A Small Claim Court has been introduced in Bayelsa state for recovery of debts not beyond N5 million in the state. The Chief Judge of Bayelsa State, Justice Kate Abiri, has also set up a five-member management committee to run the newly inaugurated Court.
Justice Abiri expressed that the Small Claims Court was established to give legal inclusivity to aggrieved persons whose claims were denied space and time in the congested and expensive dispute resolution platforms. She pointed out that the state of adjudicatory system is both expensive and time consuming, adding that it offers just little succour to litigants with small claims, especially those having to do with commercial disputes.
“We can imagine the plight of a small business operator who is owed money for goods supplied. To recover the debts, our businessmen have to go through a litigation system that may take eternity to reach a final decision. Oftentimes, the party may have spent much more than what he seeks to recover. Indeed, it is a fact that most businesses have closed down in Nigeria due to our courts delay in enforcing contracts”, Justice Abiri said.
In addition, the Chief Judge stressed that in spite of being the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria ranks 131 out of 191 economies of the world on the ease of doing business, this she attributed to the data of the latest World Bank annual ratings released on November 18th, 2022.
Justice Abiri added that enforcement of contracts by courts is one of the criteria used in ranking ease of doing business. She reiterated that the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Committee is collaborating with the Bayelsa State Government and providing technical assistance and support in the establishment of four pilot small claims courts.
Mrs Abise Theophilus, Deputy Chief Registrar, Bayelsa High Court said the courts would be presided over by a Magistrate, whose target is to deliver judgement within 14 days of concluding hearing and ensure that the cases were concluded within 30 days. The Deputy Chief Registrar explained that litigants do not have to hire a lawyer to approach the special courts which are less formal and more flexible than regular courts as litigants are allowed to represent themselves.