Why We Established Small Claims Court – Lagos Govt

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Governor Akinwumi Ambode

By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos

Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, has explained the reason why the state government inaugurated Small Claims Court.

The establishment of the courts, he elaborated, will complement the efforts of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration for the enhancement of the delivery of justice in the state.

According to the attorney-general, the status of small claims courts are also found in developed nations, such as Britain, Russia, America, etc.

Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, while inaugurating the Small Claims Courts recently in JIC Taylor Court House, Igbosere in Lagos Island said the courts will operate at the hierarchy of magistrate courts and that they will adjudicate on claims not exceeding five million Naira.

15 magistrates courts have been designated as small claims courts within the five judicial divisions in the state, the chief judge stated.

“The objective of the small claims courts procedure is to provide easy access to informal, inexpensive and speedy resolution of simple debt recovery disputes in the magistrate court, of claims not exceeding five million Naira,” Oke clarified.

She pointed out that there is a handbook/guide which explains each step of the process, guides through the filling of forms and provides answers to almost every conceivable questions that a party who is desirous of using the process may have.

She disclosed that there is a plan to translate the handbook to various languages including Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo and Pidgin English.

She believes the translation into other languages will encourage the use of the procedure and self-representation by semi-illiterates and literates.

  Pointing out that the procedure is fast, efficient and inexpensive, the chief judge said:  “The entire hearing period from the first date of hearing, inclusive of the time allowed for exploring  amicable settlement must not exceed 60 days.”

The documents which litigants have to deal with in utilizing the services of the small claims courts include:  Letter of Demand, Complint forms and Summons forms.

The Small Claims Courts’ procedure is simplified,” the chief judge emphasized.  “Every step has been reduced into standard forms which the claimant or defendant/counter-claimant, as the case may be, simply fills and files.”  

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