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The Government of Enugu State has inaugurated 10 Small Claims Courts to address the challenge of delays in settlement of financial disputes, especially debt recovery and other liquidated money demand.
Justice Afojulu Ozoemena who performed the inauguration in Enugu, the Chief Judge, said the courts, which will be presided by magistrates, would entertain financial disputes ranging from ₦5 million to ₦10 million.
He commended Governor Peter Mbah, who also doubles as the Chairman of Enugu State Ease of Doing Business Council ‘for his commitment to effective justice dispensation in the state,’ noting ‘the milestone is part of the fulfillment of His Excellency’s manifesto.’
This was even as the Managing Director/CEO of the Enugu State Investment Development Authority and Focal Person of State Action on Business Enabling Reforms (SABER), Dr. Sam Ogbu-Nwobodo, said the Small Claims Courts was in keeping with the administration’s determination to grow the state’s economy from $4.4bn to $30bn in the next four to eight years by making the state the best investment destination in Nigeria.
Speaking during the event, the Chief Judge of Enugu State, who was represented by Justice Reuben Odugu, said: ‘In human interactions and communications, particularly, in the conduct of business, it is almost inevitable that disagreements will occur which usually will require the intervention of the judicial system for their resolution.
‘Consequently, the ability to resolve contractual disputes on real time basis is, therefore, fundamental in ensuring that both the markets and economies function properly.
‘In order to fulfill this obligation, the adoption of a system of dispute resolution that is fast, informal and inexpensive becomes imperative.
‘In line with the foregoing, the Small Claims Court was created with specific duties and powers. It is a specialized court designed to provide judicial determination of disputes involving small amounts of money.
‘The Court provides an accessible, inexpensive, speedy forum for dispute resolution of small monetary claims. The claims can be heard with or without legal representation. Small Claims Court, ordinarily, is a court of limited Jurisdiction that hears disputes between litigants in the Magistrates’ Courts.
‘The legal framework for the operation of the court in Enugu State has been put in place. The Magistrates’ Court Law (Practice Directions on Small Claims) 2023 (the ‘Practice Directions’) made pursuant to the Magistrates’ Courts Law of Enugu State, 2004 was issued in the month of July, 2023.
‘The Magistrates’ Court Law of Enugu State and the Magistrates’ Court (Civil Procedure) Rules of Enugu State are applicable to the proceedings in the Small Claims Court, particularly, in areas not covered by the Practice Directions, 2023.
‘The monetary jurisdiction of the Court is N5,000,000 and a maximum of N10,000,000 in the case of a counter claim.’
He thanked the secretariat of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) for being of immense support in the training of the 10 Learned magistrates and 10 assistant chief registrars towards the establishment and operationalisation of the courts, adding that the courts would start entertaining cases soon after the inauguration.