Know Your Rights as a Tenant in Nigeria

It is a known fact that searching for an apartment in Nigeria is an overwhelming task. Usually, you’d find that either the houses within your budget do not meet your standards or the houses that meet your expectations are way above your budget. Now, imagine going through all of that stress and not being aware of your rights as a tenant after you’ve settled for a house. Sad, right?

It’s okay if you have made mistakes in the past. This post outlines crucial rights you should know and demand if they’re not in place.

  1. Right to the issuance of receipt of payment: Once you have paid your rent, you should request for a receipt of payment signed by either the landlord, his lawyer or any authorized agent acting on his behalf. The receipt will be prima facie evidence of your right to the property you have rented. It should show the amount paid and also the location of the property. In Lagos, for instance, failure to issue a receipt of payment is an offence under the Lagos Tenancy Law.
  1. Right to a written agreement: Even though the law permits for oral tenancy agreement, it is advisable to opt for a written agreement because that way, it is easier to prove in the court of law. Be careful, however; ensure the written agreement is fit for the purpose of the contract you plan on entering into. There’s nothing safer than having your lawyer go through it to make sure it represents all your interests.
  1. Right to exclusive possession: The minute you have entered into a contract with the landlord, you have exclusive rights to the property pending the period of your tenancy. As such, your landlord has no right to enter into your property without your permission. Doing so is considered to be trespassing. Even maintenance of the property has to be done with your approval because of your exclusive possession during the duration of your tenancy. You also have the right to use the property as you wish subject to the covenants agreed in the contract. 
  1. Right to notice to quit before eviction: This is one right you must never forget because Nigerian tenants are usually ignorant this. Before you are evicted from the property you have rented, you must be given a quit notice, and the number of days is subject to the period of your tenancy:
  • A one-year (or above) tenancy will require at least a notice of 6 months
  • A one-month tenancy will require a minimum notice of one month
  • A one-week tenancy will require a minimum notice of one week

After this, you also entitled to a 7-day notice to recover possession. If all of these steps aren’t carried out, the landlord will not have the right to an action for eviction in court.

  1. Right to habitable premises: The property which you are renting has to be fit for the purpose of which you are renting it whether it is for living or office work. All latent defects in the house have to be fixed by the landlord. This also applies to issues that have to deal with fixtures or reasonable wear and tears to the building.

Regardless of how much you paid for rent or what type of building you are renting, your landlord owes you all the rights mentioned above as the law is very clear on these terms. The safest way to avoid being manipulated by landlords is to ensure that you are armed with a lawyer and a real estate agent right from the negotiation to the conclusion stage.

Fake News: “It’s Just a Prank” as a Defence to Online Defamation

The reign of social media comes with a lot of user-generated content being posted on various online platforms. As a result, there seems to be a blurred line between what is true or not and what was intended to be malicious or not. If you are familiar with the streets of social media, especially Twitter and Instagram, you would have come across a lot of fake news being peddled around but covered up as pranks once they are flagged or called out. Hence, this question arises — Is the excuse of  “It’s just a prank” enough defence against a defamation suit?

Defamation can be defined as the act of injuring a person’s character, fame or reputation by false and malicious statements. Defamation can either be libel (written defamation) or slander(oral defamation). To determine whether a tweet or post is defamation,  it has to be shown that it is a lie; there has to be actual harm to the person’s reputation, and there must be evidence of the post. The law will view a funny skit, satire or prank as more than just a post if it is injurious to someone’s character.

Ask yourself if your “prank” falls under an established defence for spreading defamatory news. In Nigeria, a few defences have been stated as to when fake news might not be deemed as online defamation. They include fair comment, a statement made about a public person without malice or minor errors in reporting such as age, title or wrong address. As captured above, pranks are not mentioned as a defence to online defamation. You should, therefore, be careful what you post under this guise and ensure it is not defaming anyone. The cases on online defamation are very limited which means as a blogger or a vlogger or even a social media user you need to take extra precautions before posting anything online because you are not sure of the full extent of the law on this matter.

As a blogger or online enthusiast, you might consider an online post, comment, or skit to be harmless online banter, but the law views it differently if causes an injury to a person’s character. The law appropriates some degree of responsibility on the maker of the post and evaluates the targeted effect it has on the readers or viewers of the post. So, before you hit the “Publish” button, ensure that it does not defame anyone because you will be held accountable for it. 

Is Bleaching a Crime? (An Exposé on Cosmetic Product Regulations)

There are always trends fleeting in and out of  Nigeria, coming with various seasons and fading out as soon as a new trend sets in.  However, bleaching has been a constant trend in Nigeria, probably because there is a stereotype that being light-skinned makes you “more attractive” or noticeable. This has led to a fast-growing cosmetic industry, with few of them coming off as natural lightening agents.

The use of social media as a commercial hub has made it easy for the sale of these cosmetic products without any form of regulation. It has become easy to cook up some concoction at the back of your house, create some explicit branding, put some stickers on it, and sell it off on Instagram or Twitter as the one true natural brand. A lot of these vendors haven’t been within the four walls of a cosmetology school and many Nigerians have fallen victims of these non-licensed brands, getting their skins damaged as a result of the poorly regulated cosmetic sector. A video trended recently on Twitter showing a lady who went to “peel her skin” at a “bleaching shop” and it was alarming to see them scraping off layers of her skin in an effort to bleach her skin.

Interest piqued, some research was conducted, and it is very interesting to realize that there is actually a law that regulates skin bleaching and cosmetics generally. Have you ever heard of any law referred to as the  “Cosmetics Product Prohibition of Bleaching Agents Regulations, 2018”? Fascinating, right?  When this law was enacted, it repealed the former law on bleaching made in 2005. That means the currently existing law is not the first of its kind. Basically, the law prohibits the use of certain active chemicals used in bleaching. Chemicals like 1% of Hydroquinone and Arbutin as combined ingredients, Mercury and Corticosteroids were listed in Schedule A of this law as prohibited for cosmetics. This sparks the question, “Is bleaching a crime in Nigeria?”

According to the law, the act of bleaching itself is not an offence but the making of these bleaching products is the offence. The law clearly states that anybody found making cosmetics with these ingredients is liable to a term of jail not exceeding one year and or a fine of 50,000 Naira. If it is a corporate body, the company will pay a fine of 100,000 Naira and its directors or person involved in its management will be liable for a jail term.

This law is a big caveat for vendors who are into making a diverse range of bleaching products with the above listed active ingredients because ignorance is not a defence according to the law. So cosmetics vendors, read the law and beware.

Is the social media bill an infringement on the fundamental human rights?

What do you think about when you hear the term social media? Posting pictures on Instagram?, tweeting?, or maybe even chatting on Whatsapp?. Over the years, social media has evolved to become more. It is now a hub for commerce as many people carry their day to day business activities on these platforms.

Recently a bill referred to as the “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill 2019”, aka Social Media Bill passed the first reading in the Nigerian Senate. Let’s backtrack a bit, in 2015, the Nigerian Senate had tried to pass a similar bill referred to as  “Frivolous Petitions (Prohibition) Bill 2015”. However, this bill met a lot of protests and it was quashed. The whole idea behind the bill is to curtail the spread of false information. If found guilty of spreading such information, you are liable to a fine of  ₦300,000, 3 years imprisonment, or both (for an individual), and a fine not exceeding ₦10 million for corporate organisations. This sounds fair, right? Reading further into the bill, it includes provisions that allow the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to authorize internet service providers to shut down the internet.     

Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended in Section 39 states that ”Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”. The constitution is the grund norm in Nigeria, that is every other law is subject to the provisions stated in it. Now, taking a look at this provision and the provision of the Social Media Bill, there seems to be a head butt between the constitution and the bill. The people that will be affected by this bill aren’t just the tweeters or the posters; it also cuts across social media influencers,  Youtube vloggers, online/print newspapers, and podcasts. Even your internet banking would be affected as there would be no internet to go online and use the bank’s mobile apps. So imagine waking up and not being able to do all of these things anymore because the Government is not comfortable with your use of the internet.

Nigeria is not the first African country that has attempted to pass this bill. In fact, it is the law in some African countries such as The Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Chad, Gabon et.c and internet services have been shut down periodically. Passing this bill in Nigeria will have a huge impact on the Nigerian e-commerce sphere as we are one of the biggest hubs of e-commerce in Africa. It will also imply that we don’t have any regard for the constitution which is the highest point of law in Nigeria.