Court sheriff can be sued

A sheriff charged with the execution of judgment can be sued by the judgment debtor or judgment creditor.

Ibrahim v. Ojonye [2012] 3 NWLR (Pt. 1286) 108 at 130, paras. C-G, per Orji-Abadua, JCA:

“It is the law that the sheriff or bailiff or officer charged with execution of judgment can be sued by the judgment debtor or judgment creditor for:
(a) illegal execution, e.g., an error in the levy.
(b) irregular execution, e.g., levy by an unauthorized officer or
(c) excessive execution.
The officer charged with the execution can also be sued by the judgment creditor for failing to act promptly or for failing to protect his/her interests…”

Blogger’s Note:

Read the full Judgment here.
In stating the above position of the law, the Court of Appeal cited two foreign cases, Slated v. Hawley (1845) 15 M & W 757 and Pitch v. King (1844). Moreover, the Court made some findings which was to the effect that in the Supreme Court case of Saleh v. Monguno [2006] 15 NWLR (Pt. 1001) 26, the Deputy Sheriff of the High Court of Maiduguri and the individuals who purchased the auctioned property were all sued as parties in the case.

Another notable point from the Judgment of the Court of Appeal is that the Court again restated the status of a Sheriff, relying on Soyanwo v. Akinyemi [2001] 8 NWLR (Pt. 714) 95 where it was declared that a bailiff is an agent of the judgment creditor. To that extent, and as held by the Court of Appeal in Ojonye, non-joinder of the bailiff is not fatal to the action since the bailiff was an agent of a disclosed principal. Interestingly, it was convenient for the Court of Appeal to so hold because in the case, the Court found that the issue of wrongful, illegal, irregular or excessive execution did not arise. Therefor, the principle still remains that in deserving cases, a Sheriff can be sued.
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