For smooth recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment, proper attention must be paid to timing, as the date on which the judgment was handed down and the period that has since elapsed are fundamental to the application. Although they are empowered to grant an extension of time, the Nigerian courts are wary of recognising a judgment more than 12 months after it was originally handed down.
It is also important to ensure that:
A potential applicant should be cautious of how it submits its application to court. While the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act provides for this be made by application to court, the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgment Ordinance provides for this be made by way of petition.
- the original court had the requisite jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter;
- the judgment debtor was properly served in the substantive suit; and
- the foreign judgment does not fall foul of any applicable law or public policy in Nigeria and is capable of being enforced.
Further caution is required in light of the recent decision in Heyden Petroleum Ltd v Planet Maritime (2018) Lpelr-45553(Ca), in which the Nigerian Court of Appeal held that an application seeking to set aside a recognised foreign judgment shall be by way of petition, as provided by Section 6 of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Ordinance, and not by motion on notice. The proper order to make where this is not adhered to is an order to strike out the application, and not a dismissal.
Also, in Andrew Mark Macaulay v Raiffeisen Zentral Bank Osterreich Akiengesell Schaft (Rzb) of Austria (2009) NWLR (Pt 1149), the Supreme Court held that both existing federal laws on foreign judgment are relevant and co-exist independently of each other, and that the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act did not repeal the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Ordinance.
There is thus a need to streamline these federal laws, which include both similar and different stipulations on matters which could significantly affect any such application.