Appraisal of the Doctrine of Non Est Factum under the Nigerian Law of Contract

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ABSTRACT 

It is the practice in most legal systems and jurisdictions for litigants in cases of fraud, misrepresentation, mistake etc to maintain that documents which they purportedly signed did not represent the exact character, nature or content which they believed the documents contained. Again, illiterate contracting parties often thumb printed on documents which in some instances are incorrectly read over to them as being correct whereas they may not be. These positions have caused a lot of acrimony and disagreement between not only the contracting parties but also to individuals. The essence of this dissertation is therefore to appraise the remedies available to persons or litigants who were induced by fraud, duress, undue influence, misrepresentation etc to sign documents which they signed. The plea is often raised as non est factum suum “what that script says or predicts is not my act”. It is a defence for those who were misled into signing documents fraudulently. This rule originated as a limited defence to the proposition that a person is bound by any document signed by him. It developed in medieval times when few people could read or write and depended on others to accurately describe the contents and meaning of a deed. Thus if the terms of a deed were read or explained in such a manner that the deed did not in fact represent the true intention of the signor, he could escape liability on the basis that he would not have signed had the true situation been revealed to him. This work sets to appraise the rule, its benefits as a check on dishonest contractors who would wish to hide under its cloak to commit fraud. The danger inherent in the invocation of the rule is that the signer of the document must establish that he is neither careless nor negligent. The work discusses various methods of entering into contract as well as some vitiating elements of contract which are or may be said to be because they are analogous to the rule. The overall aim of the work is to find out whether the doctrine is still relevant in the present day Nigeria in view of the literacy level. It proffers advice on how it can be made more relevant due to the prevalence of corruption in the country today. Is the doctrine of non est factum still relevant in the present day Nigeria in view of the stringent conditions in proving it? How can the doctrine be extended for the benefit of disadvantaged people like: the senile, the low intelligent, unsuspecting friends, co-contracting parties and family members, alike, who out of ignorance, trust or friendship are misled into signing documents which are different in character from the ones which they thought they signed? Is there a significant lacuna in the country‟s contract law in respect of the protection of the disadvantaged classes of citizens as contractors and is the law adequate enough to cater for them? The scope covers the law relating to the doctrine of non est factum in Nigeria, and compares it with the Illiterate Protection Act, and other similar legislations. The research adopted expository, analytical and comparative methods, with reliance on primary source materials – statutes and case law, secondary source materials like textbooks, journal articles, workshops, newspapers, magazines and relevant internet materials. It is submits that the doctrine with other associated statutes remain vital in the regulation of the contractual obligations which inhere between illiterates, non illiterates, blind etc and other parties.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

TITLE PAGE.................................................................................................................................... i

CERTIFICATION ........................................................................................................................... ii

DEDICATION................................................................................................................................ iii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS............................................................................................................ iv

TABLE OF CONTENTS................................................................................................................. v

TABLE OF CASES........................................................................................................................ ix

TABLE OF STATUTES................................................................................................................xiv

TABLE OF ABBREVIATIONS ...................................................................................................xvi

ABSTRACT.................................................................................................................................xviii

CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL INTRODUCTION ..........................................................................1

1.1. Background of the Study .................................................................................................1

1.2. Research Questions..........................................................................................................3

1.3. Statement of the Problem.................................................................................................3

1.4. Objectives of the Study....................................................................................................4

1.5. Significance of the Study .................................................................................................5

1.6. Scope of the Study ...........................................................................................................5

1.7. Methodology....................................................................................................................5

1.8. Literature Review.............................................................................................................6

1.9. Organization of the Chapter.............................................................................................7

CHAPTER TWO: THE DOCTRINE OF NON EST FACTUM AND IT‟S APPLICABILITY TO CONTRACTS IN NIGERIA ............................................................9

2.1. Conceptual Framework.........................................................................................................9

2.1.1. Carelessness.............................................................................................................9

2.1.2. Negligence .............................................................................................................10

2.1.3 Duress ....................................................................................................................10

2.1.4 Undue Influence.....................................................................................................11

2.1.5 Fraud ......................................................................................................................11

2.2. Evolution and Development of Law of Contract................................................................11

2.3. Methods of Entry into Contract .....................................................................................13

2.3.1. Oral Contract..........................................................................................................13

2.3.2. Written Contract.....................................................................................................14

2.3.3. Contract made by Conduct (Implied In fact Contract)...........................................16

2.3.4. Electronic Contract ................................................................................................17

2.4. Methods of Electronic Contracting.....................................................................................17

2.4.1. Contract Formation through Electronic Communications...........................................18

2.4.2. Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) Contracts........................................................18

2.4.3. „Click to Agree‟ Contracts...........................................................................................18

2.5. Legal Recognition of Electronic Contracts.........................................................................19

2.5.1. E-mail...........................................................................................................................19

2.5.2. World Wide Web (w.w.w).............................................................................................20

2.6. The relevance and benefits to disadvantaged people in the present day Nigeria ................21

2.6.1. The Illiterate and Non Est Factum...............................................................................22

2.6.2. Uninformed Citizens‟ Insurance Policy Claims and Non Est Factum.........................23

2.6.3 Non Est Factum and the Blind ......................................................................................24

2.6.4. Non Est Factum and Infants.........................................................................................25

2.6.5. Non Est Factum and insane people ..............................................................................26

2.7. Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................28

CHAPTER THREE: NON EST FACTUM AND OTHER VITIATING ELEMENTS OF CONTRACT.........................................................30

3.1. Concept of Vitiating Elements in Contracts .......................................................................30

3.2. Misrepresentation................................................................................................................31

3.2.1. Misrepresentation Act 1967...................................................................................33

3.2.2. Remedies for Misrepresentation ............................................................................33

3.3. Duress .................................................................................................................................36

3.4. Undue Influence..................................................................................................................37

3.5. Illegality..............................................................................................................................38

3.5.1. Consequences of Illegal Contract ................................................................................40

3.6. Mistake................................................................................................................................42

3.6.1. Classifications of Mistake............................................................................................43

3.7. Forms of Equitable Relief...................................................................................................47

3.7.1. Rescission ....................................................................................................................48

3.7.2. Refusal of Specific Performance..................................................................................49

3.7.3. Rectification.................................................................................................................49

3.8. Some Lacuna in the Nigeria‟s Law of Contract Inhibiting Non Est Factum in Justice Delivery to the Less Fortunate...........................50

3.8.1. Delays in Justice Delivery............................................................................................51

3.8.2. High Costs of Litigations.............................................................................................53

3.8.3. Problem of Corrupt Judges ..........................................................................................54

3.8.4. Corrupt Law Enforcement Agents...............................................................................55

3.8.5. Lack of Equal Access to Justice...................................................................................56

3.8.6. Reliance on Technicalities...........................................................................................57

3.9. Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................57

CHAPTER FOUR: NON EST FACTUM IN THE CONTEXT OF CONTRACTS OF GUARANTEE........................................................................59

4.1. Non Est Factum and Contracts of Guarantee.....................................................................59

4.2. Restrictions and Limitations in the Applicability of non est factum in Guarantee Cases...68

4.3. Relevance of the plea of non est factum in Guarantee Cases .............................................72

4.4. Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................74

CHAPTER FIVE: APPLICABILITY OF NON EST FACTUM IN RELATION TO ILLITERATES PROTECTION ACT AND ILLITERACY RATIO. ...........................................77

5.1. An Overview of the plea of non est factum ........................................................................77

5.2. Applicability of the Doctrine ..............................................................................................80

5.3. Non est factum and Illiterate Protection .............................................................................83

5.3.1. Historical Antecedents of the Illiterate Protection Act ................................................83

5.3.2. The Legislative Intendment of the Illiterate Protection Act.........................................85

5.3.3. Non est factum and Section 3 of the Illiterate Protection Act ......................................88

5.4. Rate of Illiteracy and Public Awareness of the Doctrine in Nigeria...................................90

5.5. Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................94

CHAPTER SIX: SUMMARY, RECOMMENDATION AND CONCLUSION...........................95

6.1. Summary of Findings..........................................................................................................95

6.2. Recommendations...............................................................................................................96

6.2.1. Legislative....................................................................................................................96

6.2.2. Executive......................................................................................................................97

6.2.3. Judicial .........................................................................................................................97

6.3. Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................98

BIBLIOGRAPHY..........................................................................................................................99

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APA

Consults, E. & PHILIP, I (2022). Appraisal of the Doctrine of Non Est Factum under the Nigerian Law of Contract. Afribary. Retrieved from https://afribary.com/works/appraisal-of-the-doctrine-of-non-est-factum-under-the-nigerian-law-of-contract

MLA 8th

Consults, Education, and IBEKWE PHILIP "Appraisal of the Doctrine of Non Est Factum under the Nigerian Law of Contract" Afribary. Afribary, 09 Nov. 2022, https://afribary.com/works/appraisal-of-the-doctrine-of-non-est-factum-under-the-nigerian-law-of-contract. Accessed 06 Dec. 2022.

MLA7

Consults, Education, and IBEKWE PHILIP . "Appraisal of the Doctrine of Non Est Factum under the Nigerian Law of Contract". Afribary, Afribary, 09 Nov. 2022. Web. 06 Dec. 2022. < https://afribary.com/works/appraisal-of-the-doctrine-of-non-est-factum-under-the-nigerian-law-of-contract >.

Chicago

Consults, Education and PHILIP, IBEKWE . "Appraisal of the Doctrine of Non Est Factum under the Nigerian Law of Contract" Afribary (2022). Accessed December 06, 2022. https://afribary.com/works/appraisal-of-the-doctrine-of-non-est-factum-under-the-nigerian-law-of-contract