AGF sued over inoperative Foreign Judgment Reciprocal Enforcement Act

A lawyer, Emmanuel Ekpenyong, has filed a lawsuit against the attorney general of the federation at the Supreme Court over alleged failure to promulgate an order to bring Part 1 of the Foreign Judgment Reciprocal Enforcement Act, 1990, into operation since its enactment in 1960 to commence February 1, 1961.

Mr Ekpenyong, in his notice of motion for leave to appeal dated and filed February 15 at the Supreme Court, listed the AGF as the sole respondent.

In the motion marked SC/CR/92/2024, the lawyer sought five orders, including an order extending the time for him to seek leave to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, delivered on May 12, 2022, in appeal number: CA/A/132/2020 between him and the AGF.

He also sought an order granting leave to him to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, among others.

The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had, in an appeal number:: CA/A/132/2020 between Mr Ekpenyong and AGF, dismissed the appeal on May 12, 2022.

It, thereafter, upheld the judgement of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court that the AGF had absolute discretionary powers under section 3 (1) of the act to promulgate an order to bring Part 1 of the act into operation.

Mr Ekpenyong of Fred-Young & Evans LP had, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/755/2017 dated and filed on June 21, 2017, sued the AGF as sole defendant before retired Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

In the originating summons, the lawyer urged the court to determine whether there is a mandatory legal duty on the AGF under section 3{1) and 9 of the Foreign Judgment Reciprocal Act, CAP F35, Law of the Federation, 1990 (the 1990 Act) to promulgate an order to bring Part 1 of 1990 Act into operation.

The plaintiff averred that he was a member of international law networks like IR Global, Global Law Experts, Legal Finest and International Credit Network and that evidence had shown that he had sufficient interest in the subject matter contrary to the AGF’s argument.

He stated that he had suffered some injuries and hardship due to the AGF’s failure to promulgate the order.

In addition, he contended that he had lost business for registration of foreign judgments in Nigeria because of the AGF’s failure to promulgate the order to bring Part 1 of the 1990 Act into operation.

Mr Ekpenyong said the promulgation of the order would make foreign businesses do more business with Nigerians and Nigerian companies because they could recover monetary judgments in Nigeria.

“This will improve international trade and foreign investments. This will also boost the Nigerian economy and the right to livelihood of the plaintiff and Nigerians,” he said.

Ms Chikere, though, held that the plaintiff had locus standi to institute the suit. She agreed with the defence arguments on the discretionary power of AGF to promulgate the order only if he was satisfied that there were countries with reciprocal treatment of judgments with Nigeria based on section 3(1) of the act.

She consequently dismissed Mr Ekpenyong’s suit.

Upon his two grounds of the proposed appeal to the Supreme Court, Mr Ekpenyong said he was desirous of appealing against the concurrent findings in the judgment of both the trial court and appellate court on questions of mixed law and facts.

According to him, the AGF’s discretion under section 3 (1) of the 1990 Act is not absolute but subject to judicial review of the courts under section 6 (6) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to prevent an abuse of the discretion under the act.

He further stated that the courts ought to give a purposive interpretation of section 3 (1) of the act and