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NATURE OF A GARNISHEE PROCEEDING

Dictum

A garnishee proceeding is a proceeding that is Sui generic, in a class of its own, and is to be distinguished from other proceeding for enforcement of judgment, such as that by Writ of execution See: Purification Techniques (Nig) Ltd. v. AG Lagos; State (2004) 9 NWLR (pt 879) 655; Denton West v. Muoma (2008) 6 NWLR (pt 1083) 418; F.B.N. PLC v. Akpanabong Community Bank Ltd. (2006) NWLR (Pt 962) 438; Mobil producing (Nig) Unlimited v. Monopo (2003) 18 NWLR (pt 852) 346; N.A.O.C. Ltd v. Ogini (2011) 2 NWLR. The nature of Garnishee proceedings had been elaborately explained by this court in the case of N.A.O.C Ltd v. Ogini (supra) at page 152 para E – G as follows: “A garnishee proceeding is another process different from writ of execution whereby judgment creditor can realize the fruits of his judgment. If the judgment creditor knows that the judgment debtor has an amount of money with any bank or institution he will as garnishor file an exparte application to be supported by an affidavit in form 23 of the Judgment Enforcement Rules (JER) for an order that the garnishee (in the instant case UBA PLC) shall show cause why it should not pay the amount due to the judgment debtor.”

— S.D. Bage, JCA. Portland Paints v Olaghere (2012) – CA/L/1046M/11

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WHAT IS GARNISHEE PROCEEDING?

Akintan, JSC in UNION BANK OF NIGERIA PLC v. BONEY MARCUS INDUSTRIES LTD (2005) 13 NWLR (pt. 943) 654 at 666, are a process of enforcing a money judgment by the seizure or attachment of the debts due or accruing to the judgment debtor which form part of his property available in execution. It is a specie of execution of adjudged debt for which ordinary methods of execution are inapplicable. By this process, the Court has power to order a third party to pay direct to the judgment creditor the debt due or accruing from him to the judgment debtor, as much of it as may be sufficient to satisfy the amount of judgment and the costs of the garnishee proceedings. The judgment creditor first makes the application to the Court for garnishee proceedings. The order of Court then comes in two stages. The first is garnishee order nisi which directs the garnishee to pay the sum covered by the application either to the Court or the judgment creditor within a stated time unless the party (the garnishee), against whom the order is made, shows good cause why the payment should be made. If no sufficient good cause is shown the Court then makes the garnishee order absolute directing the third party (the garnishee) to pay over the amount specified to the judgment creditor or to the Court, whichever is more appropriate. See CHOICE INVESTMENTS LTD v. JEROMNIMON (1981) QB 149 at 154 – 155; UNION BANK PLC v. BONEY MARCUS INDUSTRIES LTD (supra). At the stage of garnishee order nisi the amount standing to the credit of the judgment debtor in the hands of the third party (the garnishee) is, or has been, attached, that is garnished. In SOKOTO STATE GOVERNMENT v. KAMDAX NIG. LTD. (2004) 9 NWLR (pt. 878) 345 at 380, it was stated: “Where the judgment creditor has garnished the debt standing to the credit of the judgment debtor in the hands of the garnishee, upon service of the order nisi from the Court, the garnishee becomes a custodian of the whole of the judgment debtor’s funds attached.” See also AZUBUIKE v. DIAMOND BANK PLC (2014) 3 NWLR (pt. 1394) 116 (CA).

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RIGHT TO STAY ATTACHMENT OF MONEY – GARNISHEE PROCEEDINGS

The law is that the person whose money with the garnishee is being attached has a right to stay the attachment of his money by Garnishee Order absolute pending the conclusion of any legal process to challenge the decision of the garnishee proceedings or the substantive case that formed the basis of the garnishee proceedings.

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. Sani v. Kogi State (2021) – SC.1179/2019

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THE STRICT DUTY OF A GARNISHEE

It is most pertinent to bear in mind the fact that the appellant/applicant herein is a garnishee. The only duty of a garnishee in garnishee proceedings is to satisfy the Court why the funds in its possession belonging to the judgment debtor should not be garnished to pay the judgment debt. It is not the duty of a garnishee to play the role of advocate for the judgment debtor nor to protect the debtor’s money in its possession. See: Oceanic Bank Plc v. Michael Olusegun Oladepo & Anor. (2012) LPELR – 19670 (C/A).

– Kekere-Ekun, JSC. GTB v. Innoson (2017) – SC.694/2014(R)

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WHAT IS A GARNISHEE PROCEEDING

It is a process of enforcing a money judgment by the seizure or attachment of the debts due or accruing to the judgment debtor which form part of his property available in execution. The third party holds the debt or property of the Judgment Debtor. By this process, Court orders the third party to pay direct to the judgment creditor or to the Court the debt due or accruing from him to judgment debtor, as much of it as may be sufficient to satisfy the amount of the judgment debt and the cost of the garnishee proceedings.

– Ejembi, JSC. GTB v. Innoson (2017) – SC.694/2014(R)

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A DESCRIPTION OF WHAT A GARNISHEE PROCEEDING IS

Lord Denning, MR, in CHOICE INVESTMENT LTD. v. JEROMINIMON (1981) QB 149 at 154 – 155, gives a simple illustration of garnishee proceeding thus: “A creditor is owed 100 by a debtor. The debtor does not pay. The creditor then gets judgment against him for the 100. Still the debtor does not pay. The creditor then discovers that the debtor is a customer of a bank and that he has 150 at his bank. The creditor can get a “garnishee” order against the bank by which the bank is required to pay into the Court or direct to the [judgment creditor] out of the Customer’s 150 the 100 which he owes to the creditor.”
The master of the Rolls went on, in the case, to state further: “There are two steps in the process. The first is a garnishee order nisi. Nisi is Norman-French. It means “unless”. It is an order upon the bank to pay 100 to the judgment creditor or into Court within a stated time, unless there is some sufficient reason way the bank should not do so. Such reason may exist if the bank disputes its indebtedness to the customer for some or other. Or if payment to this creditor might be unfair to prefer him to other creditors: See PRITCHARD V. WESTMINISTER (1969) 1 ALL ER 999 and RAINBOW v. MOORGATE PROPERTIES LTD. (1975) 2 ALL ER 821. If no sufficient reason appears, the garnishee order is made absolute – to pay to the judgment creditor – or into the Court: whichever is more appropriate. On making the payment, the bank gets a good discharge from its indebtedness to its own customer – just as if he himself directed the bank to pay it.”

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GARNISHEE LACKS LOCUS TO CONTEST THE MERITS OF A JUDGMENT

That is, to show that garnishee proceedings is not a process employed by the garnishee to fight a proxy war against the judgment creditor on behalf of the judgment debtor. Accordingly, it does not avail the garnishee to contest the merits of the judgment culminating in the judgment debt. It does not therefore, lie in the power or right of the garnishee to contumaciously attack the main judgment which the judgment creditor and the judgment debtor have accepted or are deemed to have accepted, and/or which they have submitted themselves to. It is a settled principle of law that a decision of a Court of law not appealed against is deemed to be acceptable to the parties thereto and it remains binding on them as well as their privies, including garnishees: See AKERE v. THE GOVERNOR, OYO STATE & ORS. (2012) 50 NSCQR 345 at 394, 414 – 415; DARIYE v. FRN (2015) 67 NSCQR 1457 at 1496 – 1497.

– Ejembi, JSC. GTB v. Innoson (2017) – SC.694/2014(R)

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