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News - 04 May 2020

1.    Is there a legal prohibition of third party debt collection agencies collecting outside of the Nigerian borders?

There is no government policy, statutory provisions or decision of any court prohibiting the collection of debts outside Nigerian borders.

2.    What are the legal capabilities of Nigerian debt collection firms? Do they have an in house legal team or a law firm or do they outsource to a third party law firm?

Most businesses attempt to collect outstanding debts by using their in house personnel or in house legal team but without much success. This makes businesses to assign their debt portfolio to debt collection firms with experience and skill to collect the debts for a commission.

Debt collection in Nigeria is within the purview of law firms. Finance and other firms who engage in the debt collection business, retain the services of a third party law firm to advise and assist them collect debts by legal proceedings.

3.    What are the options to proceed with legal action?

If the debtor denies indebtedness to the Client; refuses to liquidate the debt or fails to settle instalment payments within the agreed time, the debt collection firm would upon the Client's instructions, commence legal action against the debtor to collect the debt.

4.    Can debt collection firms in Nigeria litigate on Business to Consumer ("B2C") and Business to Business ("B2B") cases?

Nigerian debt collection firms can litigate on debts arising from B2C and B2B within the jurisdiction of court where the debtor resides or carry on business.

5.    What is the average turnaround time to judgment and to enforcement?

Judgment

If the debt is a liquidated money demand, the collection firm may commence a summary judgment proceeding to collect the debt. Summary judgment proceeding takes an average period of 1-3 months.

In a summary judgment proceeding, if the judge finds that the debtor has a defence on the merit, the suit will be transferred to the general cause list and the proceeding may take a period of between 6-8 months to obtain judgment. This also applies where the collection firm commence a civil action (with full trial) to collect the debt.

Enforcement

Judgments in Nigeria are mostly enforced by attachment of the moveable property of the debtor (writ of fifa), attachment of immovable property of the debtor and garnishee proceedings.

a.    Writ of Fifa;

Upon issuance of a writ of fifa by the court, the collection firm would apply for law enforcement officers through the enforcement unit of the court to accompany them to enforce the judgment by attaching the moveable property of the debtor. The process of enforcement by writ of fifa usually takes an average period of 14 days.

The process may take up to 6 weeks if the debtor's moveable property is to be attached in jurisdictions other than the jurisdiction where the judgment was delivered.

b.    Attachment of immovable Property;

If the debtor does not have moveable property within the jurisdiction of the court or the debtor's moveable property is not enough to liquidate the judgment debt, the collection firm may bring an application for attachment of the immovable property of the debtor. The process usually takes a period of 4-6 weeks.

c.    Garnishee Proceedings;

If the collection firm has information on monies due to the debtor in the hands of a third party, it may apply to the court by instituting garnishee proceedings to attach the judgment sum in the hand of the third party. Upon grant of a garnishee order nisi, the judgment sum is attached and the third party will appear in court to give reasons why the garnishee order absolute should not be granted on the attached sum and paid to the Client. The process usually takes a period of 4-8 weeks.

6.    What is the recovery rate of legal action?

There is a 100% rate of recovery of debt by legal action, if there is an Agreement between the parties detailing the terms of the contract between the Client and the debtor and invoices to show that goods were supplied or services provided or string of emails in which the debtor admits to its indebtedness in the sum claimed.

Provided the jurisdiction clause in the Agreement does not prohibit the commencement of an action to recover the debt in a Nigerian court.

7.    What data security standards apply to consumer data in Nigeria?

Apart from the Data Protection Policy of respective debt collection firms, the Data Protection Regulation 2019 made pursuant to the National Information Technology Development Agency Act regulates protection of consumer data in Nigeria.

8.    Do you require a formal notice of assignment to commence collection activity in Nigeria?

There is no statutory requirement for formal notice of assignment to commence collection activity in Nigeria. However, a formal notice of assignment is important because it gives a mandate for the collection firm to commence the collection process; spells out the terms of the collection activity and states the contact details of the debtor.