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In the Nigerian judicial system, garnishee proceedings are a commonly used means of executing monetary judgments. The process is governed primarily by the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act[1] (“SCPA”) and involves applying to the court for an order, commonly known as a garnishee order absolute, attaching the money of a judgment debtor in the hand of a third party (usually banks), for the purpose of satisfying the judgment sum.  However, before making a garnishee order absolute, the court is required to make an initial order described as a garnishee order nisi, and the effect of a garnishee order nisi is that the third party against whom the order is made is prevented from paying the judgment debtor’s funds in its custody until directives are given by the court on how the money should be applied. Based on the banking law principle that a banker-customer relationship makes the banker a debtor to its customer in respect of the funds held by the bank on behalf of the customer, a bank qualifies as a garnishee where it holds funds standing to the credit of the judgment debtor.

In most garnishee proceedings, virtually all the commercial banks in Nigeria are named as garnishees. This is because there is a general presumption that the judgment debtor will have accounts in one or more of such banks. This article will focus on banks as garnishees since that is the prevalent practice and will identify certain areas of the process where reform is required.

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[1] Cap S6, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.