The Chief Judge of Lagos, Justice Kazeem Alogba, has commended the Small Claims’ Courts for fast-tracking justice delivery in commercial disputes.
Alogba gave the commendation Wednesday at a two-day training for all magistrates and court officials of the small claims court in Nigeria.
The training was organised by the Lagos State Judiciary, under the auspices of The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, (PEBEC)
The training was aimed to create avenue for states who have not had small claims court to learn on how to establish and operate it.
The training session was tagged “Peer-to-Peer Learning Session on Training For Magistrates And Court Officials Of The Small Claims Court”
Justice Alogba said the Lagos small claims courts had been greatly embraced in the state.
He said the courts were established in April 2018 with 15 courts spread across seven Magistrate districts.
“These are districts are Lagos Island, Ikeja, Ikorodu, Yaba, Epe, Badgry and Apapa.
“Due to the volume of cases filed in this division of the magistrate courts, the courts were increased to 18 in July 2020 and presently, there are 19 small claims courts in Lagos State.
“I have been reliably informed of the need for the creation of more small claims court because of the very low dockets in some of the Magisterial districts.
“There are clear indications that the small claim courts procedure in the Lagos State has been very much embraced and the courts are very widely used,” he said.
Alogba said the objective of small claim courts was to provide easy access to an informal, inexpensive and speedy resolution of simple debt recovery disputes in the magistrates’ courts.
He added that the court was designed to provide judicial determination of disputes involving small amounts of money, quick and cheaply without legal representation.
“The monetary jurisdiction of the court is N5 million for original actions while N10 million is for counter claims, which is the general monetary jurisdiction of Magistrates’ Court in Lagos State.
“Proceedings in the court are to be conducted within a 60-day period while the entire appellate process shall be conducted within 30 days,” Alogba said.
The chief judge further said that the performance report on the small claims court in the first year of its operation which was displayed on the Lagos State Judiciary Information System (JIS), showed a great start and remarkable progress in the operation of the court.
“For instance, a total of 850 claims were instituted across the 15 small claims court in Lagos State between between May 2018 and March 2019.
“530 judgments were delivered within the period in which 340 judgment were delivered within 60 days, 147 within 100 days, 42 judgments within 200 days and one judgment delivered after 200 days.
“In other words, over 60 per cent of the cases filed we’re concluded and judgment delivered within the 60 day time frame proscribed by the Practice Directions.
“The small claims court strongly encourages parties to explore amicable settlement mechanism,”
According to him, the success of small claims court had a ripple effect in decongesting magistrates’ court, fast and speedy resolution of small claims and improving the economy of these state and the country at large.
Alogba also the small claim had positively impacted the global outlook of the nation and the World Bank’s ranking on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria.
He said that he was happy that the small claims court procedure had been embraced in other state in Nigeria and optimistic that the success recorded in Lagos would be replicated in other states.
Also speaking, the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Dr Jumoke Oduwole, commended the Chief Judge for making available representatives of the Lagos State Small Claims Courts to share learnings and experiences with their counterparts from other states.
Oduwole said that PEBEC was established by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2016 to oversee Nigeria’s business climate reform agenda.
According to her, over 160 reforms, which includes the judiciary establishment of small claims courts in seven States so far had been implemented by PEBEC over the last six years.
She said the rationale behind the courts arose from the need to urgently address the speed of adjudication, particularly financial claims and to reduce cases from the dockets of the high courts over a simple commercial dispute.
Oduwole said the reform targeted at improving Nigeria’s public service delivery across Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies(MDAs).
“These states are Lagos, Kano, Ogun, Edo, Ekiti, Nasarawa and Jigawa.
“Bayelsa, Kaduna, Sokoto States and FCT Judiciary are at the verge of launching their Small Claims Courts with the close collaboration with the PEBEC Secretariat.
“Most Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) require liquidity to carry on their businesses.
“In instances where a financial claim arises from business interactions, best practice requires a speedy court settlement of such claims between parties.
“This ultimately shows an improvement in the quality and efficiency of judicial processes.
“The establishment and operation of the Small Claims Courts within the aforementioned seven States Magistracy has addressed this issue.
“All financial claims of N5 million and below are heard at the small claims courts. special registries, as well as the appointment of special sheriffs specifically for these courts have also been put in place,” she said.
Oduwole said that the courts provide easy access as well as inexpensive and speedy resolution for debt and liquidated money recovery disputes.
She further said that the courts were regulated by the Practice Directions issued by the Chief Judge of the State pursuant to Section 274 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).