Thinking about How to sue someone in Nigeria? Generally, instituting an action against a person in Nigeria can be straightforward. However, it is advisable that other modes of settling disputes be explored before a trip to the court room is made. For example, the claimant may consider ADR mechanisms such as – Arbitration, Conciliation, Negotiation, expert determination or Mediation as this generally saves more time and cost and has a better potential of preserving an existing cordial relationship between the parties where future relationship is important.
Things to Consider Before suing a person in Nigeria:
These are factors to consider when you think about suing someone in Nigeria:
To sue someone in Nigeria, the claimant and defendant must be legally capable to sue and be sued respectively. In Nigeria only legal persons (Natural or Non-natural) can sue and be sued. For example, you cannot make a claim directly against a minor (person under the age of 18) expect such minor is being sued for necessities. You can however sue a minor for other reasons through their legal guardian.
2. Cause of Action:
Not all actions are valid before the court of law. It is important that the existence of a recognizable cause of action be established before a claimant proceeds to court against an individual. A lawsuit can be struck out or dismissed for lack of valid cause of action. A cause of action us the fact or combination of facts that gives a person the right to seek judicial redress or relief against another. This is usually contained in the Statement of Claim.
3. Limitation of Action:
Before filing a lawsuit against a person, it is critical to confirm whether the cause of action identified is statute barred. The status of limitation prescribes a period after which a claimant will be unable to bring an action against a defendant.
It is one thing to identify a valid cause of action and another to file a suit in the correct Court. Considering how foundational jurisdiction is to every lawsuit, a claimant must ensure that they confirm the jurisdictional validity of their case before instituting the action in any court in Nigeria. The court's jurisdiction in Nigeria can be divided into two categories: territorial jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction.
Some jurisdictional dynamics include:
- In Lagos State, for example, a monetary claim of N10, 000,000 (Ten Million Naira) or less can be filed in the Magistrate Court. However, where it exceeds N10, 000,000 (Ten Million Naira), the magistrate court lacks jurisdiction.
- Matter concerning Land are filed in the State High Courts' of the state where the land is situated.
- The National Industrial Court has jurisdiction concerning Employment disputes.
- Matrimonial causes are filed in the High Court of the place where the Respondent is domiciled.
- Admiralty and Maritime issues are filed at the Federal High Court.
A defendant who wishes to defend an action must also file a defense, which must include:
- statement of defense
- list of witnesses to be relied on
- Witness statements on oath,
- Documents to be relied on.
Overall, instituting an action whether against an individual or a company in Nigeria requires specialize skill. Consequently, it is important for aggrieved persons without the said skills to engage legal counsels and seek legal advice. In order to sue someone in court, you would need the assistance of a lawyer. Where cost is an issue, you may wish to take advantage of the access to free or affordable legal services provided by Non-Governmental Organizations, Human Rights Commission, and Legal Aid Council. In addition, you can reach out to some private practitioners who provide pro bono legal services on need basis. The office of the public Defender is also available to defend you where you are sued and lack resources to defend yourself.
Originally Published 18 May, 2021
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.