A plaintiff commences action at a State High Court for breach of contract, claiming general damages of N20,000,000.00 (Twenty million naira only), he or she serves the originating process on the defendant, appearance is made by solicitors on behalf of both parties, motions and applications are filed, argued, granted or dismissed, pre-trial conferences and scheduling are done, exchange of pleadings, examination and cross examination of witnesses, filing of written addresses, and then judgment is entered in favour of the plaintiff.
This process as simple as it sounds, sometimes take five to seven years to complete, this in no way means that there are no cases that are concluded within two years.

Using the case study above, judgment is entered for the plaintiff and he wants to reap the fruits of his litigation from the defendant by enforcing the judgment, in simple terms, the plaintiff wants to recover his N20, 000,000.00 by way of legal action through the court.

The Sheriff and Civil Process Act (Cap S6) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (2004) is an act to make provision for the appointment and duties of sheriffs, the enforcement of judgments and orders, and the service and execution of civil process of the Courts throughout Nigeria.

Execution is the stage where a successful litigant gets rewarded for his or her time, effort and wrong done, remedied by the court of law, this is the point counsel and litigant ought to smile to the bank after tedious surfing of documents, appearances in court, sleepless nights, et al, but alas, this stage seems to be a clog in the wheel of justice.

Execution of judgments or orders for sum of money, Section (20) of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act {supra} provides inter alia; any sum of money payable under a judgment of a court may be recovered by execution against the goods and chattels and the immovable property of the judgment debtor in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The registrar on the application of the judgment creditor shall cause to be issued a writ of attachment and sale whereby the Sheriff shall be empowered to levy or cause to be levied by distress and sale of goods and chattels, wherever they may be found within the division or district of the court.

To achieve this successfully, the officer of the court responsible for such execution must be given police protection to efficiently carry out his duty. Section (15) of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act {supra} provides that it shall be the duty of every police officer to assist in the execution of process of the court.

According to a young lawyer who pleaded anonymity, to get this police protection, the office of the Chief Bailiff would write a letter to the commissioner of police, who would refer same to the Deputy Commissioner Administration, to Confidential, to Criminal Investigation Department, to the Officer in Charge Legal to investigate the veracity of the court process, and report to the Commissioner of Police, who would now refer back to the Officer in Charge Legal, then signal is sent to the police station in the division or district where judgment is sought to be executed, all in a bid to get police protection which is in itself not a guarantee that the judgment creditor would get the judgment sum.

Consent of appropriate officer or court necessary if money is held by public officer or the court, section (84) of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act (Supra) provides inter alia; where money liable to be attached by garnishee proceedings is in the custody of a public officer in his official capacity or in custodial legis, the order nisi shall not be made unless consent to such attachment is first obtained from the appropriate officer {the appropriate officer being Attorney General of the Federation or Attorney General of the State}, another bureaucratic hurdle in the enforcement of judgment.

In my humble opinion, execution of judgment sum without prejudice to the right of appeal of the judgment debtor ought not to be as difficult as obtaining the judgment. Take for instance, police protection; there should be a police outpost in every High Court complex whose duty would be to offer police protection to court officers during execution, this would do away with the bureaucratic hurdles of obtaining same.

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