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Can Nigerian Courts Use Documents Not Written In English Language

Can Nigerian Courts Use Documents Not Written In English Language

Can Nigerian Courts Use Documents Not Written In English Language.  Daily Law Tips (Tip 511) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LLM. ACIArb(UK)

In a country of over 200 million people with over 525 local languages and bordered by Francophones countries but with English language as its official language and a very low literacy rate, it is common to find agreements, records and evidence made in languages other than English language. That is the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Since English language is the official language of Nigeria and Nigerians but many Nigerians are not skilled in English language, what will the Nigerian courts do when testimonies, records, documents, electronic evidence and statements are made in any other language? Since all Nigerian judges are highly skilled  in English language and many also in at least one of the 525 local languages, should documents not made in English language be considered by the judges? How can non-English speaking foreigners in Nigeria get justice in Nigerian courts?

There is no better way to predict what the courts will do than through the earlier pronouncements of the judges of superior courts in Nigeria. So, below are the impeccable words of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the Court of Appeal on the above issue.

“I must emphasize that a document not written nor translated in to the language of the Court is inadmissible. See the decision of the Supreme Court in OJENGBEDE v. ESAN (2002) FWLR (Pt.90) 1406 SC; and LAWSON V. AFANI CONTINENTAL CO. (NIG) LTD (2002) FWLR (PT.109) 1736.

“… vernacular language is not the language of the Court. The official language of superior Courts of record in Nigeria is English.”


The decision of the Court of Appeal, in the respective cases, below:


(2015) LPELR-25964(CA)

2. BAKO & ORS v. ABUBAKAR (2014) LPELR-23975(CA)










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