Federal High Court of Nigeria introduces e-affidavit system

On the 7th of June 2024, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria issued a Practice Direction which will allow litigants to depose to affidavits electronically at the Federal High Court. The Practice Direction known as the Federal High Court (Practice Direction on E-Affidavit), 2024  came into effect on 1 July 2024. The Practice Direction was issued by the Chief Judge pursuant to Orders 57 and 58 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019. This article examines the objectives of the new Practice Direction, the procedure for obtaining the e-affidavit as well as the prospective benefits and challenges of the new system.


Objectives of the practice direction

Presently, persons wishing to depose to affidavits have to physically present themselves in court to depose to an affidavit before the Commissioner for Oaths. This procedure is highly cumbersome and time-consuming. The Practice Direction on e-affidavit seeks to enhance efficient and prompt deposition of affidavits by electronic means upon payment of prescribed fees. The new system, however, does not replace the manual deposition of affidavits before a Commissioner for Oaths but complements it. Thus, deponents have the choice to either visit the office of a Commissioner for Oaths to swear to affidavits or do so electronically. The Practice Direction recognises that e-affidavits issued by the Federal High Court are accepted globally and aims to ensure that the data provided for e-affidavit purposes are well secured and protected in an automated and user-friendly system.


Procedure for e-affidavit

When the system becomes operational, any litigant or individual who wishes to electronically depose to an affidavit will be able to do so via an online application on the official website of the Federal High Court or any other platform approved by the Chief Judge for that purpose. The e-affidavit shall be in an electronic format with such specialised features as may be approved by the Court.

It is expected that a software will be developed for the e-affidavit system. The e-affidavit system will be implemented and/or managed by the e-filing unit of the Federal High Court under the supervision of the Deputy Chief Registrar (Litigation).  The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court is also expected to set up a task force for implementing the e-affidavit system.


Potential benefits and challenges

The issuance of the Practice Direction on e-affidavit is a groundbreaking initiative by the Federal High Court aimed at modernizing Nigeria’s judicial processes. The system is expected to ease the burden on litigants and other users of affidavits as they will no longer have to physically visit the courts to depose to affidavits. More so, for foreign Nationals or even Nigerians who are resident abroad but have the need to depose to affidavits before the Federal High Court in Nigeria in relation to a pending suit or for any other purpose.

Notwithstanding the potential benefits highlighted above, the e-affidavit system may raise cyber security and data protection issues for prospective users. It is therefore imperative that adequate measures are put in place to ensure the security, protection and confidentiality of user data. In this regard, the Federal High Court has a responsibility to align its data protection and privacy policies with relevant provisions of the Nigerian Data Protection Act and the Regulations made pursuant to it. Where the Chief Judge approves the use of a platform different from the official website of the Federal High Court for implementing the Practice Direction, it is expected that the same data protection measures will apply to such platform. This will give confidence and assurance to prospective users of the e-affidavit system as to the safety of their personal data.


The introduction of the Practice Direction on e-affidavit by the Chief Judge of the Federal Court is a laudable initiative. We look forward to its full implementation while awaiting further directives on the modalities and cost of procuring the e-affidavit. We recommend that the e-affidavit task force, once set up by the Chief Judge, takes necessary steps to ensure that personal data of users are adequately protected. We also recommend that the e-filing unit, once inaugurated, takes steps to enlighten the public on the use of the e-affidavit system.



Read the original publication at Dentons ACAS Law

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