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Litigation

Last verified on Monday 26th June 2017

Nigeria

Babajide Oladipo Ogundipe and Lateef Omoyemi Akangbe

    Overview

  1. 1.Court system
    Describe the general organisation of the court system for civil litigation.
    1. Nigeria is a federation of 36 States and a Federal Capital Territory, and its courts operate at both federal and state levels. Courts specifically described in the Constitution1 as “superior courts of record”, are both federal and state courts, and below these courts are other courts, which may again be both federal and state courts, exercising jurisdiction under either federal or state law. 

      For present purposes, the focus will be only on superior courts of record. The system, for civil litigation, is made up of High Courts (federal and state), a federal Court of Appeal and a federal Supreme Court. Appeals may be made as of right against final decisions of High Courts; against decisions (final or interlocutory) where the appeal involves questions of law alone, the interpretation or application of the Constitution and against certain other types of decisions, the most relevant of which for these purposes are decisions “determining the case of a creditor or the liability of a contributory or other officer under any enactment relating to companies in respect of malfeasance or otherwise”. Other appeals may be made with leave of either the High Court or the Court of Appeal2. Appeals to the Supreme Court lie as right against decisions of the Court of Appeal, where the appeal involves questions of law alone and the interpretation or application of the Constitution. Other appeals may be made with leave of the Court of Appeal or of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the court of final appeal3.

      The Federal High Court is, technically, a court of limited jurisdiction, and started its existence as a revenue court. However, the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court is set out in the Constitution in such a manner that enables the federal legislature to expand its jurisdiction, and this has enabled the Federal High Court’s jurisdiction to grow. In civil proceedings, where jurisdiction is vested in the Federal High Court, no other court may exercise jurisdiction over such matters4. State High Courts, subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, have unlimited jurisdiction5 over all other matters. The jurisdiction of State High Courts has been further whittled down by a constituional amendment6 that elevated the federal National Industrial Court to the status of a superior court of record vested with exclusive jurisdiction over all labour and employment matters.

      The appointment of judges of the High Court of a state is made by the Governor of the state, on the recommendation of a National Judicial Council and, in the case of the Chief Judge of a state, such appointment is also subject to confirmation by the state legislature. The appointment of judges of the federal courts (that is, the National Industrial Court, the Federal High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court) is made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council. In the case of the heads of those courts, the appointments are subject to confirmation by the Senate7.

      Nigeria, a former British colony, operates a common law system and the common law system of judicial precedence. Decisions of the Supreme Court are binding on all other courts, and those of the Court of Appeal bind the High Court.

      Juries are no longer used for civil or criminal cases.

      1. See section 6(3)&(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

      2. See section 241 & 242 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

      3. See sections 233 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

      4. See section 251 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

      5. See section 272 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

      6. By section 6 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Third Alteration) Act, 2011

      7. See section 271, 272, 250(1&2), 238(1&2) and 231(1&2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

  2. 2.The legal profession
    Describe the general organisation of the legal profession.
    1. The Nigerian legal profession is regulated by statute8. Admission into the profession requires the completion of a course at the Nigerian Law School and the passing of examinations. Admission into the Law School is open only to persons with a law degree from a recognised university. After passing the Law School examinations, and being sponsored by a member of the Body of Benchers, a person will be called to the Bar and enrolled as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Enrolment confers rights of audience before all courts in the country. Only persons enrolled may practise in Nigeria9; however, the Chief Justice of Nigeria is empowered to, upon application, authorise a person “entitled to practise as an advocate in any country where the legal system is similar to that in Nigeria” “to practise as a barrister for the purposes of proceedings described in the application” and of any appeal brought in connection with those proceedings10.

      There are no specialised plaintiff or defendant bars.

      8. Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2002.

      9. S.2 (1) Legal Practitioners Act.

      10. S.2 (2) Legal Practitioners Act.

  3. 3.General
    Give a brief overview of the political and social background as it relates to civil litigation.
    1. The Constitution guarantees all persons in Nigeria unqualified access to courts and a fundamental right to fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality11. Consequently, the only policy open to governments is to permit access to courts. This open access has resulted in all courts in the country having a heavy caseload. This, coupled with the poor application of generally inadequate rules of procedure, contributes to congested courts and some very lengthy delays in getting cases completed. These delays are aggravated by generous rights of appeal, an extremely liberal approach to the granting of leave to appeal and the ease with which orders staying judgments and proceedings can be obtained.

      Notwithstanding the delays in the judicial system, the courts are very busy. “Professional” or “activist” plaintiffs remain rare, there being only a handful of individuals who litigate on a regular basis.

      11. See section 6 (6) and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

    Jurisdiction

  4. 4.Jurisdiction and venue
    What are the criteria for determining the jurisdiction and venue of the competent court for a civil matter?
    1. The jurisdiction of courts of first instance (High Courts) is determined by the subject matter of the litigation and the provisions of the Constitution or the statutes that created the courts. Venue in civil matters is determined by the subject of the litigation. Suits relating to land are required to be commenced in the jurisdiction where the land is located. Actions in relation to contracts are to be commenced in the jurisdictions in which the contracts ought to be performed or in which the defendants reside or carry on business. Actions in relation to other matters are also to be commenced in the jurisdiction in which the defendant resides or carries on business. As a result, foreign parties may be sued in Nigerian courts in cases involving contracts where the contracts are to be performed in Nigeria. In actions founded on tort, if the tort was committed within Nigeria by a foreign party, then the tort is actionable in Nigeria. Where the tort is committed by a foreign party outside Nigeria, Nigerian courts will generally have jurisdiction if damage was suffered in Nigeria, if the tort would have been actionable had it been committed in Nigeria, and if it was also actionable where it was committed. In such a situation, the challenge to the plaintiff would be in effecting service on the foreign party.

  5. 5.Forum shopping
    Does your jurisdiction commonly attract disputes that have a nexus with other jurisdictions?
    1. Given the basis upon which Nigerian courts will accept jurisdiction in civil cases, forum shopping is an issue that Nigerian courts rarely have to confront. There will be circumstances where disputes may be brought in jurisdictions other than Nigeria and, in such circumstances, the main consideration, if the action is commenced in Nigeria, will be that of effecting service on the foreign party. However, given the pace at which Nigerian proceedings move, the ease with which proceedings may be delayed by the use of technical objections and the pursuit of interlocutory and final appeals, Nigeria cannot be considered to be the best venue if time is an important factor in seeking a resolution of the dispute.

  6. 6.Pendency in another forum
    How will a court treat a request to hear a dispute that is already pending before another forum?
    1. The courts will accede to the request to hear a case already pending before another forum if the justice of the case demands that the court entertains such matter.

  7. 7.

    Deference to arbitration
    How will the courts treat a dispute that is, or could be, subject to an arbitration clause or an agreement to arbitrate, including in interim proceedings?

    1. Under the federal and Lagos State arbitration statutes,12 the courts have power to stay proceedings if an application for stay is brought before the defendant submits a response on the merits of the case. This power appears to be discretionary if the application is brought under section 5 of the federal statute, but mandatory (as in the UNCITRAL Model Law) if brought under section 4. Under the arbitration statute of Lagos State, the proceedings in court must be stayed if brought before a response on the merits is submitted.13

      In one case, the Court of Appeal14, reversed the decision of the Federal High Court granting an injunction to a party that sought to prevent the continuation of arbitration proceedings to which the party had agreed. The appellate court took the view that arbitral tribunals should not be subject to unnecessary interference by the court. It further held courts are not empowered by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2004 to halt arbitral proceedings through the issuance of injunction. A question that appears not to have been considered by the Court of Appeal is whether the courts may, in the exercise of inherent powers, issue injunctions to halt arbitral proceedings.

      12. Arbitration and Conciliation Act and Lagos State Arbitration Law, 2009.

      13. S.6(1) Lagos State Arbitration Law, 2009.

      14. Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation V Statoil (Nigeria) Limited and Others, Unreported, delivered in CA/L/758/12 on July 13 2013.

  8. 8.Judicial review of arbitral awards on jurisdiction
    May courts in your country review arbitral awards on jurisdiction?
    1. Courts in Nigeria are not empowered to review arbitral awards. Arbitral awards may only be set aside for reasons stated in the relevant statutes, and the courts may not review the merits of an award.

  9. 9.Anti-suit injunctions
    Are anti-suit injunctions available?
    1. Nigerian courts may, in appropriate circumstances issue anti-suit injunctions.

  10. 10.

    Sovereign immunity
    Which entities are immune from being sued in your jurisdiction? In what circumstances? In what circumstances can creditors enforce a court judgment or arbitral award against a sovereign or a state entity?

    1. The persons holding the office of president, vice president, governor or deputy governor are immune from civil or criminal proceedings during the period of their tenure in office15. Similarly, foreign embassies, ambassadors and diplomats are also immune from domestic court process.

      Creditors can enforce any court judgment or arbitral award against the government or their agencies in all circumstances, provided that the enforcement is carried out in accordance with the law and the rules of court regulating the powers, practice and procedures for enforcement of judgment. In Nigeria, the Sherrifs and Civil Process Act is the statute that regulates issues relating to enforcement of judgment.

      15. See section 308 (1-3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

    Procedure

  11. 11.Commencement and conduct of proceedings in general
    How are proceedings commenced? To what extent will a court actively lead the proceedings and to what extent will the court rely on the parties to further the proceedings?
    1. Proceedings are commenced by the issuance of process out of the registry of a court. Such process may be a writ, a summons, a petition or originating motion, depending upon the nature of the proceedings. However, the fact that an action is commenced by a wrong mode will generally not to be fatal to the proceedings and will be treated merely as an irregularity16. Nigeria operates an adversarial system of justice, and the courts determine causes upon material presented by the parties. Generally, the party making a claim is required to establish the claim and the court is not ordinarily entitled to conduct its own investigation into the claim.

      16. See Order 5 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012.

  12. 12.Statement of claim
    What are the requirements for filing a claim? What is the pleading standard?
    1. Under most High Court rules, claims are commenced by writs, which are endorsed with a statement of the relief sought from the court. The writ is also required to be accompanied by a statement, in summary form, of the material facts relied upon to establish the claim. In addition, statements of all witnesses are required to be delivered along with the writ and statement of claim17. Defendants are entitled to seek, where they are absent, particulars of allegations made in the statement of claim.

      17. See Order 16 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012.

  13. 13.Statement of defence
    What are the requirements for answering claims? What is the pleading standard?
    1. Upon being served with the originating process, a defendant is required to file a memorandum of appearance and serve it on the claimant. In addition, the defendant must submit a statement in summary form containing the defence to the claim. The defence must answer claims and where denials are made, these may not be evasive. The defendant is also required to submit statements of witnesses intended to be called at the trial as well as copies of all documents intended to be relied on18.

      18. See Order 17 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012.

  14. 14.Further briefs and submissions
    What are the rules regarding further briefs and submissions?
    1. Amendments may be made by either party upon application to the court and some jurisdictions limit the number of amendments that may be made19. At the conclusion of oral hearings, parties are required to submit a written closing argument, which will be considered by the court at a final oral hearing20. The courts occasionally exercise a discretion to permit amicus briefs, but this is a feature in appellate courts and is extremely rare in courts of first instance.

      19. See Order 24 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012, which permits amendments at any time before the close of pre-trial proceedings and limits amendments thereafter to two.

      20. See Order 31 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil procedure) Rules 2012.

  15. 15.Publicity
    To what degree are civil proceedings made public?
    1. All court proceedings are required to be held in public21 and the court filings are also available to the public upon an application to the appropriate official in whose custody the processes are kept. Parties are not anonymised in judgments. While civil proceedings must be held in public, proceedings are not normally televised and photographers are not normally permitted to take photographs during court hearings. There does not appear to be any provision that prohibits photography and it is surmised that the continued prohibition flows from the inherent powers of the court, since Nigeria does not have the sort of legislation that exists in England, for example22.

      21. See sections 36(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

      22. Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

    Pretrial settlement and ADR

  16. 16.Advice and settlement proposals
    Will a court render (interim) assessments about any factual or legal issues in dispute? What role and approach do courts typically take regarding settlement? Are there mandatory settlement conferences between the parties at the outset of or during the litigation?
    1. Under the new High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012, a plaintiff is mandated at the time of filing his claim to take out a Pre-action Protocol Form 01, which essentially requires the plaintiff to state the attempts he has made to have the matter settled out of Court with the defendant and how such attempts proved unsuccessful and the plaintiff is also required to provide evidence of such attempt. The failure to take out this form shall the effect of nullifying the action.

      Generally, the courts may make an interim assessments about any factual or legal issues in dispute, where there is common ground between the parties on those issues or an admission in the pleadings or otherwise on the record from either of the parties. Under most High Court Rules, a pre-trial conference notice is held for the purpose of determining whether the case is such that can be settled or disposed of at that stage without the need to go to trial and if it is determined otherwise then the future course of the matter and a timetable for the trial will be drawn up by the court23.

      23. See Order 25 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012.

  17. 17.Mediation
    Is referral to mediation or another form of ADR an option, or even mandatory, before or during the litigation?
    1. The courts encourage parties to settle disputes in all jurisdictions, and some provide access to ADR mechanisms as part of the court framework:24 the courts have annexed ADR services in the form of multi-door courthouses. In Lagos State, courts are empowered to refer parties to the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse and to “discourage” the continuation of proceedings until the parties have referred their dispute there25.

      Though, arguments do exist that the power of the Lagos High Court to refer disputes to the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse is unconstitutional. It is being contended currently that referral to alternative dispute resolution ought to be by agreement of parties and not under the direction of the Court.

      24. Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory are two examples.

      25. Section 16 Lagos Multidoor Courthouse Law.

    Interim relief

  18. 18.Forms of interim relief
    What are the forms of emergency or interim relief?
    1. Most courts in Nigeria are empowered to grant orders directing parties to do, or refrain from doing, acts specified in the order during the pendency of an action26. All interim reliefs available under the common law are available in Nigeria, such as orders of injunction and the appointment of receivers, and Nigerian courts have adopted and issued Mareva (freezing injunctions) and Anton Piller (discovery and seizure) type orders.

      26. See, for example, section 18 High Court Law of Lagos State.

  19. 19.Obtaining relief
    What must a petitioner show to obtain interim relief?
    1. An applicant for interim relief normally has to establish the following basic matters:

      • an action that discloses the existence of a serious issue to be tried, and a good arguable case;
      • that damages would not be an adequate remedy for the damage the applicant alleges will be suffered if the relief is not granted; and
      • the risk of irreparable damage being done to the applicant outweighs the damage that the order sought would do to the defendant.

      In order to obtain a freezing order, an applicant also needs to satisfy the court that the defendant has assets within Nigeria that are likely to be dissipated so as to avoid the consequences of a final order, or otherwise put them out of the applicant’s reach.

    Decisions

  20. 20.Types of decisions
    What types of decisions (other than interim relief) may a court render in civil matters?
    1. Nigerian courts are empowered to order the payment of sums of money, direct that certain acts be done or not be done, and that goods be delivered up.

  21. 21.Timing of decisions
    At what stage of the proceedings may a court render a decision? Are motions to dismiss and summary judgment available?
    1. The courts will ordinarily render decisions at the end of the case, after considering all the representations of the parties. Nevertheless, the courts are empowered, in appropriate circumstances, to summarily terminate proceedings by dismissing actions where it is clear that the action discloses no cause against a defendant, is frivolous or otherwise amounts to an improper use of the judicial process, or by granting summary judgment where it is clear that the defence proffered is no answer to the claim made. Applications for summary dismissals and judgments are provided for in the procedural rules of all High Courts in Nigeria.

  22. 22.Default judgment
    Under which circumstances will a default judgment be rendered?
    1. Default judgments may be made where a defendant fails to enter an appearance to an action or fails to file a defence to a claim for a debt or liquidated demand27.

      27. See Order 20 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012.

  23. 23.Duration of proceedings
    How long does it typically take a court of first instance to render a decision?
    1. The time taken depends upon the nature of the case and the jurisdiction in which the case is being determined. More complex cases will inevitably take longer. In jurisdictions, such as Lagos, where the courts have a particularly heavy caseload, cases tend to take in excess of 36 months and frequently much longer. In other, less busy, jurisdictions, about 24 months is more likely.

      Under the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012, claims for liquidated monetary or counterclaim in a sum of 100 million naira, mortgage transaction, charge or other securities, and a liquidated monetary claim by a non-Nigerian national or non-resident in Nigeria, are qualified to be commenced in the fast track court, where the time spent on litigation must not exceed nine months from the date of commencement of the action till final judgment. Under this procedure, the judge is to endeavour to deliver its judgment within 60 days from the completion of trial.

    Parties

  24. 24.Third parties – joinder, third-party notice, intervenors
    How can third parties become involved in proceedings?
    1. There are provisions in the procedural rules of courts for intervenors and third parties to join in an action28. The failure to join a party to a particular case will only preclude the claim from being brought later if the claim is caught by limitation laws. Otherwise the fact that the same or similar claim has previously been brought against another party will not preclude that claim being maintained against another party. A defendant may seek the joinder of a third party in proceedings for the sole purpose of making that party bound by the court’s decision where the court is of the opinion that such third party is a necessary party for the adjudication of the particular case. A party who desires the order of the court to bind a third party has the duty to join such third party in the action.

      28. See Order 13 Rule 19 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012.

    Evidence

  25. 25.Taking and adducing evidence
    Will a court take or initiate the taking of evidence or will it rely on the parties to request the taking of evidence and to present it?
    1. Nigerian courts are not permitted to take any role in selecting the evidence that should be given in a particular case. It is up to the individual parties to present such evidence as is considered material and necessary for each individual case.

  26. 26.Disclosure
    Is an opponent obliged to produce evidence that is harmful to it in the proceedings? Is there a document disclosure procedure in place? What are the consequences if evidence is not produced by a party?
    1. Nigerian courts do not operate rules that trigger the automatic disclosure of evidence by one party to another. Each party must seek disclosure of evidence in the possession or control of the adverse party by application either under the rules of court (by the administration of interrogatories), or through the use of notices under the Evidence Act. Under the rules regulating practice and procedure in the High Court of the various states, there are provisions for inspection and discovery of documents in possession of an adverse party29. Furthermore, the Evidence Act gives the court discretion to presume that evidence which could be and is not produced would, if produced, be unfavourable to the person who withholds it30.

      29. For instance, see Order 26 (1 & 8) of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012.

      30. See section 167(d) of the Evidence Act 2011.

  27. 27.

    Witnesses of fact
    Please describe the key characteristics of witness evidence in your jurisdiction. Is witness preparation allowed?

    1. The purpose of witness evidence is to establish the existence or non-existence of facts in issue in a particular case. A witness may only give evidence of facts directly within his or her knowledge. Therefore, witness evidence of a fact that can be seen must be the evidence of a witness who saw that fact. Witness evidence of a fact that can be heard must be the evidence of a witness who heard that fact. Witness evidence of a fact perceivable through any other sense must be the evidence of a witness who perceived that fact.

  28. 28.Expert witnesses
    Who appoints expert witnesses? What is the role of experts?
    1. The parties appoint expert witnesses. Generally, opinion evidence is inadmissible. However, when the court has to form an opinion on foreign law, customary law or custom, science or art, the identity of handwriting or finger impressions, the opinions of persons specially skilled in such matters, who are called experts, are admissible31.

      31. Section 68 Evidence Act, 2011

  29. 29.Party witnesses
    Can parties to proceedings (or a party’s directors and officers in the case of a legal person) act as witnesses? Can the court draw negative inferences from a party’s failure to testify or act as a witness?
    1. Parties to civil proceedings are competent witnesses32. The court may presume that evidence which could be given and is not given would, if given, be unfavourable to the person who fails to give it33. Consequently, a court is entitled to draw negative inferences from a party’s failure to testify.

      32. Section 178 Evidence Act, 2011.

      33. Section 167(d) Evidence Act, 2011.

  30. 30.Foreign law and documentation
    How is foreign law or foreign-language documentation introduced into the proceedings and considered by the courts?
    1. Foreign law is required to be proved as fact in Nigerian courts, and the courts will receive the opinions of experts “who in their profession are acquainted with such law as admissible evidence” of such foreign law34. Foreign language documentation is usually required to be translated into English and the translator will be required to attest that the translation is true and accurate.

      34. Section 69 Evidence Act, 2011.

  31. 31.Standard of proof
    What standard of proof applies in civil litigation? Are there different standards for different issues?
    1. The standard of proof in civil litigation is the balance of probabilities35. Where the commission of a crime by a party to any proceeding is directly in issue in civil proceedings, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt36.

      35. Section 134 Evidence Act, 2011.

      36. Section 135(1) Evidence Act, 2011.

    Appeals

  32. 32.Options for appeal
    What are the possibilities to appeal a judicial decision? How many levels of appeal are there?
    1. Appeals from the decision of High Courts lies with the Court of Appeal37. Appeals against final decisions of High Courts may be made as of right. Where the ground of appeal involves questions of law alone, the interpretation or application of the Constitution, where an injunction or the appointment of a receiver has been made or refused, and decisions “determining the case of a creditor or the liability of a contributory or other officer under any enactment relating to companies in respect of malfeasance or otherwise”, appeals are also as of right. Other appeals may be made with leave of either the High Court or the Court of Appeal. Appeals from decisions of the Court of Appeal lie with the Supreme Court38, the court of final appeal. Appeals may be made as of right against decisions of the Court of Appeal where the appeal involves questions of law alone and the interpretation or application of the Constitution. Other appeals may be made with leave of the Court of Appeal or of the Supreme Court.

      37. See section 240 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

      38. See section 233 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

  33. 33.

    Standard of review
    What aspects of a lower court's decisions will an appeals court review and by what standards?

    1. An appeal is by way of rehearing, but only upon the record from the lower court. Evidence is only taken afresh in extremely rare circumstances. The appellate courts have the duty to re-evaluate the evidence led at the trial court and the application of law to the evidence.

  34. 34.Duration of appellate proceedings
    How long does it usually take to obtain an appellate decision?
    1. The time taken to obtain a decision in an appeal to the Court of Appeal depends upon the jurisdiction from which the appeal is made. In jurisdictions where the High Courts’ case load is not very heavy, appeals can be concluded in as little as eight to nine months. In other jurisdictions it may take as much as five or six years. Appeals from the Court of Appeal may take as long as eight or more years before a decision is obtained. This is because the Supreme Court sits in only one division, and cases from 16 divisions of the Court of Appeal are heard by the Supreme Court, which has a constitutional limit of 21 justices, and sits in panels of a minimum of five justices.

    Special proceedings

  35. 35.Class actions
    Are class actions available?
    1. Nigerian rules of procedure make it difficult for class actions to be brought. Although most rules of procedure enable several persons to join as claimants in one action, the rules have been interpreted to require claims to be joint or individual and not as part of a class. Notwithstanding this, a number of actions have been instituted on behalf of persons claiming to belong to a class, and presenting claims on the basis that they are class actions. The courts are yet to rule on these actions.

  36. 36.Derivative actions
    Are derivative actions available?
    1. In corporate proceedings, a member of a company may apply to the court for leave to bring an action in the name or on behalf of a company, or to intervene in an action to which the company is a party, for the purpose of prosecuting, defending or discontinuing the action on behalf of the company39. The rights being pursued or defended are rights belonging to the company, and the member seeking to exercise it on behalf of the company needs to allege that those rights are not being pursued or defended, or not being properly pursued or defended.

      39. See section 303 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990.

  37. 37.Fast-track proceedings
    Are fast-track proceedings available?
    1. As indicated above40, the Lagos State has issued fast-track rules for certain types of action. Cases assigned to the fast track route are to be concluded within eight months from their commencement. In order to qualify for the fast-track procedure, there must be a claim or counterclaim equivalent to at least US$630,000, involve a non-resident investor in Nigeria, or a mortgage transaction41.

      40. Paragraph 23 above.

      41. See paragraph 2 of the Practice Directions on Fast Track Procedure.

  38. 38.Foreign-language proceedings
    Is it possible to conduct proceedings in a foreign language?
    1. No, the official language of the court in Nigeria is English. If any other language needs to be used, an interpretation of that language into English is required.

    Effects of judgement and enforcement

  39. 39.Effects of a judgment
    What legal effects does a judgment have?
    1. Judgments are binding on the parties to the action and their legal successors or privies. In a later proceeding between the same parties or their privies, the entire decision (both the reasoning and findings of fact) is binding on the parties, and the parties are not permitted to advance any position at variance with the decision. Where the proceeding is not between the same parties, only the legal reasoning can be binding, as a legal precedent.

  40. 40.Enforcement procedure
    What are the procedures and options for enforcing a domestic judgment?
    1. Domestic judgments may be enforced in a number of ways. Money judgments are most frequently enforced by the attachment of goods and chattels belonging to the judgment debtor by an officer of the court, called a bailiff. In addition to this, money judgments may be enforced by the attachment of debts owed to the judgment debtor by third parties. Money judgments may also be enforced through insolvency proceedings – winding up for companies and bankruptcy proceedings for individuals. However, there are, as a matter of practice, very few bankruptcy proceedings that have been commenced, as the rules are almost unworkable. The rules still contain provisions for the arrest and imprisonment of judgment debtors, although this is very rarely sought to be applied. Other methods of enforcement are sequestration and committal proceedings to enforce injunctions and similar orders. Some of the options available include taking out a writ of fife, garnishee order, writ of attaching or sequestration.

  41. 41.Enforcement of foreign judgments
    Under what circumstances will a foreign judgment be enforced in your jurisdiction?
    1. Foreign judgments may be enforced under treaty provisions or by the commencement of an action to enforce the foreign judgment. As Nigeria only has agreements for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments with countries of the Commonwealth (through a registration process), judgments from other countries are only enforceable in Nigeria by action. The state of the law now is that foreign judgments are enforceable in Nigeria by proceedings based on the judgment itself.

    Costs

  42. 42.Costs
    Will the successful party’s costs be borne by the opponent?
    1. The theoretical position in Nigeria is that a successful party is entitled to recover its costs from the unsuccessful party. As a matter of practice, however, Nigerian courts rarely, if ever, award a successful party anything approaching the actual costs incurred. What is usually awarded is a fraction determined by the court in a manner that frequently appears to have no rational basis. The situation in High Courts is much better than in the appellate courts, where costs awarded are mere tokens with absolutely no relationship to costs actually incurred.

  43. 43.Legal aid
    May a party apply for legal aid to finance court proceedings? What other options are available for parties who may not be able to afford litigation?
    1. No legal aid is available in Nigeria for civil proceedings. Lagos State has established an Office of Public Defender, and the statute makes provision for legal aid to be provided in civil cases, but does not state the basis on which such aid will be provided.

  44. 44.Contingency fees
    Are contingency fee arrangements permissible? Are they commonly used?
    1. Contingency fee arrangements are permitted in Nigeria, subject to an express prohibition against a legal practitioner purchasing or otherwise acquiring an interest in the subject matter of litigation that he or she is conducting.

  45. 45.Third-party funding
    Is third-party funding allowed in your jurisdiction?
    1. There are no provisions preventing third party funding to assist in the prosecution of proceedings. Likewise, there are no provisions prohibiting the third party from sharing in any proceeds of success.

  46. 46.Fee scales
    Are there fee scales lawyers must follow? Are there upper or lower limits for fees charged by lawyers in your jurisdiction?
    1. There is no scale of fees applicable to the conduct of civil proceedings in court.

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GAR know-how provides reliable cross-jurisdictional insight to help cement the building blocks of international practice. In this section, select experienced practitioners answer commonly asked questions for key jurisdictions so allowing readers to be better-placed to solve the challenges of their working days.

Questions

    Overview

  1. 1.Court system
    Describe the general organisation of the court system for civil litigation.
  2. 2.The legal profession
    Describe the general organisation of the legal profession.
  3. 3.General
    Give a brief overview of the political and social background as it relates to civil litigation.
  4. Jurisdiction

  5. 4.Jurisdiction and venue
    What are the criteria for determining the jurisdiction and venue of the competent court for a civil matter?
  6. 5.Forum shopping
    Does your jurisdiction commonly attract disputes that have a nexus with other jurisdictions?
  7. 6.Pendency in another forum
    How will a court treat a request to hear a dispute that is already pending before another forum?
  8. 7.

    Deference to arbitration
    How will the courts treat a dispute that is, or could be, subject to an arbitration clause or an agreement to arbitrate, including in interim proceedings?


  9. 8.Judicial review of arbitral awards on jurisdiction
    May courts in your country review arbitral awards on jurisdiction?
  10. 9.Anti-suit injunctions
    Are anti-suit injunctions available?
  11. 10.

    Sovereign immunity
    Which entities are immune from being sued in your jurisdiction? In what circumstances? In what circumstances can creditors enforce a court judgment or arbitral award against a sovereign or a state entity?


  12. Procedure

  13. 11.Commencement and conduct of proceedings in general
    How are proceedings commenced? To what extent will a court actively lead the proceedings and to what extent will the court rely on the parties to further the proceedings?
  14. 12.Statement of claim
    What are the requirements for filing a claim? What is the pleading standard?
  15. 13.Statement of defence
    What are the requirements for answering claims? What is the pleading standard?
  16. 14.Further briefs and submissions
    What are the rules regarding further briefs and submissions?
  17. 15.Publicity
    To what degree are civil proceedings made public?
  18. Pretrial settlement and ADR

  19. 16.Advice and settlement proposals
    Will a court render (interim) assessments about any factual or legal issues in dispute? What role and approach do courts typically take regarding settlement? Are there mandatory settlement conferences between the parties at the outset of or during the litigation?
  20. 17.Mediation
    Is referral to mediation or another form of ADR an option, or even mandatory, before or during the litigation?
  21. Interim relief

  22. 18.Forms of interim relief
    What are the forms of emergency or interim relief?
  23. 19.Obtaining relief
    What must a petitioner show to obtain interim relief?
  24. Decisions

  25. 20.Types of decisions
    What types of decisions (other than interim relief) may a court render in civil matters?
  26. 21.Timing of decisions
    At what stage of the proceedings may a court render a decision? Are motions to dismiss and summary judgment available?
  27. 22.Default judgment
    Under which circumstances will a default judgment be rendered?
  28. 23.Duration of proceedings
    How long does it typically take a court of first instance to render a decision?
  29. Parties

  30. 24.Third parties – joinder, third-party notice, intervenors
    How can third parties become involved in proceedings?
  31. Evidence

  32. 25.Taking and adducing evidence
    Will a court take or initiate the taking of evidence or will it rely on the parties to request the taking of evidence and to present it?
  33. 26.Disclosure
    Is an opponent obliged to produce evidence that is harmful to it in the proceedings? Is there a document disclosure procedure in place? What are the consequences if evidence is not produced by a party?
  34. 27.

    Witnesses of fact
    Please describe the key characteristics of witness evidence in your jurisdiction. Is witness preparation allowed?


  35. 28.Expert witnesses
    Who appoints expert witnesses? What is the role of experts?
  36. 29.Party witnesses
    Can parties to proceedings (or a party’s directors and officers in the case of a legal person) act as witnesses? Can the court draw negative inferences from a party’s failure to testify or act as a witness?
  37. 30.Foreign law and documentation
    How is foreign law or foreign-language documentation introduced into the proceedings and considered by the courts?
  38. 31.Standard of proof
    What standard of proof applies in civil litigation? Are there different standards for different issues?
  39. Appeals

  40. 32.Options for appeal
    What are the possibilities to appeal a judicial decision? How many levels of appeal are there?
  41. 33.

    Standard of review
    What aspects of a lower court's decisions will an appeals court review and by what standards?


  42. 34.Duration of appellate proceedings
    How long does it usually take to obtain an appellate decision?
  43. Special proceedings

  44. 35.Class actions
    Are class actions available?
  45. 36.Derivative actions
    Are derivative actions available?
  46. 37.Fast-track proceedings
    Are fast-track proceedings available?
  47. 38.Foreign-language proceedings
    Is it possible to conduct proceedings in a foreign language?
  48. Effects of judgement and enforcement

  49. 39.Effects of a judgment
    What legal effects does a judgment have?
  50. 40.Enforcement procedure
    What are the procedures and options for enforcing a domestic judgment?
  51. 41.Enforcement of foreign judgments
    Under what circumstances will a foreign judgment be enforced in your jurisdiction?
  52. Costs

  53. 42.Costs
    Will the successful party’s costs be borne by the opponent?
  54. 43.Legal aid
    May a party apply for legal aid to finance court proceedings? What other options are available for parties who may not be able to afford litigation?
  55. 44.Contingency fees
    Are contingency fee arrangements permissible? Are they commonly used?
  56. 45.Third-party funding
    Is third-party funding allowed in your jurisdiction?
  57. 46.Fee scales
    Are there fee scales lawyers must follow? Are there upper or lower limits for fees charged by lawyers in your jurisdiction?