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Recognition and enforcement procedure
What is the formal procedure for seeking recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment?
The formal procedure for seeking recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment depends on the applicable law.
Under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Ordinance The judgment creditor must apply to the High Court for leave to register the foreign judgment by a petition, either ex parte or on notice. The court reserves the right to direct that the other party be put on notice of an ex parte petition. The applicant must support the petition with an affidavit of facts and with a certified true copy of the judgment to be registered attached as an exhibit in support of the application. The supporting affidavit should state the full name, title, trade or business, and usual or last-known place of abode or business of the judgment creditor and debtor.
If the court grants leave to register the foreign judgment, the court order should be served on the judgment debtor. The order will specify a period within which the judgment debtor can apply to set aside the order granting leave to register. Where the judgment debtor does not bring an application to set aside the order, the judgment creditor can proceed to register the foreign judgment and subsequently take steps to enforce it through any judgment enforcement mechanisms (eg, writ of fieri facias or garnishee proceedings).
Under the Foreign Judgment (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act The Foreign Judgment (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act does not specify the mode for commencing the action; therefore, this will depend on the procedural rules of the court before which the action is sought to be enforced.
At common law To register and enforce a foreign judgment, the judgment creditor should institute a case via a writ of summons and plead the foreign judgment. In addition, the judgment creditor may file a summary judgment application or apply that the suit be placed on the undefended list, as it is for enforcement of a judgment. It can easily be inferred that the judgment debtor has no defence to the claim.
What is the typical timeframe for the proceedings to grant recognition and enforcement?
Barring any complications, the process for recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment can take between six months and one year. However, the completion time may be longer where the registration is opposed by the judgment debtor.
The timeframe within which proceedings are concluded will also depend on the size of the court’s docket.
What fees apply to applications for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?
The fees for recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment are assessed by the registry of the court in which recognition and enforcement is sought.
Must the applicant for recognition and enforcement provide security for costs?
It is not compulsory for the applicant to provide security for costs. Instead, it is at the court’s discretion to require the applicant to provide this (Section 5(1)(a) of the Foreign Judgment (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act). Where security for costs is ordered by the court, then it becomes compulsory for the applicant to provide same.
Are decisions on recognition and enforcement subject to appeal?
Yes. Decisions on recognition and enforcement can be appealed to the court of appeal and subsequently the Supreme Court.
How does the enforcing court address other costs issues arising in relation to the foreign judgment (eg, calculation of interest, exchange rates)?
In addition to the sum of money payable under the judgment of the original court (including any interest which, by the law of that country, is due under the judgment up to the time of registration), the judgment will be registered for the reasonable costs of and incidental to registration, including the costs of obtaining a certified true copy of the judgment from the original court (Section 4(6) of the Foreign Judgment (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act). The sum for which a judgment is registered will also carry interest (Section 4(2)(c) of the act).
Where the sum payable under a judgment to be registered is expressed in a currency other than the currency of Nigeria, the judgment will be registered as if it were a judgment for such sum in the currency of Nigeria based on the exchange rate on the date of the original judgment (Section 4(3) of the act).
Enforcement against third parties
To what extent can the courts enforce a foreign judgment against third parties?
A judgment binds only the parties to the proceedings. Therefore, a foreign judgment will not be enforced against third parties.
Partial recognition and enforcement
Can the courts grant partial recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?
Yes, the courts can grant partial recognition and enforcement of judgments (Section 4(5) of the Foreign Judgment (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act). If it appears to the court that a foreign judgment is in respect of different matters, some of which cannot be registered by the court, then it can register the provisions that – in its view – are registrable and refuse to register the other parts of the judgment.
Further, if a foreign judgment has been partly satisfied at the date of application for registration, the court will register the foreign judgment in respect of the sum as yet unpaid under the judgment (Section 4(4) of the act).
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