ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENTS IN NIGERIA
All superior courts have a uniform procedure for enforcement governed by the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act. The Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, Judgment (Enforcement) Rules, and the Rules of Court collectively govern the enforcement of a judgment in Nigeria.
Procedure for Enforcement of Judgment
The procedure for enforcement will depend on whether the judgment is a Money or Non-money.
Money judgment can be enforced in one or more of the following ways; Writ of Fieri Facias, Garnishee proceedings, Judgment summons and Writ of sequestration.
Writ of Fieri Facias – this is also known as Writ of Fi.Fa or writ of attachment and sale. This writ cannot be issued until after 3 days from the day the judgment was given except with leave of court. Conditions for issuing such writ of fi.fa are as follows:
- The Writ is first issued against the movable properties and then extended to an immovable property when the movable property is insufficient to satisfy the debt.
- It is issued and directed at the movable properties, goods, and chattels, money, banknotes, bills of exchange, promissory notes, bonds, specialties, or securities for money belonging to the judgment debtor except his clothes, beddings, and his tools and implements of trade to the value of ten and that of his family.
- Application is by filing Form 3 in the First Schedule to the Act.
- Issuance and endorsement of the writ by the registrar.
- Execution of the writ by the court sheriff
- The movable property attached shall not be sold until after 5 days from seizure except perishable goods or by a written request from the judgment debtor, where he been arrested and detained, sales cannot be made until after 1month and 15 days’ notice must be given to him specifying the goods taken and intended to be sold and a purchaser acquire good title upon sale.
- For writ against immovable properties, the application is by way of motion on notice, supported by an affidavit and written address. The affidavit must show what steps have been taken to enforce the judgment and with what effect, the sum now remains due and that there is no movable property of the judgment debtor sufficient to satisfy the debt.
- The application can only be made to the High Court, a Magistrate Court cannot issue the writ against immovable properties and the writ is in Form 38.
- The immovable property shall not be sold until after 15 days from the day it was attached.
- Sales are always by public auction; the purchaser’s title is voidable for 21 days from the sale after which it becomes absolute where there is no application to set it aside.
- Issuance of Certificate of Title by the court- any execution without Court order renders the attachment and subsequent sale null and void.
Garnishee Proceedings- a judgment creditor (garnishor) can use these proceedings to attach a debt due from a third party (garnishee) to the judgment debtor in satisfaction of the judgment debt. For any debt to be attachable, it must be due or accruing to the judgment debtor, the amount must be certain and the judgment debtor must have an immediate legal right to it.
- Application is by motion ex-parte supported by an affidavit. Upon hearing, the Court may make an Order Nisi ordering the garnishee to disclose the amount standing to the credit of judgment debtor to the Court and appear to show cause why the order should not be made absolute to compel him to pay the debt over to the judgment creditor.
- The Order shall be served on the judgment debtor and garnishee at least 14 days before the date fix for hearing.
- The garnishee is to pay into court the amount within 8 days of service on him, after payment he is to depose to an affidavit of compliance, where he claims that the money of the judgment debtor is not in custody, he is to depose to an affidavit stating such fact.
- Where he refuses to comply with the order or deny liability, the Court upon proof of service may order that execution be levied against him, or order trial, if found liable, then execution will be levied against him if otherwise, he will be discharged.
- Where the money is in a public officer’s custody, there is a need for the consent of the Attorney General of the Federation or State before the Court can make an Order Nisi.
- After hearing, an order absolute would be made and the money will be transferred to the judgment creditor.
Judgment Summons –This mode is usually resorted to where the judgment debtor has the means but has refused to pay,
- Application is by filing the praecipe in Form 13 for the issuance of a judgment summon, requiring the judgment debtor to appear and be examined as to his means. The summons can be either in Form 14 or 15.
- If the judgment debtor refuses to attend Court or intends to abscond to avoid being examined on oath, the court may issue a warrant for his arrest and detention.
- After investigation, the court may make any of the following orders: commit the judgment debtor to prison, order for the attachment of the judgment debtor’s property, order for payment in installments.
- If committed to prison under a judgment summons, the judgment creditor is to pay for his sustenance to the tune of not more than 45kobo daily. If he fails to pay, the judgment debtor shall be released.
Writ of Sequestration – This writ directs sequestrators appointed by the court to enter the immovable property of the judgment debtor, collect and keep all rents and profits thereof and or seize and detain the movable properties of the judgment debtor until he obeys the judgment. The Writ does not vest title on the sequestrators.
Judgments for recovery of land or delivery of possession except as between landlord and tenant is enforceable by Writ of Possession, while that between Landlord and tenant can be enforced by a Warrant of Possession. The writ can only be issued after 14 days from judgment, except otherwise ordered by the court. Judgment relating to the delivery of goods shall be enforced by a writ of Delivery in Form 67
Procedure for enforcement of a judgment in another state
- Apply and obtain a duly signed and sealed Certificate of Judgment.
- Depose to an affidavit stating either of the following: that the amount has become due but unpaid or that an act ordered to be done remains undone or that the person ordered to forebear from doing an act has disobeyed the order.
- Register the Certificate with the Registrar of a Court of similar jurisdiction in the state you intend to execute the judgment.
- The Registrar of the enforcing court shall enter the particulars of the judgment in a book called “the Nigerian Register of Judgments”.
- Upon registration, the judgment becomes a record of the court with the same effect as a judgment of that court, and the enforcing court can thereafter execute it.
- After execution, the registrar of the enforcing court shall file a report of the outcome of the execution to the registrar of the court that gave the judgment.
In conclusion, it is worthy to note that the procedure for enforcement will depend on the type of judgment and that all writ of execution has a life span of one year from the date of issue. The judgment creditor has to follow the required procedure to avoid rendering the execution null and void.
By Litigation Team at Resolution Law Firm