The process of suing someone in Nigeria is to institute an action in Court against a person for various reasons such as a breach of contract, tortuous act and among others.

Before filing a lawsuit against an individual, one must determine whether there is a legally valid claim. A claim is only legally valid if there is a law that supports ones claim against another party.  The person instituting an action should only bring a case to court when there is a legal wrong that has been committed.

Often times, it is good to consider whether there are other options available for reconciling differences or enforcing one’s rights before resorting to instituting an action in court. In some instances, resolving disputes through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as Arbitration, Reconciliation, Negotiation or Mediation might be favorable to a person than suing an offending party in court.

There are several of advantages of using any of the above mechanisms, one of which is to preserve the cordial relationship which existed between the parties before the dispute arose. This means of resolution is also faster, less technical than the usual litigation process in the court and has a flexible procedure as parties have the legal authority to choose the umpire who would assist in reaching a decision for the parties.

Parties to a suit

Every action commenced in court by a Writ of Summons must have a Claimant and a Defendant and the entire civil proceedings are based on this principle. It is essential that the names of every Claimant and Defendant whom it is proposed to make parties to the action should be set out at the head of the writ or originating process. Any error in this regard may affect the competency of the action before the court.

Factors to be considered before instituting an action

Furthermore, before instituting an action against a person there are preliminary issues that must be considered in filing a lawsuit against any offending party.

Capacity to sue: It should be noted that the party suing must have the capacity to sue. The parties must be either natural (humans) or juristic (companies) recognized by law. When an individual to be sued is below 18 years of age, the guardian can be sued in his name. A Claimant in an action must be competent to institute the action and if his competency is challenged by the opposing party, then the onus lies on him to prove that he has the legal capacity to institute the action

Cause of Action: The cause of action must be reasonable before the court and not frivolous. This is an important factor to be considered before suing a person, because any frivolous suit brought before the Court will be struck out. This cause of action is a series of facts that led to the right of an action before the Court. In suing a person the cause of action is contained in the Statement of Claim or particulars of claim. To determine whether a person has a right of a cause of action in court, then he or she must be directly affected by the fact or series of facts of the action.

Limitation of Action: Another factor to consider before suing a person is to ensure that the matter is not statute barred. There is a specific period provided by the Law within which a matter can be brought before the Court for all matters, once that time lapses that matter cannot be brought before any court.

To sue a person in court, the services of a Lawyer will be required to bring that action in a court. This is because an individual who is not a lawyer is not an officer of the court, and only a Lawyer, who is an officer of the court, can institute an action in the court on behalf of an aggrieved party. The services of a Lawyer would include advising a client against the strength or viable weakness of his claims against another, filing processes and documents in court on behalf of a party who wants to sue amongst all others. Where a frivolous action is filed in court by a counsel on behalf of a litigant, the lawyer will be personally held liable and in most cases be made to pay the cost of such frivolous suit.

In suing, where one cannot afford to employ the services of a lawyer, such person can contact organizations that offer free services such as, Office of the public defender, Non-government Organizations, Human Rights Commission and Legal Aid Council. Some lawyers in private practice may also offer a pro-bono service to indigent persons or offer such services contingency fee basis.

Procedure on How To Sue A Person in Nigeria

The first step in suing a person is to file an action in Court against the person. An action is usually brought to a court with any of the following court’s processes such as a writ of summons, originating summons, originating motions and petitions; accompanied with all necessary documents.


The jurisdiction is key aspect of suing a person in Nigeria. It is not every court that can hear any cases. The jurisdiction is what confers on the court, the right or legitimacy to hear a case. Essentially, the jurisdiction of the court in Nigeria can be divided into territorial jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. The following conditions will guide a person who wants to sue someone to determine whether a Court has an inherent jurisdiction to hear such a matter:

  • In civil cases, the monetary value of a matter determines whether it is the Magistrate Court or High Court that would have jurisdiction to hear the matter. For example, where the monetary claim is N10, 000,000 (Ten Million Naira) or below in the Lagos State, such case or claim can be instituted at the Magistrate Court.
  • Where the monetary claim exceeds N10, 000,000 for a simple breach of contract or related matter, it is the High Court of the State that has jurisdiction to hear such case.
  • Where the matter in question is related to the property or landed matter, it is only the High Court of the State that can hear such a case.
  • Where the dispute involves an employer and employee, such matter can only be instituted at the National Industrial Court.
  • An action or any petition under the matrimonial causes, which involves husband and wife statutorily married, can only be filed in the High Court of a State.
  • The action based on the enforcement of Fundamental Human Rights of any person may be instituted in either the Federal High Court or the National Industrial Court.
  • An action solely based on maritime or admiralty issues can only be filed at the Federal High Court

Filing of an action in Nigeria involves the payment of requisite fees. Where filing fees have been paid, the case will be duly filed at the registry of the court and the offending party or the defendant will be served or notified with a copy of all processes or court documents filed by the claimant.

The defendant willing to defend an action is also expected to file a statement of defense together with a list of witnesses to be relied on, written statements on oath of the witnesses, copies of all documents to be relied on during the trial of the suit, pre-action protocol Form 001(Lagos) and pre-action counseling certificate(Abuja).

The suit may be scheduled for hearing where the parties have joined issues or where the court has seen a proof and it satisfied that the offending party or the defendant or the respondent has been duly served with the case of the claimant or the party suing. The Court in deciding the case will consider evidence placed before it, the claims and prayers of both parties.

The court decides every civil case on a balance of probability; awarding judgment in favor of the party with the strongest evidence.


Suing a person in Nigeria is a way of enforcing one’s rights by instituting an action in court. One must also not forget that there are alternative means of resolving conflicts without resorting to court, the alternative dispute resolution mechanism, which is faster and cheaper in most cases.

For an action to be competent, the parties must be legal parties with the legal capacity to sue and be sued. The burden of proof in a civil case is on the party filing suit or claiming something from the other party, and it requires proof by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that the events alleged to have occurred more likely than not occurred.