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Punishment For Impersonation Under Nigerian Criminal Law

Punishment for Impersonation in Nigeria- Here will look at Impersonation under Nigerian Criminal Law: Menace, Definition, Consequences and Punishment.

Like chameleons, people can change when they want to. If they   have to. This is especially seen in the make-believe world where people take on different characters, assume different roles, play different scripts and send out different messages.

Adaptability is also a valued attribute of human beings and even animals. This adaptability is varied in itself and possessed by people in varying volumes.

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Punishment For Impersonation Under Nigerian Criminal  Law
Impersonation Under Nigerian Criminal Law – Photo Source:

This adaptablility helps people to survive, to strive and to  thrive. It makes for versatility in a world submerged by volatility in so many places.

So, it is safe to say that the world is like one big stage where people are at once one thing  and in the same breath another thing.

The law does not ordinarily frown at such   role-playing. In fact, in specific instances like in the creative industry, the law acts to protect role-playing from piracy, for example.

However, when there is fraud, when   there is deceit, when  there  is  a deliberate attempt to mislead or misrepresent, the law slams down the lid, with  feral force.

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What is Impersonation?

The 7th Edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner `s Dictionary, International Student`s Edition, at page 748, defines “ impersonation ” thus:

“To pretend to be somebody    in order to   trick people or to entertain them.”

The Deluxe Ninth Edition of the Black`s Law Dictionary, at page   822  defines “impersonation” thus:

“ The act of impersonating  someone- Also termed personation .

False   impersonation . The crime of falsely representing oneself as another person  , usually a law enforcement officer, for the purpose of deceiving  someone”

The New International Webster`s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language (Deluxe Encyclopedic Edition) at page 634   defines “Impersonation” thus:

“The act  of impersonating.  ”          

The Law Criminalizes Impersonation in many legislations

At this juncture, we must again turn our   attention  to Nigeria`s premier criminal legislation, the Criminal Code Act. Section 484 to 489 of the Criminal Code Act contains poignant provisions that define, punish and seek to cripple the crime of impersonation.

Section 484 defines impersonation in general. It provides thus:

Any person who, with intent to defraud any person, falsely represent himself to be some other person, living or dead, is guilty of a felony  and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

If the representation is that the offender   is a person entitled by will or operation of law to any specific property and he commits the offence to obtain such property or possession thereof, he is liable to imprisonment   for fourteen years.”

Section 485 of the Criminal Code Act provides that “Any person who, without lawful  authority or excuse ,the proof  of which lies on him, makes, in the name of any other person, before any court or person lawfully  authorized  to take such an acknowledgment, an acknowledgment  of liability of any kind, or  an acknowledgment  of deed or other instrument, is guilty of a felony and liable to imprisonment for seven years.”

Impersonation of a person named in a certificate

Section 486 provides that “Any person who  alters any document which has been issued by lawful authority  to another person, and  whereby that other person is  certified  to be a person possessed of any qualification recognized  by law for any purpose, or to be  the holder of any office, or to be entitled  to exercise any profession ,trade, or business, or to  be entitled  to any right or privilege, or to enjoy  any rank or status and falsely  represents himself to be the person named in the document ,is guilty of an offence of the same kind and is liable to the same punishment as if he had forged the document.”

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Lending, etc., certificate for impersonation

Section 487 of the Criminal Code Act provides that “Any person who ,being  a person  to whom any document has been issued by lawful authority whereby  he is certified  to be a person  possessed of any qualification recognized by law for any purpose, or to be  the holder of any office, or to be entitled  to exercise any profession, trade or business, or to be entitled to any right or privilege, or to any rank or status, sells, gives or lends the document to any person with intent that  that other person  may represent himself  to be the person  named therein, is guilty of a felony and he is liable to imprisonment for three years. The offender cannot be arrested without warrant.”

Impersonation of person named in a testimonial or character

Section 488 provides that “Any person   who, with the purpose of obtaining any employment, alters any document of the nature of a testimonial or character given to another person, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for one year.”

Lending, etc., testimonial for impersonation

Section 489 provides that any person who, being a person to whom any such   document   is as is mentioned in Section 488 of the Criminal Code Act has been given, gives, sells or lends such document  to another person with intent  that that other person may alter such document for the purpose of  obtaining any employment, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

As can be seen from the above sections of the Criminal Code Act, the law criminalizes and punishes all forms of impersonation   which  are false and done with intent to defraud. This is because it recognizes the damage that impersonation can do to persons and property.

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The Legal Practitioners Act Forbids Impersonation of Legal Practitioners

Section   22 of the Legal Practitioners Act provides  that:

Subject to the provisions of this section, if any person other than a legal practitioner

a. practices or holds himself out to practice,  a legal practitioner; or

b. takes  or used  the title of legal practititoner ;or

c. willfully takes or uses any name, title, addition or description falsely implying, or otherwise pretends, that he is a legal practitioner  or is qualified or recognized  by law to   act as a legal practitioner; or

d. prepares for or in expectation of reward any instrument relating to immovable property, or relating to or with a view to  the grant of probate or letters of administration, or relating to or with a view to proceedings in any court of record in Nigeria, he is guilty of  an offence and under paragraph (a) of this subsection or a second or subsequent  offence under paragraph (d) of this subsection, to a fine of an amount not exceeding N200 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both such fine and imprisonment, and in any other case to a fine of an amount not exceeding N100. 

The Medical and Dental Practitioners Act forbids impersonation

Section 17 of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act provides that:

a. Subject to subsections (6) and (7) of this section,if any person who is not a registerd medical practitioner-

b. For or in expectation of reward, practices or holds himself out to practice as a medical practitioner; or

c. Takes or uses the title of physician, surgeon, doctor or licentiate of medicine, medical practitioner or apothecary; or

d. Without reasonable excuse takes or uses any name, title, addition or description implying that he is authorized by law to practice as a medical practitioner,he shall be guilty of an offence.

5.    A person who is guilty  of an offence under this section shall be liable-

a. on   summary conviction ,to a fine not exceeding N5,000

b. on conviction or indictment, to a fine not exceeding N10,000 or imprisonment  for a term not exceeding  five years  or to both such fine and imprisonment

Read Also: Criminal Justice System In Nigeria; History, Administration, Objectives, Problems And Effectiveness

Always Remember:

a. That as a Nigerian citizen under Sections 25,26 or 27 of the 1999 Constitution, your fundamental rights are guaranteed under Sections 33 to 46 of the same Constitution.

b. That the Constitution guarantees you equal rights, obligations, opportunities before the law   and   easy accessibility to court under Section 17.

c. That works with a team of lawyers to inform you of your rights, obligations and opportunities under the law.

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Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu is a Legal Practitioner and a Content Developer at InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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