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Small claims courts take off in Kano, Lagos to ease congestion

As part of efforts to providing easy access to cost-effective and fast resolution of commercial disputes, two states of the federation have inaugurated the small…

As part of efforts to providing easy access to cost-effective and fast resolution of commercial disputes, two states of the federation have inaugurated the small claims court.

Kano State launched its small claims court on January 24, 2019 at the Judicial Service Commission, Audu Bako Secretariat, Kano and was attended by the Ag. Chief Judge, Attorney General, judges of the High Court, magistrates, judicial officers and members of the bar.

Earlier, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, in April 2018, inaugurated the Lagos small claims courts.

Stakeholders in the judiciary believe that efficient courts are features of developed countries like Britain, Russia, America, Japan.

The inauguration of the small claims courts in both states was in collaboration with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and in line with enabling business environment reforms across all arms of government aimed at making Nigeria a progressively easier place to do business.

The objective of the small claims court’s procedure is to provide easy access to an informal, inexpensive and speedy resolution of simple debt recovery disputes in the magistrate courts of claims, not exceeding N5 million.

All claims which are filed at the small claims court are expected to be heard and determined within a maximum period of 60 days, with a further 30 days for enforcement. Only one adjournment is allowed under exceptional circumstances.

In addition, magistrates are to hear matters daily to conclusion, and are enjoined to promote, encourage and facilitate negotiation among parties. The court also encourages self-representation, and adhere to strict timelines for following key specified court events.

The small claims court is regulated by the Practice Directions on Small Claims 2018 issued by the Chief Judges (CJs) of both states.

In her remarks at the Kano launch, PEBEC Secretary and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, said; “The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council continues to collaborate with the Kano State Government, including the Kano State Judiciary, on business climate reforms for the state.

“The launch of the Small Claims Court is further proof of our successful collaboration, and how working together can yield great results,” she stated.

While congratulating the Acting Chief Registrar and the entire Kano State Judiciary on the successful commissioning of the Small Claims Court, Dr. Oduwole implored all small businesses to take advantage of the courts and to tell more stakeholders about them.

She said in order to ensure effectiveness of the court, PEBEC also conducted a 2-day training for magistrates and court officials in collaboration with leading commercial law firms in Nigeria.

The establishment of the courts, according to stakeholders in the judiciary, would complement the efforts of the Kano State’s administration which is geared towards enhancing justice delivery in the state.

The Small Claims Court is regulated by the Practice Directions on Small Claims 2018 issued by the Chief Judge of Kano State pursuant to the Magistrate Court Law of 2018.

It was gathered that there is a plan to have the small claims court handbook printed in other languages, including Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo and Pidgin English, to encourage the use of the procedure and self-representation by semi illiterates and illiterates.

Following the establishment of the Small Claims Court in Lagos in April 2018, it is reported that 90% of judgments delivered from May to September 2018 were delivered within the 60-day timeline in compliance with the Lagos State Magistrates’ Practice Directions on Small Claims.

This, according to experts, indicates substantial compliance in terms of timely disposition of matters. Prior to the establishment of the Small Claims Court, the 2019 World Bank Doing Business report stated that it took 447 days for matters to be resolved with the commercial court at the Lagos State Judiciary, and it currently takes 476 days for the court in Kano.

PEBEC was established in 2016 to oversee Nigeria’s business climate reform agenda, and is chaired by His Excellency the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).

PEBEC’s model aligns with global best practice and includes a strong performance tracking element that is measured by the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index (DBI), which is reported annually.

The DBI is an annual ranking that objectively assesses prevailing business climate conditions across 190 countries based on 10 Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) indicators.

The Index offers comparative insights based on private sector validation of reforms delivered in the two largest commercial cities in countries with a population higher than 100 million. For Nigeria, the DBI tracks both Lagos and Kano states, being the two largest business cities in the country. The reform area/indicator known as Enforcing Contracts focuses mainly on the reforms of the judiciary and how cases are handled in the Small Claims Court within the state – from filing to delivery and enforcement of judgement.


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