The Nigerian Public Officers Protection Act: An Anachronistic Legislation Yearning for Reforms

Abiodun Odusote


The Nigerian Public Officers Protection Act, (POPA) is part of statute of general application and is deeply rooted in the Public Authorities Protection Act of 1893 which has been repealed in England. The original intendment of POPA is to offer special protection to public officers in the performance of their public duties by entrenching a three-month limitation period for action against public officers in the performance of their duties. However, the emerging jurisprudence has interpreted the definition of person to include artificial persons, thereby bringing in more public entities under the protection. In addition, many public authorities enjoy further protection by reason of entitlement to pre action notice as entrenched in their enabling Acts. The effects of the dual protection are the seeming discriminatory and unequal treatment of private corporations and individual vis a vis public authorities. Hence, the widely held view that the dual protection is anachronistic and a clog in the wheel of justice as many litigants have been left without remedy on procedural grounds of non-issuance of pre action notice or failure to institute an action within the three-month limitation period. This paper makes enquiries on whether the dual protection being enjoyed by public officers and institutions constitute impediments to access the court of law and justice. The paper adopts a comparative analysis to investigate the contemporary approaches of a number of countries that have repealed or revised the dual protection offered public authorities. Lessons learned from other jurisdictions formed the basis of final recommendations of the paper which primarily calls for an urgent review of POPA.

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