The Bayelsa State Judiciary on Thursday, the 5th of January, 2023 inaugurated a five member management committee to run the small claims courts for recovery of debts not exceeding N5 million in Bayelsa.
Speaking at the event, Justice Kate Abiri noted that the idea of small claims court was conceived to accord legal inclusiveness to aggrieved persons whose claims are denied space and time in the congested and expensive dispute resolution platforms.
She regretted that the current adjudicatory system is both expensive and time consuming and offers little or no succour to litigants with small claims, especially those relating to commercial disputes.
The Bayelsa Chief Judge noted that in spite of being the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria ranks 131 out of 191 economies of the world on ease of doing business.
She attributed the data to the latest World Bank annual ratings released on Nov. 18, 2022, adding that enforcement of contracts by courts is one of the criteria used in ranking ease of doing business.
The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Committee is collaborating with the Bayelsa government and providing technical assistance and support in the establishment of four pilot small claims courts.
The inaugurated members of the Management of the Management of the small claims courts are, Justice Timipre Songi, Chairman, Ebiere Empere, Secretary, Florizel Obiri. Others are Justina Daniel and Kelvin Amanawa.
Giving an overview of the small claims courts Ms Abise Theophilus, Deputy Chief Registrar, Bayelsa High Court said that the Small Claims Court was established as part of efforts to bring justice closer to the people and to ensure its quick dispensation.
She also stated that the court was established to provide easy access to informal, inexpensive and speedy resolution of simple matters.
According to DCR, the court deals with simple matters such as debt recovery disputes, demands that do not exceed N5, 000,000.00
She said the establishment of such a court was aimed at bringing justice closer to people at the grassroots level.
She said: “The small claims court is targeted at some people who might find it difficult to hire the service of lawyers and that the method of operation at the court is very simple. Litigants do not need lawyers to file claims or defend same and fees are also quite cheap and affordable.”
She added that the small claims court were time bound, noting that the entire proceeding from inception till judgment was not expected to last more than 60 working days.
In his goodwill message, Mr Ukumbiriowei Saiyou, Chairman , Yenagoa branch of Nigerian Bar Association assured that the bar would support the efforts by the judiciary in Bayelsa to expedite the dispensation of justice.
On his part, HRH Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV of Ekpetiama, in Yenagoa and Chairman, Traditional Rulers Council in Bayelsa applauded the establishment of the special courts which are expected to enhance the peoples’ access to justice.
He noted that the courts will encourage use of legal options to settle disputes as opposed to self help which sometimes result in loss of lives.