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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 varies depending on the law being relied on.
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 put the other party on notice of an ex parte petition. The applicant must support the petition with an affidavit of facts, which should exhibit a certified true copy of the judgment for registration. 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 judgment debtor, respectively. If the court grants leave to register the foreign judgment, the order should be served on the judgment debtor. The order will specify a time limit within which the judgment debtor can apply to set aside the registration. Where the judgment debtor does not apply to set aside the order, the judgment creditor can register the foreign judgment and subsequently take steps to enforce the judgment through any of the judgment enforcement mechanisms (eg, writ of fieri facias).
Under the Foreign Judgment (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act
Section 4(1) permits a judgment creditor to apply to a Nigerian superior court for the registration of a foreign judgment. The act does not specify the procedure for commencement; therefore, the procedural rules of the court before which the enforcement is sought will apply.
At common law
To register and enforce a foreign judgment, the judgment creditor should institute a case via a writ of summons. The judgment creditor can file a summary judgment application together with the writ or apply that the suit be placed on the undefended list, as it is for the enforcement of a judgment (as 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 should take between six months and one year. However, an opposition by the judgment debtor may lengthen the proceedings.
This timeframe will also depend on how busy the court’s docket is.
What fees apply to applications for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?
The fees for recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment will be assessed by the registry of the relevant court.
Must the applicant for recognition and enforcement provide security for costs?
It is not compulsory that security is provided. However, pursuant to Section 5(1)(a) of the act, it is within the court’s discretion to request that the applicant provide security for costs.
Are decisions on recognition and enforcement subject to appeal?
Yes. Decisions on recognition and enforcement can be appealed.
How does the enforcing court address other costs issues arising in relation to the foreign judgment (eg, calculation of interest, exchange rates)?
Under Section 4(6) of the act, the judgment must 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. These costs are in addition to the sum payable under the judgment of the original court, including any interest which, by the law of the original jurisdiction, is due up to the time of registration.
Under Section 4(3) of the act, where the sum payable under a judgment pending registration uses a foreign currency, the sum should be converted to Naira using the exchange rate from the date of the judgment of the original court.
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?
Under Sections 4(4) and (5) of the act, the courts can grant the partial recognition and enforcement of judgments.
Where the judgment of the foreign court has been only partly satisfied, the judgment should not be registered in respect of the whole sum of the foreign judgment.
Further, the court can register the part of a judgment that it deems to be registrable and refuse to register the other elements.
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