A co-operative society is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily with the aim of promoting the socio-economic interests of its members in accordance with co-operative principles and facilitating the operation of those principles. Upon registration, it acquires the status of a body corporate by the name under which it is registered, with perpetual succession and a common seal with power to;

(i) hold movable and immovable property of any description

(ii) enter into contracts

(iii) institute and defend suits and other legal proceedings in its name; and

(iv) do all things necessary for the purpose of its constitution.                                           

In Nigeria, co-operative societies are governed by the Nigerian Cooperative Societies Act which sets out regulations as to how it can be registered as well as carry out its activities. However, the Act has been repealed in various states and is governed by Cooperative Societies Law of such states. The registration of corporative societies in Nigeria is done at designated cooperative society ministries in the various states. The Act gives power to the Governor of each state to appoint a Director of Co-operatives as well as a person(s) to assist him/her in the discharge of duties. The Director of Co-operatives is in charge of registering and regulating Cooperatives across various states.


The Co-operative Societies Act (including laws of various states) provide for three classes of Co-operatives. They are;

1. Primary Societies; These are registered societies consisting of individuals as members.

2. State Apex or Secondary Societies; These are registered societies established to facilitate the operations of registered societies in accordance with co-operative principles and includes a central financing society. They are mostly formed by a number of primary Co-operatives. They cover wider areas of operation. They are sometimes called regional co-operatives.

3. Federal Apex Society; Consists of at least five registered State apex societies.

In practice, classifications and types of Co-operatives could be based on numerous factors such as; function performed, the legal status of the Co-operative, geographical location, organization level of operation, the sector of the economy, economic status of members, number of fields of operation, the size of membership, the management and the members.

Some of the types of Co-operative Societies we have in Nigeria are;

a. Co-operative Multipurpose Societies; These societies serve the function of many purposes designed for the benefit of the numbers.

b. Agricultural Co-operatives Societies; These are societies usually formed by farmers. The primary reason for such Co-operatives is to enable members to benefit from special services, such as: receiving loans, farm inputs such as fertilizer, professional advice, etc.

c. Co-operatives Thrift and Credit Societies; A Co-operative Thrift and Credit Society is very popular in Nigeria. Members mobilize funds among themselves through fees such as; entrance fees, savings, and fines among others, paid by them. Funds can also be procured from financial houses or financial institutions.

d. Co-operatives Investment and Credit Societies; The essence of forming such co-operative is for members to invest funds on profitable investments that can yield good dividends. Popular areas where funds are invested are; buying land collectively and sharing it among the members, buying shares of profitable business organizations, etc.

e. Transport Co-operatives Societies; This entails a group of drivers coming together to promote their mutual interests such as; enabling drivers to own a car or vehicle, which will be used for commercial purposes, for the society to purchase on behalf of the owners’ motor spare parts, lubricants, and accessories which are sold to the drivers who own their vehicles besides the Co-operative motors(s), at good prices.

f. Artisan Co-operatives Societies; Membership consists of individuals in the informal sector of the economy such as; Carpenters, Bricklayers, Tailors e.t.c

g. Consumer Co-operatives Societies; The motive for people coming together to form a consumer Co-operative Society is to procure essential goods at reasonable prices.  Members pool resources together and go in search of suppliers who can sell the goods at good prices to them.


A primary co-operative (consisting of individuals), must have a minimum of ten members. The Act and the various State laws do not state the maximum number of members it should have. However, co-operatives are at liberty to specify the maximum number of members it’s required to have after registration.

Members can hold shares in a co-operative, but it must not exceed one-fifth of the share capital of such a society.

To qualify as a member of a co-operative, a member must;

a) Attain the age of sixteen years. This age limit shall not apply in the case of a school co-operative society.

b) Resides within the society’s area of operation. This does not apply in the case of a credit society.

Under Section 23 of the Co-operative Societies Law of Cross River State;

a) A pupil above 8 years of age is qualified to be a member of a school society.

b) An apprentice below 16 years is qualified to be a member of a productive society of craftsmen.

c) A family member may qualify for membership of a co-operative society in cases where such family member is nominated to receive a transfer of shares or interest of a deceased member of such society.


1. Submit an application to register containing;

i) Proposed name of the co-operative

ii) Address of the co-operative (for inspection and verification)

iii) Names, positions, and phone numbers of executive officers of the co-operative (the number of members of the co-operative must be a minimum of 10)

iv) Objectives of the co-operative

2. Pay statutory fees

3. Upon confirmation of the availability of the proposed name, registration, and verification of the address are carried out.

4. After verification, a letter of recognition is issued if the Director of Co-operatives is satisfied. This letter gives the cooperative approval to operate as a cooperative society for three years.


1. Submit an application to the Director of Co-operatives at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Cooperatives requesting to be registered as a co-operative society.

2. The application must be duly signed by the required number of members. Details of members are submitted with the application.

3. The applicant pays the prescribed fees

4. A name search is conducted to ascertain the availability.

5. After ascertaining the availability of the proposed name, an inspection of the co-operative society’s premises is carried out by officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

6. Upon availability being confirmed, a stamp bearing the cooperative’s name and logo with the other documents is submitted for verification and approval.

7. After verification, if the Director of Cooperatives is satisfied, a letter of recognition is issued. This letter gives the cooperative approval to operate as a cooperative society for three years.

8. A certificate of registration with a certified copy of the by-laws governing the cooperative will be issued for three years.


To register a Co-operative Society in Abia State, you are to provide the following;

1. Proposed name of the Co-operative

2. Address of the Co-operative

3. A brief description of the Co-operative

4. Names, phone numbers, email, and address of members

5. Constitution of the Co-operative (can be prepared by the lawyer or law firm applying on your behalf)

Co-operative societies are exempted from paying stamp duties, registration fees relating to the registration of land instruments and income tax.  See Section 19 (1), Paragraph 22 of the Third Schedule of the Personal Income Tax Act (as amended), Section 23 (1) (b) of the Companies Income Tax Act, CAP. C21, and Section 26 (1) (c) of the Capital Gains Tax Act, CAP. C1.

Registering a co-operative comes with numerous advantages such as; ease of registration, affordability, separate legal entity status, tax exemptions, creation of a separate legal entity, etc. But like companies, the operation of cooperative societies is technical as they are regulated by statute.

If you would like to set up your co-operative or know more about how co-operatives work, you may reach out to us HERE. We look forward to hearing from you.

Cynthia Tishion
Cynthia is a lawyer and currently serves as Head of Corporate / Commercial Services at LEX – PRAXIS. With her passion for business and entrepreneurship, she is actively engaged in creating awareness on the legal aspect of businesses through various platforms such as writing, public speaking engagements.

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