The Kano State Judiciary in collaboration with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) has inaugurated a Small Claims Court in Kano. This is in line with enabling business environment reforms across all arms of Government aimed at making Nigeria a progressively easier place to do business.
The objective of the court is to improve the judicial process by providing easy access to a cost-effective and fast resolution of debt recovery disputes involving small claims of five million naira (N5m) and below. All claims which are filed at the Small Claims Court are expected to be heard and judgment delivered within a maximum period of 60 days, with a further 30 days for enforcement. Only one adjournment is allowed under exceptional circumstances.
In addition, magistrates are to hear matters daily to conclusion, and are enjoined to promote, encourage and facilitate negotiation among parties. The court also encourages self-representation, and adhere to strict timelines for following key specified court events.
The Small Claims Court is regulated by the Practice Directions on Small Claims 2018 issued by the Chief Judge of Kano State pursuant to the Magistrate Court Law of 2018. The launch took place on January 24, 2019 at the Judicial Service Commission, Audu Bako Secretariat, Kano State and was attended by the Ag. Chief Judge, Attorney General, Judges of the High Court, Magistrates, Judicial Officers and members of the bar.
In her remarks at the occasion, PEBEC Secretary and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole said; “The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council continues to collaborate with the Kano State Government, including the Kano State Judiciary, on business climate reforms for the State. The launch of the Small Claims Court is further proof of our successful collaboration, and how working together can yield great results.”
“On behalf of PEBEC, I congratulate the Acting Chief Registrar and the entire Kano State Judiciary on the successful commissioning of the Small Claims Court. We implore all small businesses to take advantage of the court and to tell more stakeholders about them. It can only be as efficient as we want it to be if we engage and use them”.
In order to ensure effectiveness of the court, PEBEC also conducted a 2-day training for magistrates and court officials in collaboration with leading commercial law firms in Nigeria.
Following the establishment of the Small Claims Court in Lagos in April 2018, it is reported that 90% of judgments delivered from May to September 2018 were delivered within the 60-day timeline in compliance with the Lagos State Magistrates’ Practice Directions on Small Claims.
This indicates substantial compliance in terms of timely disposition of matters. Prior to the establishment of the Small Claims Court, the 2019 World Bank Doing Business report stated that it took 447 days for matters to be resolved with the commercial court at the Lagos State Judiciary, and it currently takes 476 days for the court in Kano.
PEBEC was established in 2016 to oversee Nigeria’s business climate reform agenda, and is Chaired by His Excellency the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN. PEBEC’s model aligns with global best practice and includes a strong performance tracking element that is measured by the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index (DBI), which is reported annually.
The DBI is an annual ranking that objectively assesses prevailing business climate conditions across 190 countries based on 10 Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) indicators. The Index offers comparative insights based on private sector validation of reforms delivered in the two largest commercial cities in countries with a population higher than 100 million.
For Nigeria, the DBI tracks both Lagos and Kano States, being the two largest business cities in the country. The reform area/indicator known as Enforcing Contracts focuses mainly on the reforms of the judiciary and how cases are handled in the Small Claims Court within the State – from filing to delivery and enforcement of judgement.