Garnishee proceedings is one of the ways of enforcing money judgments in Nigeria. The nature of the garnishee proceedings is as prescribed in Section 83 to 92 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act. The procedure allows the judgment creditor to reap the fruits of the judgment by recovering debts owed by third parties to the judgment debtor. The garnishees are in some cases banks and the debts are usually the monies in the account of the judgment debtor domiciled in the banks. Although garnishee proceedings are usually an offshoot of judgments, the proceedings are in a class of its own. A garnishee proceedings is instituted by a person who has obtained judgment in its favour. The essence of the proceedings is to ask the court to compel a third party in possession of funds belonging to the judgment debtor to give up such funds to the person who has obtained the judgment, that is, the judgment creditor.
Parties to Garnishee Proceedings
- The Judgment Creditor: This is the party who has emerged victorious in a case and has obtained the judgment of court in that regard. The judgment creditor is usually the successful litigant who has now instituted garnishee proceedings to reap the fruits of the judgment.
- The Judgment Debtor: The Judgment Debtor is the unsuccessful party at the end of a litigation. It is the party against whom judgment has been delivered. By reason of the judgment against him, he is indebted to the judgment creditor.
- The Garnishee: This is the third party who is in possession of funds belonging to the judgment debtor. Typically, garnishees are banks. However, garnishees can be employees, employers etc. The important factor that qualifies an individual or organization to be a garnishee is that individual’s or organization’s possession of funds belonging to the judgment debtor.
Procedure for Garnishee Proceedings in Nigeria
Obtain a judgment of court: Garnishee proceedings are predicated on a judgment of court. Thus, the judgment creditor will need to obtain the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment. The CTC will be relevant for the next procedural step.
Prepare and file an application to the court for the grant of a Garnishee Order Nisi. The application is usually a motion ex parte with a supporting affidavit. The CTC of the judgment has to be attached to the supporting affidavit as an exhibit. If the rules of court of your state of jurisdiction requires, you can accompany the motion with a written address.
Appear in court on the stipulated date and move your application. Once the court is satisfied with the facts supporting your application, the Garnishee Order Nisi will be granted.
Once the Order Nisi is made, approach the registrar of court to draw up the order for service on the garnishees. Obtain the enrolled order and effect service of the same on the garnishees and the judgment debtor. Once the garnishees are served with the order, they will appear, as mandated by the order, to explain why the order should not be made absolute against them. They would do that by filing what is called an “Affidavit to Show Cause”.
On the next adjourned date, the Garnishees will appear in court to show cause. The Judgment Creditor’s lawyer will apply to the court to discharge the garnishees who have shown that they are not in possession of the judgment debtor’s funds. It is usually an oral application. Then, the lawyer can proceed to orally apply to the court to make the Garnishee Order Absolute against the garnishees who have disclosed being in possession of the judgment debtor’s funds. The Order Absolute directs the garnishees to pay the money belonging to the judgment debtor to the judgment creditor.
Step 6: Draft a demand letter and attach the enrolled order Absolute. Dispatch the demand letter and its attachment to the garnishees.
Written by Queen Charles Ukpo ESQ