So you have been served with a writ of summons – what next? If you have been served with a writ of summons, it basically means you have been sued by someone or an organization. You don’t have to panic and neither should you take it lightly.
The main part of a writ of summons is usually constructed as follows:
‘You are hereby commanded that within 30 days after the service of this writ on you, inclusive of the day of such service; you do cause an appearance to be entered for you in an action in the suit of THE CLAIMANTS and take notice that in default of your so doing, the Claimants may proceed therein, and judgment may be giving in your absence.’
How long do you have to appear in court after being served with a writ of summons in Nigeria?
The first thing to do after being served with a writ of summons is to check the time when you are required to appear in Court. In Nigeria, a writ of summons usually requires the defendant/respondent (the person being sued) to appear in Court within 30 days from the date the writ of summons is served.
The bailiff (court officer) who has served you would usually record the time of service of the writ and time will start counting from then on. If you were personally served with the writ, then time will start counting from that day.
However if, for instance, you were served by substituted means (for example where the writ of summons was attached to your door or house), you might realise that you have less than 30 days to take action. In some cases, you might even be behind time.
What to do after being served with a writ of summons
If time is still on your side after receiving the writ of summons, you could try to contact the person or organization who is suing you to try to resolve things amicably. However, in some cases, the claimant (sometimes referred to as the plaintiff might have tried to resolve issues with you before commencing a legal proceeding against you. If this were the case or for some other reason your issues could not be resolved amicably, then it’s time to consult a lawyer.
If you failed to appear in court or instruct a lawyer to represent you before the court within the stipulated time in the writ, a default judgment might be entered against you in your absence.
What to do if you are already out of time to respond to a writ of summons
One of the reasons for serving you with a writ of summons is to allow you an opportunity to be heard in court in regard to the claims against you. Hence, if you do not use the opportunity, the court would proceed in delivering judgment based on the claims of the party who is suing.
If you found out that you are out of time, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer would be able to trace the status of the case in court and advise you as to the next step to take. In some cases, the case might have been slated for a hearing already.
If you have a cogent reason for failing to take action within the stipulated time in the writ your lawyer can file a motion (an application) for an extension of time within which to enter an appearance. If the application is granted, you would be able to file a statement of defence.
Can you represent yourself in Court in Nigeria?
In Nigeria, you are allowed to represent yourself in court. However, it is strongly advised that you should utilize the service of a lawyer if you are not conversant with the law and rules of court. If you cannot afford legal representation, you can apply for legal aid.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid services are available in Nigeria free of charge for indigent citizens. This means that to qualify for legal aid, your income must be below a certain level. You can visit the Legal Aid Department at the Ministry of Justice in your state of residence to enquire if you qualify for legal aid service.
If you need a legal consultation on matters related to a writ of summons, you can book an online consultation through the form below.