The former Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mazi Afam Osigwe SAN, has described the challenges faced with the enforcement of court judgements in Nigeria as self-inflicted by the judiciary.
Speaking at the NBA-SPIDEL Conference with the theme: “The undermining of Judicial Authority in a Democracy”, Mazi Osigwe said judicial inconsistency is one of the key factors which serves as an impediment.
He made this remarks at the first panel session today titled “The Impediments to seamless Execution of Court orders in Nigeria” Any Way Out”?
Mazi Afam Osigwe SAN stressed that as far as Nigeria’s judiciary is concerned, Judicial inconsistency is the major problem facing enforcement of court judgement adding that this is self inflicted.
He said “My Lord Hon Justice Kanyip has said a lot without calling the problem by its name; my Lord is simply saying that the major impediment to a seamless enforcement of court judgement is Judicial inconsistency”
He continued “It is the judiciary inflicting wrong things into the law to frustrate enforcement of judgement, we must call it by its name.”
“A situation where you have recurring inconsistent judgement from the court of appeal within a space of few months.; so many inconsistent judgement” he said.
He also emphasised that public confidence in the judiciary is rooted in the firm belief that judgement gotten will be enforced swiftly with encumbrance, and said we are hurting ourselves with the present hurdles faced in that regard.
“We can only cry that someday we wake up to realise that we are wounding ourselves; because what makes a court important is the confidence the public has that if you get judgement you will be able to enforce it
“Another problem we have as impediment, is also the court itself.
“Section 294 says that every court shall immediately after the completion of judgement within seven days, make their decision available to parties
“But here, one month after, you are told that my Lord is still proof reading it, or they are typing it or that judgment is not ready or they ask you to go and apply.
“But my reading of section 294 does not suggest that you have to apply, it is a duty on the court to give you this judgment but they keep saying where is your application, you have not applied, we are still typing it, they have not certified it etc
“If you read the case of Olatunji vs Owena bank 2008 8 NWLR pt 1090 the supreme court per Mustapha JSC held that a monetary judgement immediately made by the court is enforceable
“Last year a judge was suspended for signing a writ of Fi Fa and today a judge is afraid to sign such writ while some will insist on waiting for the 90 days period of appeal before you can enforce,; whereas nothing says you cannot immediately enforce
Mazi Osigwe in addressing the challenge of judgement enforcement also took a swipe at the enforcement unit in Courts. He accused the enforcement units in most courts of corrupt and fraudulent practices.
“There is also fraud in the enforcement unit of the court.
Your lordship talked about People taking things that are not worth up to the judgement debt.
“What happens in reality is that people in the enforcement unit (I wish I could call them criminals but I can’t ), So, You take a vehicle in execution, and in the FCT they say you have to evaluate, and sometimes they leave the doors and bonnet open so that rain can fall on it then they evaluate it as a dilapidated car and later you see some of them driving these cars afterwards.
“The law requires that the auction sale be made public but you never see that publication, they paste it and remove it and then the people who turn out for that day, are told that auction sale has been postponed and if you come another day they say auction has taken place,
This is fraud in the enforcement unit of the court,” he said
According to him, even though the Judgement Enforcement Rules permits sale by private arrangements some courts do not allow it
He suggested that the court should be able to have its own security personnel to execute judgement and even take custody of persons when they are within the court premises for trials.
“The marshal service should also be created by an Act of the National Assembly, he said
Besides, he also itemised other reasons such as the high cost of execution of judgement and the slow appellate process as parts of impediments to a seamless execution of court judgement.
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