The Nasarawa State High Court of Justice has taken measures to enhance the process of the settlement of commercial disputes, involving small claims not more than N5million in all the Chief Magistrate Courts across the 13 Local Government Areas of the state.
Also the step taken is believed would enhance recovery of debt in all designated magistrate courts and would provide easy access to informal, inexpensive and speedy resolution of simple debt recovery disputes in the Magistrate Courts.
The State Chief Judge, Aisha Bashir Aliyu disclosed this shortly after signing a document of practice direction and warrants of correction on small claims courts 2022 at the State High Court complex in Lafia.
The signing of the document which was witnessed by a team from the Nasarawa State Investment Development Agency (NASIDA), was in response of the Presidential Business Enabling Environment for small claims court reform in the country.
At the moment, Nasarawa is said to be the first state in the North Central to implement the reform, and is expected to be launched next month, May.
The state Chief Judge who consider necessary the implementation of the reform, said, it has been a burden to her since she assumed duty as the head of courts in the state a year ago.
“Because we have petitions and complaints from farmers and illiterate members of the society who have been shortchanged by the police and civil defense personnels.
“When the issue of small claims court came to out attention, we felt it is necessary to implement it to bring sanity to the system.
“The claims may be small, but, those that take advantage of the parties, they pay more than the compensation or claims they are claiming for,” she said.
Bashir noted that, the development was a relief to High Court Judges, considering the busy schedules in their jurisdiction, which deal mostly with disputes of land matters, chieftaincy, armed robbery, kidnapping, and culpable hormocide, which always put them under pressure in effort to decongest the prisons.
She said, a time frame would be given to the magistrates due to it specialised nature, not to allow it sitting go through the civil procedure way to determine the small claims.
The chief judge however thanked the judicial friendly governor Sule for always understanding their plights and responding to their needs accordingly, saying if not for his priority to the welfare of its workers’, the state judicial staff would have joined their members from other states in the ongoing strike.
Stella Ajige, the Vice President, Business Reform and Ease of Doing Business in NASIDA who commended the bold step taken by the state chief judge, was optimistic that it would enhance the course of justice in the state.
According to her, “The presidential Business Enabling Environment in it national response has selected Nasarawa State as one of it focal states for small claims reform.
“The team engaged with the state business reform team, and are thankful of the landmark event which culminated in the signing of the practice direction.
“The small claims court are specialised and fast track court that are establish within the existing structure of the magistrate court, which are in line with Governor Abudullahi Sule’s mandate to make justice accessible to all in the state, as encapsulated in the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy.”
She further enumerated the benefits of the small claims court to include; promotion of effective case management, efficiency in the court system, speedy resolution of disputes, adoption of best court practices and fostering self representation among others.
“It is no doubt that the small claims court will advance the business environment and create an enabling environment for business to thrive within the state,” Ajige said.