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How small claim courts reduce duration of cases

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The inauguration of the Small Claims Court in Kano State as part of the efforts by the federal government to fast track justice delivery and improve judicial process for prompt resolution of commercial disputes involving small claims of up to N5m and below has reduced the duration of cases in courts.

The objective of those courts, which was also established in Lagos State last year, is to provide easy access, cost effective and speedy resolution for debt recovery disputes in the Magistrate Courts.

Prior to the establishment of the Small Claims Courts, the Doing Business report states that it took 447 days, approximately one year and three months for matters to be resolved with the commercial courts at the Lagos State Judiciary and 476 days for the courts in Kano. But today, the time has been abridged to only 60 days, amounting to just six months.

The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), a World Bank initiative, under the office of the Vice President on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria, has selected two states, Lagos and Kano State to pilot this initiative, being the two largest business cities in Nigeria.

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 all the way to delivery and enforcement of judgement.

Nigeria currently ranks 92 in the world out of 190 economies, an indication of the significant need for improvement to translate towards an upward movement on the World Bank Rankings.

Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment (Office of the Vice President), Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, in her remarks at the occasion, said: “Since the establishment of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) in 2016, we have continued 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 Courts is a proof of our successful collaboration and how working together can yield great results.

“These courts are set to make judicial dispensation easier in Kano State and the proceedings will be regulated by the Practice Directions on Small Claims 2018 “Practice Directions” issued pursuant to the Magistrate Court Law of 2009. All claims filed at the Small Claims Court are expected to be heard and judgment delivered within a maximum period of 60 days.

“I implore all stakeholders to take advantage of the Small Claims Courts; tell more stakeholders about the courts. It can only be as efficient as we want it to be if we engage and use them. We know that with committed hands, unrelenting support and our continued collaboration with the Kano State Judiciary, the judiciary will be as strong as we all desire it to be.”

The inauguration of the Small Claims Court, which was held in Kano was attended by the acting Chief Judge of Kano State, Attorney General of Kano State, Judges of the High Court of Kano State, Magistrates, Judicial officers and members of the bar.

In Lagos where the policy had taken off since last year, 192 matters were instituted across the 15 Small Claims Courts in Lagos.

Out of the 192 handled between May and September 2018, judgments were delivered in 80 matters, 72 of which were delivered within the 60 days timeline in compliance with the Lagos State Magistrates’ Practice Directions on Small Claims. This reflects 90 percent of the judgments delivered between May and September 2018, which indicates substantial compliance in terms of timely disposition of matters.

However, eight percent of the adjudged matters exceeded the 60 days time limit. The following reasons were given for this default – absence of magistrate due to work leave, absence of magistrate due to ill health and parties’ or their counsel if any, non-attendance in court.

It was observed that out of 80 judgments delivered, 35 were consent judgments. This accounts for 43.8 percent of judgments delivered altogether, which resulted in settlement of terms and quick deposition of the related matters.


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