Natural Person Debt Relief Reforms in Nigeria—A Comparison with South Africa

Authors Tobi Osunlaja, Hermie Coetzee & Melanie Roestoff

ISSN: 2522-3062
Affiliations: LLB (Olabisi Onabanjo University), LLM (University of Pretoria), LLD candidate, Department of Mercantile Law, University of Pretoria; BCom Law (University of Pretoria), LLB (University of Pretoria), LLM (University of Pretoria), LLD (University of Pretoria), Associate Professor, Department of Mercantile Law, University of Pretoria; BLC (University of Pretoria), LLB (University of Pretoria), LLM (University of Pretoria), LLD (University of Pretoria), Professor and Acting HoD, Department of Mercantile Law, University of Pretoria.
Source: Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, The, Volume 52 Issue 3, p. 319 – 351


The purpose of this article is to compare the proposed natural person debt relief procedures in Nigeria with South Africa’s existing and proposed measures. It is the first time that the proposed Nigerian system is analysed. The comparison is made in order to determine whether Nigeria can learn from South Africa’s experience regarding natural person insolvency law. South Africa is chosen as a comparative jurisdiction because it has a wealth of documented experience relating to insolvency law. Furthermore, Nigeria and South Africa boast the two largest economies on the African continent and consequently share economic and developmental challenges. These challenges are intrinsically linked to natural person insolvency law, since they determine the context in which an insolvency law system must be developed and within which it must function. As a subtext, the research considers whether Nigeria complies with some of the more pertinent international principles and guidelines regarding natural person debt relief. To achieve this objective, the Nigerian system is measured against the yardstick of the World Bank Report on the Treatment of the Insolvency of Natural Persons. Two key foundations of effective and efficient natural person insolvency systems highlighted by the World Bank’s report relate to (a) access to insolvency systems and (b) the eventual discharge of debts that such systems should result in. The research concludes that the Nigerian natural person insolvency law reforms do not meet the required international standards in these respects and that the jurisdiction may learn from South Africa’s successes and failures within the field, particularly from the circumstances leading up to and its recent proposals for reform.