Thursday, May 23, 2024

Emmanuel Ekpenyong Challenges Supreme Court Over Inaction on Foreign Judgment Reciprocal Enforcement Act


Supreme Court Challenge over Non-operation of Foreign Judgment Reciprocal Enforcement Act

In an unprecedented legal move, Emmanuel Ekpenyong, a distinguished lawyer, has initiated legal proceedings against the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) at the Supreme Court, over the AGF’s alleged inaction in enforcing Part 1 of the Foreign Judgment Reciprocal Enforcement Act, 1990. This act, originally enacted in 1960 and set to commence operation from February 1, 1961, has reportedly remained inactive due to the absence of an official order from the AGF to bring it into implementation.

Ekpenyong has submitted a motion at the Supreme Court, seeking several orders regarding his right to appeal against a decision made by the Court of Appeal, Abuja on May 12, 2022. The disputed decision upheld a judgement by the Federal High Court in Abuja, stating that the AGF possesses absolute discretionary power to enact an order for the said part of the Act to come into operation.

The journey to the Supreme Court began after Ekpenyong’s appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, which supported the Federal High Court’s verdict that the AGF has discretionary powers under Section 3 (1) of the Act. Ekpenyong originally filed the suit at the Federal High Court in 2017, challenging the AGF’s inaction and asserting the AGF’s legal obligation to promulgate an order that would enable the operation of Part 1 of the Foreign Judgment Reciprocal Enforcement Act.

In the suit, Ekpenyong argued for the mandatory legal duty of the AGF to extend the applicability of Part 1 of the Act to judgments from superior courts of foreign countries that offer substantially reciprocal treatment with Nigeria. He suggested that such a move would not only streamline the process for recognizing and enforcing foreign judgments in Nigeria but also boost international trade and investment, thereby benefiting the Nigerian economy and its people.

Despite his arguments, the Federal High Court, presided over by retired Justice Anwuli Chikere, dismissed the suit, citing that the AGF could only promulgate the order based on satisfaction of reciprocity conditions with other countries. This decision led Ekpenyong to seek recourse at the Supreme Court, aiming to challenge the interpretations of his discretionary powers as conferred by the Act.

Ekpenyong argues that the discretion allowed to the AGF by the 1990 Act is not absolute and is subject to judicial review. He insists that a more purposeful interpretation of Section 3 (1) of the Act should be adopted to avoid what he terms an ‘absurdity’ that has come as a result of a literal interpretation of the provision. On these grounds, Ekpenyong seeks the Supreme Court’s leave to appeal against the prior judgments, positing that the matter raises significant legal questions that could profoundly impact Nigeria’s legal landscape and economic wellbeing.

Asserting that his proposed appeal lies in the public interest and has the potential to enhance Nigeria’s jurisprudence on the subject, Ekpenyong claims that the appeal represents an exceptional circumstance warranting the apex court’s review. His application for leave to appeal at the Supreme Court comes after a delay caused by procedural confusions at the Appeal Court level, marking a critical juncture in this legal odyssey centered on international legal reciprocity and its enforcement within the Nigerian judicial system.

As the legal community anxiously awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling on this matter, the outcome could herald significant changes in how foreign judgments are recognized and enforced in Nigeria, potentially unlocking greater international cooperation and economic engagement for the country.

Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett is a seasoned business journalist with over a decade of experience covering the global economy, finance, and corporate strategies. With a Bachelor's degree in Economics and a Master's in Business Journalism from Columbia University, Alexandra has built a reputation for her insightful analysis and ability to break down complex economic trends into understandable narratives. Prior to joining our team, she worked for major financial publications in New York and London. Alexandra specializes in mergers and acquisitions, market trends, and economic

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