The Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Ladipo Abimbola has inaugurated a committee for the establishment of the Small Claims Court (SSC) in the Oyo State Judiciary, to resolve liquidated debt disputes of five million naira and below while providing stakeholders with an accessible, inexpensive and speedy resolution platform for simple and liquidated financial disputes.
The proposed SSC, which is part of the Oyo State Judiciary reform agenda for the effective and efficient administration of justice in the state is focused on the reduction of time for dispute resolution as well as an improvement if transparency in the administration of justice.
Speaking on the importance of the SSC, Justice Abimbola stated that the court is designed to dispense with matters within 30 days and judgement within 14 days of the conclusion of the hearing, adding that the entire proceedings from filing to judgement shall not exceed 60 days.
According to him, “the advantages of the court are that it has jurisdiction to entertain simple and liquidated debt recovery claims not exceeding five million naira and counterclaim not exceeding ten million naira, it is time and cost saving, there is a quick and efficient resolution of disputes within 60 days of filing, there is limited adjournment due to fast track proceedings and self-representation is encouraged as litigants so not need lawyers to represent them in court.”
Justice Abimbola added that the SSC is part of the notable interventions of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) efforts to implement several ease of doing business reforms through the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES) which provides improved access to justice for Micro, Small and Medium Size Enterprises (MSME) owners across state judiciaries.
He emphasised that President Muhammadu Buhari established PEBEC in July 2016 to oversee reforms targeted at removing critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic constraints of doing business in Nigeria in a bid to create an enabling business environment for MSMEs in Nigeria.
In order to work out modalities for the establishment of the SSC, a committee comprising Justice O.S. Adeyemi as chairman, Mrs O.A Ogunrin, the Deputy Chief Registrar I for Probate as Secretary, Mrs A.A. Lawore – Akinyele, Deputy Chief Registrar I for Magistracy, Mrs Adisa, Deputy Chief Registrar II, Mrs Ebeloku – Mustapha, Deputy Chief Registrar II, Mrs S.H. Adebisi, Deputy Chief Registrar II, and Ms Suliat Salawudeen, the Acting Director, Oyo State Multidoor Courthouse as Assistant Secretary of the committee.
The committee was tasked to carry out its assignment in line with PEBEC guidelines and submit its report within 14 days of the inauguration and it will be responsible for the monitoring of the operations of SSC after it is commissioned.
Meanwhile, Justice Abimbola has taken delivery of 75 copies of the Oyo State of Nigeria Gazette of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law 2020 presented by Barrister Helen Modupe Awosemusi, a Deputy Director in the Public Prosecution department of the state Ministry of Justice and coordinator of the Oyo State Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Response Team (Oyo SGBVRT).
The law was presented to the Chief Judge on behalf of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof Oyelowo Oyewo in the presence of key judiciary officers and members of the Oyo SGBVRT.
Also, the Chief Judge hosted a team from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), led by the Deputy Director, KAM Olusesi, who came to express appreciation for the speedy dispensation of EFCC cases and cooperation enjoyed from the Oyo judiciary as a whole.
In his response, Justice Abimbola instructed the DCR litigation to ensure no government agency pays filing fees and said that though there might be no designated courts for EFCC cases, matters from EFCC had always been assigned to judges who have handled them expeditiously.
He however stated that in issuing remand warrants, protocols must be followed in line with provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law in order to be fair to both the claimant and the defendant.
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