The judgment of a court of a foreign country may be enforced through a Nigerian High Court either by way of an action at common law or by reciprocal enforcement.

The principal legislation guiding the enforcement of foreign judgements in Nigeria is the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, CAP F 35, LFN 1990.

The parties in a suit seeking the enforcement of judgements are designated as judgement creditor(party seeking to enforce) and judgement debtor (party whose enforcement is sought against).

Enforcement of Foreign Judgement by Action at Common Law

At common law, a judgment of the court of one country may be enforced in another foreign country by way of an action commenced in the court of the foreign country, with the judgment being the cause of action.

The judgment creditor must then institute an action in a Nigerian court claiming the reliefs granted him in the foreign court.

The judgment then shall be the main cause of action and the action need not go through the rudiments of a substantive trial. Only the judgments of a superior court of a foreign country will be enforced in Nigeria and this can only be done by a High Court in Nigeria.

The foreign court must be a court of an equivalent status with the Nigerian High Court or more.

The foreign judgment may be enforced in a Nigerian High Court irrespective of whether or not the foreign court would reciprocally enforce judgments of Nigerian courts.

For the enforcement action to be successful, the foreign judgment must meet the following requirements:

(a) The judgment must be final and conclusive;

(b) The judgment must have been delivered by a competent court in terms of jurisdiction;

(c) The judgment must be for a definite sum of money, provided that it is not money recoverable as tax, fine or penalty;

(d) If the judgment is for a res other than money, the res must have been situated at the jurisdiction of the foreign court that gave the judgment at the time of delivery.

Reciprocal Enforcement

Enforcement of foreign judgment under this process is done based on reciprocity, i.e. the foreign country whose court delivered the judgment must also be ready to enforce judgments of Nigerian courts in its courts. Such countries that render reciprocal enforcements to Nigeria are those to be listed in an order made by the Minister of Justice under the Part 1 of the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act.

The application shall be by way of originating motion or petition brought according to the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgment Ordinance, 1958 (“the Ordinance”). The motion shall be accompanied by an affidavit which shall state the relevant facts. A certified true copy of the judgment shall be annexed to the affidavit.


Foreign judgments from countries that are not listed and recognized in the 1958 Ordinance may, however, be recognized under Section 10 (a) of the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act if the application for recognition is brought within 12 (Twelve) months from the date in which the foreign court delivered the judgment. This widens the horizon for the enforcement of foreign judgments in Nigerian Courts. 

By Dispute Resolution & Litigation Team at Resolution Law Firm