ENFORCING CONTRACTS

Improved Judicial Process For Faster Dispute Resolution

With the introduction of small claims court by the Lagos State Judiciary & Kano State Judiciary in collaboration with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), resolving commercial disputes has become more faster, efficient, and affordable.

The objective of the court is to improve the judicial process by providing easy access to cost-effective resolution of debt recovery disputes involving small claims of five million naira (N5m) and below.

Reforms that have been implemented for ease of Enforcing Contracts

Establishment of specialized small claims commercial courts in Lagos and Kano States.


Impact

  • Reduced time taken to resolve small commercial claims for SMEs to 60 days (by The Practice Directions) within which the entire proceedings (from trial to judgment) are to be concluded.
  • Improved court efficiency and faster resolution of cases involving liquidated debts of N5 million and below.
  • Decongestion in the matters brought before the High courts and magistrate courts

Establishment of specialized small claims commercial courts in Lagos and Kano States.

Simplified filing claims process

Impact

  • Forms have been provided which makes it easy for a claimant/plaintiff to complete the filing claim process
  • The process of filing a claim is now faster and easier as the court registrars have been trained to assist the claimants/plaintiffs through the simple process with the simplified forms provided.

Efficient Case Management Procedures in small case courts in Lagos and Kano states


Impact

  • Introduction of pre-trial conference for specialized small claims commercial courts in Lagos and Kano States to discuss and give directions for hearing a claim or counterclaim when parties are unable to settle amicably
  • A lawyer is not necessarily needed in the court as the claimant/plaintiff can represent him/herself, thereby reducing cost and fast-tracking the process.
  • Only one adjournment now allowed

Efficient Case Management Procedures in small case courts in Lagos and Kano states

Small claims commercial court handled by trained Magistrate and court officials

Impact

  • Under the Practice Directions, Magistrates are charged to promote, encourage and facilitate negotiation among the parties which fosters faster dispensation of commercial disputes
  • Increased efficiency and quicker resolution of disputes as the trained court registrars assist a claimant in filing claims process

Publication of Court of Appeal judgments online


Impact

  • Claimants/plaintiffs can easily have access to published Court of Appeal judgments electronically which fosters improved transparency and efficiency.

Publication of Court of Appeal judgments online

About the Small Claims Court

The small claims commercial court is a specialized court charged with settling commercial disputes involving liquidated money demands of up to N5 million and below. The Small Claims Court is regulated by the Magistrates’ Court Law (Practice Directions on Small Claims) 2018 (Practice Directions) of Lagos and Kano State respectively



Lagos state: Fifteen (15) magistrate courts were designated as small claims courts by the Honourable Chief Judge of Lagos State who issued the Practice Directions, pursuant to the powers conferred by the Lagos State Magistrate Court Law of 2009, High Court Law of Lagos State and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)

Kano state: Five (5) magistrate courts were designated as small claims courts by the Acting Chief Judge of Kano State who issued the Practice Directions, pursuant to the powers conferred by the Kano State Magistrate Court Law of 2018, High Court Law of Kano State and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)

Features:

1

Strict timelines are in place for the following key court activities:

  • service of process - within 7 days of filing of court summons
  • filing of the statement of defence - within 7 days of service of summons
  • delivery of final judgment - within 14 days of the completion of hearing
  • the entire proceedings from filing to judgment- within 6o days

2

A pre-trial conference is held in the event that parties are unable to settle amicably in order to discuss and give directions for hearing a claim or counterclaim including;

  • Scheduling a hearing timetable,
  • Case complexity and expected length of trial,
  • The possibility of settlement,
  • Exchange of witness lists,
  • Evidence,
  • Jurisdiction and other procedural issues and
  • Narrowing down of contentious issues

3

Magistrates are expected to hear matters daily and only one adjournment is allowed under exceptional and unforeseen circumstances.


4

Self-representation is encouraged by the courts

5

In the interest of Justice, the court may relax the application of the rules of evidence

6

Magistrates are required to promote, encourage and facilitate negotiation among parties i.e. promotion of the use of Alternative Dispute Mechanisms (ADR).

REFORM OUTCOMES

Following the establishment of fifteen Small Claims Courts in Lagos in April 2018, 90% of judgments delivered from May to September were delivered within the 60-day timeline in compliance with the Lagos State Magistrates’ Courts Law (Practice Directions on Small Claims 2018).

Lagos State Judiciary

Website - https://lagosjudiciary.gov.ng

Office address - Lagos State Judiciary Oba Akinjobi Way Ikeja, Lagos

Phone - +234 812 477 7984

Email - support@lagosjudiciary.gov.ng

Kano State Judiciary

Office address - Audu Bako Secretariat, Nassarawa Road Kano

Phone - + 234 64 664549

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