Procedure for the ENFORCEMENT OF COURTS JUDGMENT In Nigerian


I. Introduction

The legal system in Nigeria provides a framework for the resolution of disputes through courts. One of the key elements of this framework is the enforcement of judgments. A judgment is a court order that is made after a case has been heard and decided. The enforcement of judgment is the process of ensuring that the terms of the judgment are carried out. This article will focus on the procedure for the enforcement of judgment in Nigeria, specifically, the enforcement of land judgments and inter-state judgments.

Designation of Parties

The parties involved in the enforcement of judgment are the Judgment Creditor (the successful party) and the Judgment Debtor (the unsuccessful party). The Judgment Creditor seeks to enforce the judgment and obtain the relief granted by the court, while the Judgment Debtor is required to comply with the order of the court.

When is a Judgment Effective?

A judgment becomes effective from the date it is pronounced or read, unless the court orders otherwise.  Also, a person who is directed to pay money or do any act by an order of court is bound to obey it without demand, and if no time is expressed in the order, the person is bound to comply immediately.

Time Frame for Levying Execution of Judgment

The time frame for levying execution of judgment varies depending on the type of judgment. Money judgments and others cannot be enforced until after the expiration of three days from the day on which judgment is given, except with the express leave of court. Judgment of possession, on the other hand, can be enforced 14 days after delivery of the judgment. In any other case not specified by law, the leave of court is required.

Life Span of Process of Execution

The life span of a process of execution when issued shall be one year from the date of issue if unexecuted. The process may be issued within two years after the judgment is delivered, and a party can apply to the court for a writ of execution without leave. After the expiration of the two years, the leave of court is required to issue the writ. If it is a process against a corporation or institution, then the process may be issued at any time within six years, with no requirement for leave.

Day and Time of Execution of Judgment

A judgment can be executed on any day except on Sunday or a public holiday. It must not be done before 6am and not after 6pm, unless the judge or magistrate directs otherwise by order endorsed on the process executed.

See Also: Understanding the Characteristics and Requirements of a Valid Judgment

II. Modes of Enforcement of Judgment:

There are several methods of enforcing judgments in Nigeria. The method chosen will depend on the type of judgment. The following are the methods of enforcing judgments in Nigeria:

1. Money judgments:

When a judgment creditor desires to enforce a monetary judgment against the judgment debtor, he may adopt any of the following means:

a. Writ of Fi.Fa (Writ of Attachment and Sale):

The Writ of Fi.Fa is the most common writ of execution in Nigeria, which normally commands the Sheriff to seize and sell moveable properties belonging to the judgment debtor. The writ of Fi.Fa is for recovering money judgments.

Furthermore, the procedure for executing a writ of Fi.Fa on movable property of the judgment debtor is as follows:

  • The judgment creditor shall file an application for a writ of execution in FORM 3, 1st Schedule SCPA with the Registrar of Court-0.4 R. 2 Judgment Enforcement Rules.
  • A writ of Fi.Fa is executed by seizing any goods or chattels of the judgment debtor worth N10.00 and above, except his wearing apparels, beddings, and tools and implements of his trade: section 25 (a) SCPA.
  • If sufficient movable property of the judgment debtor can be found within the jurisdiction and costs of execution, the immovable properties cannot be attached.
  • Where the movable properties were not enough or cannot be found, the Judgment Creditor will apply for a Writ of Execution. This is applied for by the judgment creditor when the movable property seized was not enough to satisfy the judgment debt-Section 44 of the SCPA.
  • The purpose is to attach the immovable property, i.e. land, machines, etc., to satisfy the debt which will be sold after 15 days of the attachment.
  • The Application shall be by motion on notice supported by Affidavit and Written Address. All these are done by filing FORM 38.
Time for the sale of the Judgement debtors movable property.

The goods or chattels when attached are sold 5 days after they are seized unless the judgment debtor consents to an earlier sale or the goods are of a perishable nature; section 29 SCPA. If the property is immovable, the sale has to be done at least 15 days after the court order attaching the same, except with the consent of the judgment debtor: O. 7 R. 6(1) JER.

Application of the proceed of Sale

The money realized from the sale of the goods or immovable property should be applied in the following the following order.

  • First, pay the cost of execution, e.g. auctioneer’s fees.
  • Pay the judgment debt.
  • Whatever is left goes back to the judgment debtor.

b. Garnishee Proceedings:

The garnishee proceedings are commonly used in cases where the judgment debtor has money in a bank account. In such cases, the court will order the bank to freeze the account and pay the money owed to the judgment creditor. The garnishee proceedings are used by a judgment creditor to attach debts owed to a judgment debtor by a third party. See Section 83 Sheriffs and Civil Process Act; Order 46 Abuja Rules 2018.

Parties to Garnishee Proceedings

The parties involved in garnishee proceedings are usually the judgment creditor (known as the garnishor), the judgment debtor, and the third party owing the debt to the judgment debtor (known as the garnishee).

The Conditions for Attaching Debt for Garnishee Proceedings:

To attach debt for garnishee proceedings, the debt must be due and payable to the judgment debtor, and it must be a present debt and not a future debt. Salaries and rents are attachable provided they are due. Furthermore, garnishee proceedings can only be commenced if the garnishee is indebted to the judgment debtor in the state in which the proceedings are brought. If the garnishee is outside the state, garnishee proceedings cannot be brought.

It is important to note that an application for garnishee proceedings can be made even if there is a stay of execution of judgment. This was established in the case of Purification Technique v. A.G Lagos State and NITEL v. ICC.

The Procedure Garnishee Proceedings

The procedure for garnishee proceedings is as follows:

  1. The garnishor (the judgment creditor) will file a motion ex parte supported by an affidavit and a written address praying the court for an order nisi.
  2. After hearing the motion, the court will make the order nisi and serve it on the garnishee and judgment debtor.
  3. If the garnishee pays within 8 days of the order, the matter is terminated. Otherwise, the registrar will fix a date for hearing not less than 14 days after service of the order nisi.
  4. The garnishee is to come to court on the hearing date and show cause why an order absolute should not be made against him. If the garnishee fails to appear, the court may make an order absolute.
  5. If the garnishee appears, the court will hear arguments from both sides and make a decision.
  6. If the court makes an order absolute, the garnishee must pay the money owed to the judgment creditor.
Effect of a Garnishee Order Nisi

The effect of an Order nisi is that the garnishee cannot pay the money in his possession to the judgment debtor until the Order is made absolute or finally decided.

Effect of Failure to Serve Garnishee Order Nisi

Failure to serve the order Nisi on the Garnishee and judgment Debtor would nullify the Proceedings; Wema Bank v. Brasternstein; Odey v NIMASA.

Note that where the Garnishee fails to pay upon an order absolute, judgment would be executed upon him by writ of fifa.

Also, if the account to be attached belongs to the Government, the consent of the Attorney General must be obtained before bringing the garnishee application.

c. Writ of Sequestration

The writ of sequestration is used to enforce a judgment against immovable property such as land or buildings. The writ of sequestration allows the court to take possession of the property and collect the income from it until the judgment debt is paid.

The procedure writ of sequestration

The procedure for the writ of sequestration is as follows:

  1. The judgment creditor files an application for a writ of sequestration.
  2. The court grants the writ of sequestration.
  3. The writ of sequestration is served on the judgment debtor.
  4. The judgment debtor has 10 days to pay the debt or appeal the decision.
  5. If the debt is not paid or the decision is not appealed within 10 days, the court appoints a sequestrator to take possession of the property.
  6. The sequestrator collects the income from the property and pays it to the judgment creditor.
  7. Once the judgment debt is paid, the sequestration is lifted and the property is returned to the judgment debtor.

d. Judgment Summons

A judgment summons is used when the judgment debtor fails to comply with a court order to pay a debt. The judgment summons requires the judgment debtor to appear in court and answer questions about their assets and income.

  1. Application: The creditor applies for a judgment summons by filling out a form and providing evidence of the court order and the debtor’s failure to comply.
  2. Service: The judgment summons is served on the debtor by a court officer or a process server.
  3. Appearance: The debtor must appear in court on the date specified in the summons.
  4. Examination: The court will examine the debtor under oath about their assets and income.
  5. Order: Based on the examination, the court may make an order for payment of the debt, set a payment schedule, or make an order for seizure of assets.
  6. Enforcement: If the debtor fails to comply with the court’s order, the creditor can take enforcement action, such as a writ of execution or a garnishee order.

It is important to note that if the debtor fails to appear in court for the judgment summons, the court may issue a warrant for their arrest. Therefore, it is in the debtor’s best interest to attend the hearing and cooperate with the court’s examination.

2. Enforcement of Land Judgment:

When a judgment is made for the recovery of land or for the delivery of possession of land, it is enforced by a writ of possession. If the judgment is for the recovery of premises, it will be enforced by applying for a warrant of possession. It is important to note that land judgments cannot be enforced until after the expiration of 14 days from the day the judgment was given. This means that the judgment debtor has 14 days to comply with the judgment voluntarily before the writ of possession or warrant of possession can be enforced.

3. Enforcement of Inter-State Judgment:

By Section 287(1)-(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the decisions of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, State High Court, and other courts established by the Constitution shall be enforceable in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons and by all courts. Also, it is important to note that this is a federal matter and is guided by the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act.

The procedure for the enforcement of inter-state judgments is as follows:

  1. Obtain a certificate of judgment from the court that gave the judgment with a court of similar jurisdiction.
  2. Write an application to the Registrar of the Court in the other state where it is to be executed to register it in its Register of Nigerian Judgment – Section 105 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act.
  3. Support the application with an affidavit stating that the amount for which process is proposed to be issued is actually due and unpaid or that an act ordered to be done remains undone or disobeyed the order – Section 107 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act.
  4. The judgment when registered is treated as the judgment of the court of the other state.
  5. The court will levy execution first by writ of fifa (against the movable property) then by writ of execution – Sections 100-104 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act.

See Also: Rule of Reading and Delivery of Judgment in Nigerian Courts

III. Conclusion on Enforcement of Judgment

The enforcement of judgments is a crucial aspect of the Nigerian legal system. Furthermore, just as we have learned earlier, the procedure for the enforcement of judgments varies depending on the type of judgment and the circumstances surrounding it.

Finally, it is important for litigants to understand the procedures for the enforcement of judgments in order to ensure that their rights are protected and their judgments are enforced.

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