CJN Cautions against Unnecessary Filing of Suits

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• Says Nigerian businesses need conducive environment to survive
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has advised Nigerians to always employ other avenues of dispute resolution before rushing to the court, thereby saving parties and judges a lot of resources and energy  that should be channelled into something more rewarding.

Justice Onnoghen who lamented that a lot of cases at the Supreme Court ought not to have been in court in the first place, advised lawyers to cultivate the habit of giving good and right counsel to their clients at all times.

The CJN stated this in Abuja during a courtesy visit by members of the Business Recovery and Insolvency Practitioners of Nigeria (BRIPAN), who were in his office to solicit support of the judiciary in promoting the practice of insolvency and restructuring in Nigeria.
“When there is a breach rather than the parties going for arbitration, the lawyer of the company rushes to court.”

“Nigeria’s Supreme Court is the only one that sits every day of the week. Last week alone, we delivered 22 judgments,” he added.
According to him, this development results to a situation where the courts are filled with a lots of cases, with some of them dragging for years until they get to the Supreme Court after a lot of resources including precious court time would have been wasted.

He appreciated BRIPAN for the visit, noting that interaction such as this, coupled with the proposed training for judges would provide better understanding, keep the judges abreast with development in the area as well as enhancement of speedy dispensation of dispute relating to insolvency matters.

Onnoghen, while stressing the need to create conducive environment that would enhance growth of businesses and the economy, assured BRIPAN of the judiciary’s cooperation in tackling their challenges. He directed the association to liaise with the National Judicial Institute (NJI) on the training for judges particularly those in the High and Appeal Courts.

Earlier,  the President and Chairman of Council, BRIPAN, Sola Oyetayo, told the CJN that the principal focus of modern insolvency legislation is no longer the liquidation and elimination of insolvent entities but the remodelling of the financial and organisational structure of debtors experiencing financial distress so as to permit the rehabilitation and continuation of their business.

According to Oyetayo, insolvency should not be criminalised but be seen as a state of sickness that needs right attention to be healthy again.
He disclosed that in other climes, modern insolvency laws have favoured the alternative debt resolution mechanisms that would save the business, and by extension the company, rather than kill it.

While stating that Nigeria currently lacks effective law on insolvency, the president maintained that the court has a critical role to play particularly in the speedy dispensation of insolvency cases.
He added that BRIPAN had already submitted a draft bill in the National Assembly that tends to shift focus from liquidation of ailing companies to their survival and ultimate flourishing.

BRIPAN is of the position that if the drive for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) must yield desired results, then much attention should be paid to the principle and practice of insolvency, as investors would always want to be sure of what will likely happen to their investment if and when they decide to exit.