Oaths Act which provides as follows:
"It shall be lawful for any commissioner for oaths, notary public or any other person authorised by this Act to administer an oath, to take and receive the declaration of any person voluntarily making the same before him in the form set out in the First Schedule to this Act."
The First Schedule to the Oaths Act provides that oaths shall be in form set out below:
"I ........................... do solemnly and sincerely declare that (set out in numbered paragraphs if more than one matter) and I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of the Oaths Act."
The Court of Appeal upheld the appellant's objection and ruled that statements on oath must comply strictly with the requirements of Section 13 of the Oaths Act. According to the Court of Appeal, Section 13 of the Oaths Act is mandatory and failure to comply is not a mere irregularity that can be waived. The court also held that substantial compliance with Section 13 of the Oaths Act will not suffice. As a result, the respondent's statement on oath was held to be a bare declaration without effect.
This decision of the Court of Appeal, if relied upon by other courts will have a far reaching effect on the validity of numerous cases concluded before various courts in Nigeria because the requirement of Section 13 of the Oaths Act has not been strictly followed in many of cases. Based on this development, legal practitioners are advised to review their drafts of statements on oath/affidavits to ensure they are in strict compliance with the Oaths Act.
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.