SUING SOMEONE IN NIGERIA
The process of suing someone in Nigeria is to bring an action in court against a person for various reasons such as a breach of contract, tortuous act and among others.
Before taking the decision to sue a person in Nigeria, it is good to consider whether there are other options available for reconciling differences or enforcing one’s rights. In some instances, resolving disputes through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as arbitration, reconciliation or mediation might be favourable to a person than suing an offending party in court.
Furthermore, before instituting an action against a person there are preliminary issues that must be considered in filing a lawsuit against any offending party. It should be noted that there is a capacity in which an action can be instituted in Court.
For an action to be competent the parties must be either natural (humans) or juristic (companies). Also, the cause of action is an important factor to be considered before suing a person. This cause of action is a series of facts that led to the right of an action before the Court. In suing a person the cause of action is contained in the Statement of Claim or particulars of claim. To determine whether a person has a right of a cause of action in court, then he/she must be directly affected by the fact or series of facts of the action.
A claim is only valid where there is a law that supports the claims against an offending party. One cannot sue a person on frivolous excuses neither can the court adjudicate on a matter that exists in a vacuum.
To sue a person in court, the services of a lawyer will be required to bring that action in a court. This is because an individual who is not a lawyer is not an officer of the court, and only a lawyer, who is an officer of the court, can institute an action in the court on behalf of an aggrieved party. The services of a lawyer would include advising a client against the strength or viable weakness of his claims against another, a lawyer is also charged with the duty to file processes and documents in court on behalf of a party who wants to sue. Where a frivolous action is filed in court by a counsel on behalf of a litigant, the lawyer will be personally held liable and in most cases be made to pay the cost of such frivolous suit.
In suing, where one cannot afford to employ the services of a lawyer, such person can contact organizations that offer free services such as Office of the public defender, Non-government Organizations, Human Rights Commission and Legal Aid Council. Some lawyers in private practice may also offer a pro-bono service to indigent persons or offer such services contingency fee basis.
Procedure On How To Sue A Person In Nigeria
The first step in suing a person is to file an action in Court against the person. An action is usually brought to a court with court’s processes such as a writ of summons or originating summons accompanied with all necessary documents.
The jurisdiction is key aspect of suing a person in Nigeria. It is not every court that can hear any cases. The jurisdiction is what conferred on the court the right or legitimacy to hear a case. Essentially, the jurisdiction of the court in Nigeria can be divided into territorial jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. The following conditions will guide a person who wants to sue someone to determine whether a court has an inherent jurisdiction to hear such a matter:
- In civil cases, the monetary value of a matter determines whether it is the Magistrate Court or High Court that would have jurisdiction to hear the matter. For example, where the monetary claim is N10, 000,000 or below in the Lagos State, such case or claim can be instituted at the Magistrate Court.
- Where the monetary claim exceeds N10, 000,000 for a simple breach of contract or a related matter, it is the High Court of the State that has jurisdiction to hear such a case.
- Where the matter in question is related to the property or landed matter, it is only the High Court of the State that can hear such a case.
- Where the dispute involves an employer and employee, such matter can only be instituted at the National Industrial Court.
- An action or any petition under the matrimonial causes, which involves husband and wife statutorily married, can only be filed in the High Court of a State.
- The action based on the enforcement of Fundamental Human Rights of any person may be instituted in either the Federal High Court or the National Industrial Court.
- An action solely based on maritime or admiralty issues can only be filed at the Federal High Court
Filing of action in Nigeria involves the payment of requisite fees. Where filing fees have bee paid, the case will be duly filed at the registry of the court and the offending party or the defendant will be served or notified with a copy of all processes or court documents filed by the claimant.
The defendant willing to defend an action is also expected to file a statement of defense together with a list of witnesses to be relied on, written statements on oath of the witnesses and copies of all documents to be relied on during the trial of the suit.
The suit may be scheduled for hearing where the parties have joined issues or where the court has seen a proof and it satisfied that the offending party or the defendant or the respondent has been duly served with the case of the claimant or the party suing. The Court in deciding the case will consider evidence placed before it, the claims and prayers of both parties.
The court decides every civil case on a balance of probability; awarding judgment in favour of the party with the strongest evidence.
Suing a person in Nigeria is a way of enforcing one’s rights by instituting an action in court. One must also not forget that there are alternative means of resolving conflicts without resorting to court, the alternative dispute resolution mechanism, which is faster and cheaper in most cases.
For an action to be competent, the parties must be legal parties with the legal capacity to sue and be sued. The burden of proof in a civil case is on the party filing suit or claiming something from the other party, and it requires proof by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that the events alleged to have occurred more likely than not occurred.
By Litigation, Arbitration & Dispute Resolution Department at Resolution Law Firm