Drama of DEBT RECOVERY
(BARR. OJULARI and his LEGAL INTERN just arrived from Court in a new car given to him by one of his grateful clients. He still had his wig and gown worn. The INTERN alighted from the care with a load of case files in his hand. They both entered the Chambers.)
SECRETARY : Welcome sir, a client is waiting for you (to Barr. Ojulari)
BARR. OJULARI: OK, thanks. How is your day going?
SECRETARY : Awesome sir!
(Both BARR OJULARI and his intern enter Ojulari’s office and meet the client sitting on a chair with a newspaper in her hand. She welcomes them with a smile like a scourging sun after a heavy rainfall. Her swollen eyebrows shows that she’s been crying before they enter. Ojulari sits on his chair, while the intern sits beside the client)
BARR. OJULARI: How may I help you madam?
CLIENT: (Shedding tears) I paid a sum of fifty million naira to Mr. XYZ to purchase five heavy-duty trucks from him since April 2018, he only availed me with only two trucks, till now he is still with my 30 million naira balance. Ah! I am doomed, I am depressed.
BARR. OJULARI: (interrupted) Don’t say an evil word to yourself. I am sorry to know that madam, all is well. (He gives her a white handkerchief to wipe her tears. It has been five years after your transaction, what have you done before now?
CLIENT: I have made several attempts to plead to him to release either my money or my remaining trucks to me. I had it in mind to report him to the police, and if the police are unable to recover my money from him, I will go and set his property on fire. (Continues crying)
BARR. OJULARI: Thank God that you have not done any of the two.
CLIENT: (with a weak voice) Why Barrister? Ah! I have suffered!
BARR. OJULARI: I’m sorry, but the police has no right to interfere in any civil wrong or breach of contract. You can not call the police to help you to recover your debt, because the police does not have the constitutional right to do so .
CLIENT: Ah! I’m done for! (Continue crying but bitterly)
BARR OJULARI: Please calm down ma, I can feel your pain. You can’t correct a wrongful action with another wrongful one. He has actually committed a civil wrong for breaching his agreement with you and refusing to refund your money since 2018, and it is not a criminal offence that police can interfere. But, if you set his property ablaze, especially his building, you will be tried in court as a criminal for Arson and you may be sentenced to life imprisonment .
CLIENT: Why is life so hard for me like this? Thank you barrister, I have some thugs I can hire to deal with him, I can now be on my way (Stops crying and gets on her stand hastily)
BARR. OJULARI: Wait a moment to hear this from me before you go! (She remains on stand) If you hire thugs to attack him, it may expose you to be liable for assault, battery, false imprisonment, and fundamental human right abuse.
CLIENT: (Sits back amazingly) Ah! Why is life as hard as this? What about all this heavy grammar again?
BARR OJULARI: It can make your Debtor to take an action against you in a court of law, which may award heavy punitive monetary damages against you. The court may even order to pay him more than the amount you are claiming as penalty, you then loose in two ways.
CLIENT: Now I am calmed, please help me. I need this money.
BARR OJULARI: Now you are talking! You see, whenever you are in a law office, don’t argue with a lawyer, because lawyers are always right in their offices. You just have to state your facts and leave the rest to your lawyer.
CLIENT: Please help me Barrister.
BARR OJULARI: Only the court has power to settle the matter of debt recovery after you have tried the legal possible means, and the Debtor remains insolvent. You as an aggrieved person can commence an action in a court to recover your debt .
CLIENT: You mean, only a Court can order and force him to pay my money?
BARR OJULARI: Yes Madam!
CLIENT: Please let’s go to Court now! I have the record of our transactions with me now, I can supply you with whatever evidence that you need at presence. (She smiles forcefully).
BARR. OJULARI: We can’t go to court like that, we will firstly write a LETTER OF DEMAND to him, giving him seven days to pay up his debt. If we don’t do that, the court will not do anything to help us .
CLIENT: OK, but what is the purpose of that letter that is so important like that?
BARR. OJULARI: The letter will serve as a serious warning to him, informing him about the consequence of not paying the money within seven days after he receives that letter. Such letters are always prepared by lawyers.
CLIENT: What if he doesn’t turn up?
BARR. OJULARI: In a matter of debt recovery,the cause of action accrues when a demand is made, and the debtor refuses to pay . However, the debtor may pay up or negotiate an installment payment .
CLIENT: So, we can agree if he offer to make installment payment?
BARR. OJULARI: Yes, we will just have to make an agreement through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). If he later breach the agreement, we won’t inform him anymore before we drag him to court for Debt recovery and breach of contract.
CLIENT: Now, it is clear to me, I am happy now.
BARR. OJULARI: With due respect ma, you were too careless to make it as late as this before you commence an action. This transaction is up to five years already, God saves you that it has has not exceed six years after you made this transaction, you can never be able recover you money anymore after six years.
ABDULRAUF Abdullahi Adebayo is a Law Student, a Teacher, and a Writer. He can be reached via 09034904883 and [email protected]
CLIENT: Ah! After six years?
BARR OJULARI: Yes ma, after the expiration of six years after the transaction, it is no more exercisable in any court of law in Nigeria . You will have to loose both your money and your right to recover that money.
CLIENT: Ah! I am happy, the law, is that how I would have lost my money if I delay my action a bit further? But this law is something else too, six years as how?
BARR OJULARI: (smiles) that is the position of the law, “Dura lex Sed lex”. Besides, equity does not aid the indolent.
CLIENT: We have to do everything hastily. I entered your office with tears and depression, but now I am leaving with happiness and hope. I must compensate you heavily barrister. Please give me your bank details, please help me to manage 300k.
(She exits the office as Barr Ojulari brings out his lunch box to eat his lunch)
 ARSON : the crime of intentionally starting a fire in order to damage or destroy something, especially a building
 CIVIL WRONG : This occurs when a person wrongly suffers a loss caused by another person, a business, or government.
 DEBTOR : A person who owes a debt.
. DURA LEX SED LEX : A Latin maxim that means, ” The law is harsh, but it is the law”.
 ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION: the procedure for settling disputes without going to court (litigation), such as arbitration, mediation, or negotiation.
. Section 32 (2) of the Police Act, 2020
. Section 443 (a) of the Criminal Code Act
. Section 337 of the Penal Code Act
. Nipost V. Insight Engineering Company Limited (2006) 8 NWLR (Pt. 9830) p.435
. ISHOLA V. S.G BANK (1997) 2 SCNJ, 1 at 19
. Wema Bank V. Owosho (2018) LPELR-43857 (CA)
. Hung V. E.C Investment Company Nigeria Limited (2016) LPELR-42125 (CA)
. Rachel Udoinyang “The Illegality of Police Involvement in Debt Recovery in Nigeria”, available at https://thelawsanbaruniuyo.wordpress.com/2022/04/11/the-illegality-of-police-involvement-in-debt-recovery-in-nigeria/ accessed on 27th April, 2022
.The Legal Place, “Procedure for Debt Recovery in Nigeria”, available at https://legalplace.law.blog/2020/03/03/procedures-for-recovery-of-a-debt-in-nigeria/ accessed on 26th April, 2022
. Section 20 (1) (a) of Statute of Limitation Law
. Okonta & Anor V. Egbuna (2013) LPELR 21253 (CA)
ABDULRAUF Abdullahi Adebayo is a Law student, a Teacher and a Dynamic Writer. He can be reached via 09034904883 and [email protected]