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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 05 November 2008 17:57 )
It is a fact of life that the way we conduct our internal affairs will have direct consequences on our external relationships. A man who commands no respect in his own house cannot seriously complain that he is not treated with respect in another man’s home.
If this is true at the individual level, it is no less true at the international level. If people are treated with disdain by their own government, can those people legitimately complain that the government and its machinery in another country does not deal with them justly?
Many a law firm in England can testify to the legal consequences of Nigeria’s persistent refusal to establish justice and equity among its many nations, and to the individual citizen.
From the stream of ‘419’ letters that have been faxed to my firm, it is obvious to me that the flow of such fraud laden letters to other law firms, and indeed to [?] the courts, is no less fulsome. This was confirmed in a recent article in the industry journal, The Solicitor’s Gazette, where such letters were simply termed “Nigerian fraud letters.”
The consequence is that fraudulent intent, and the propensity to provide false documents and to give false testimony, is presumed against the Nigerian party in any litigation, and the onus of rebutting the presumption can be a heavy one. Can we complain if the scales of justice in England are thus weighed against us from the beginning?
Litigation in England is an expensive process, principally because of the high cost of lawyers in an advanced services-driven economy. It is made even more costly by the “indemnity principle” under which the loser is made to pay the winner’s legal costs in addition to his own.
Such comfort as there is from the principle is that the loser is not known until the case is concluded; whichever party it turns out to be does not have to pay anything until the case ends. Thus, in the normal scheme of things, trials can be effected without having to show your money first.
The important exception to this rule is where the Claimant is a foreign person bringing a claim against a U.K. Defendant. In those circumstances the Defendant can ask the court to order that the foreign Claimant should first show that he has the funds to meet the Defendant’s costs in the event that the Defendant should prevail. Such an order may be made even where what the Claimant is pursuing the Defendant for payment for goods or services supplied. If the order is made it is not sufficient for the foreign Claimant to adduce evidence of his means, an amount equal to the Defendant’s estimate of its costs will have to be paid into court unless the court decides that it is just, in all the circumstances, not to do so.
Where the Claimant is a Nigeria-based individual or entity, unless the Claimant has immediately accessible assets in the UK, the order to give security for costs will invariably be made. One such company that I represented was required to pay more than £100,000.00 into the court, notwithstanding our submissions that the company is a household name in Nigeria with substantial assets, and that any cost order made by the High Court against the Company is enforceable in Nigerian Courts. Our opponents simply had to point to UK Department of Trade and Industry warning on its website to those looking to do business in Nigeria to insist on cash up front and not to allow any credit. Can that Nigerian company complain?
Even at trial, the Nigerian party, more often than not, has to file an appeal to get the right decision. This happens because some of the more politically minded judges allow the regular news reports of how Nigerians cheat themselves to skew their judgments in favour of the non-Nigerian party. In doing so they are ready to do any violence to the law that may be necessary in the hope that the decision will not go to appeal. Should it come as a surprise to Nigerians that even those tasked with doing justice may allow their judgment to be skewed by the “whose money is it anyway” attitude that sustains the kleptocracy in Nigeria?
These are the international legal consequences of bad governance in Nigeria as observed from my vantage point as a legal practitioner in the UK. Since human beings are the same all over, it is reasonable to assume that the same consequences are materialising wherever there is a Nigerian dimension.
Having aired the problem, what is to be done? What needs to be done is that we must begin to do justice to ourselves at home through good governance so that we may expect justice from abroad. Good governance requires political justice: Justice for the largest and smallest of Nigeria’s nations and for both the wealthiest and poorest of its citizens. Good governance is, when those who are in power, treat those over whom they exercise such power, as they would wish to be treated if the roles were reversed. Put simply, it is loving thy neighbour as thyself; the cornerstone of Christianity, Islam, and of all great faiths.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 05 February 2012 02:36 )