The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The dispute centered on whether the decision by the Land Disputes Tribunal (the tribunal) was marred by irregularities due to the absence of proper assessor involvement.
The first question was whether it was necessary to record the opinion of the assessors even when they were in agreement with the chairman of the tribunal. The court asserted that the ‘unclear involvement of assessors in the trial renders such trial a nullity.’ It also stated that it was mandatory for the opinion of the assessors to be on record. It therefore reasoned that there was a serious irregularity in the trial as the assessors had not given their opinion.
Regarding the effect of the change of assessors during the trial the court averred that this was in contravention of section 23(3) of the act as the provision did not contemplate a complete change of all assessors in its latitude.
The above was tied by the fact that the assessors had not been present throughout the whole trial, conduct which resulted in the tribunal not being properly constituted as required by s 23(1) and (2) of the act.
The final question therefore was whether the above could be cured. The court reasoned that the omissions went to the root of the matter and resulted in a failure of justice. It thus concluded that the trial was vitiated by the irregularities and nullified the tribunal’s proceedings.
The matter involved a question of competency of appeal regarding a land dispute.
The court referred to section 47(1) of the Land Disputes Courts Act which allows a person, when aggrieved by the decision of the High Court, to appeal to the Court of Appeal provided they have been granted leave in accordance with the Appellant Jurisdiction Act.
The court reasoned that as there was no valid and surviving leave to appeal, the appeal was incompetent. It considered this failure to comply with a mandatory step in the appeal process as fatal to the appeal and therefore struck out the appeal fo incompetence
The matter involved an application to extend the time period of filing an appeal against an alleged illegal decision of the High Court.
The court began by reiterating that the decision to grant an application for extension is a discretionary power. This discretionary power, however, is judicial in nature and must be confined to the rules of reason and justice. It is also required all relevant factors are considered.
Applying the above to assess the applicant’s reason that the delay stemmed from ignorance of procedure, the court regarded the reasons as insufficient. This was predicated on the case law position that ignorance of law was not a good cause for an extension.
The court also considered the question of the legality of the impugned decision as a possible reason for an extension. It relied on the decision of Lyamuya Construction Company Ltd v Board of Registered Trustees of Young Women's Christian Association of Tanzania Civil Application No. 2 of 2010 which stated that a point of law must be of sufficient importance and apparent on the face of the record to compel the court to allow for an extension. The court thus reasoned that the alleged illegality was not apparent on the face of the decision. Hence, it concluded that since it would require a long-drawn process to decipher the illegalities, illegality was not a sufficient cause for granting an extension.
The matter involved a review application against an appeal court’s decision granted against the applicant.
The main question revolved around whether the grounds for a review application were satisfied. The court relied on rule 66(1) which states that a review application is entertained only if the decision under challenge ‘was based on a manifest error on the face of the record resulting in the miscarriage of justice.’ It also relied on the Charles Barnabas v Republic, Criminal Application No. 13 of 2009 and Chandrakant Joshughai Patel v Republic,  TLR 218 cases for the authority that a review does not challenge the merits of a decision but rather irregularities in the process towards the decision hence why it is not something that can be proved by a long-drawn process of learned argument. In addition, persuasive authority was drawn from the National Bank Of Kenya Limited v Ndungu Njau  eKLR case as authority for the proposition that a review cannot simply be raised on the basis that a different court would have reached a different conclusion on the same facts nor because the court misinterpreted the provisions of the law.
In application, the court reasoned that the grounds proffered by the applicant which included failure to prove lawful occupation of disputed land or the fact of that the disputed land belonged to the Village Council were in fact grounds of an appeal since they went into the merits of the decision.
The court therefore concluded that a review could not be raised on grounds of appeal and consequently struck out the application.
The matter involved an appeal against the decision of the High Court, a decision the appellant contends was arrived at under error of procedural law.
The main issue was whether the decision of the lower court was defective for its failure to afford the appellant her right to be heard. The court relied on case law to establish that it is necessary to afford a party a fair hearing upon making an adverse decision. It accepted the position in Scan - Tan Tours Ltd v the Registered Trustee of the Catholic Diocese of Mbulu Civil Appeal No. 78 of 2012 that when an issue that is pivotal to the whole case is introduced the parties should be given a chance to address the matter before the court. In addition, the court relied on the Rukwa Auto Parts and Transport Ltd v Jestina George Mwakyoma Civil Appeal No. 45 and Abbas Sherally and Another v Abdul Fazalboy Civil Application No. 33 of 2002 cases as authority for the proposition that failure to allow for the right to be heard constituted a breach of natural justice, a fundamental constitutional right.
The court reasoned that the trial court had failed to uphold the appellant’s right to be heard when it arrived at its decision and therefore violated a constitutional right. Hence, the court concluded that the decision could not be allowed and consequently nullified the impugned decision.
The matter involved a dispute over an order of suit property sale as a remedy for breach of a loan agreement granted by the trial court against the appellant.
The first question was whether the responded had paid the whole stipulated loan amount to the appellant. Assessing the evidence in the record from the trial court, the court reasoned that the trial court’s assessment had failed to evaluate crucial evidence that showed doubt in the respondent’s claim that the whole stipulated amount had been paid. The court thus concluded that the evidence indicated that the responded had failed to fully honor its performance obligation. As a result, the responded could not pursue the remedy of obliging the appellant to transfer the property for failure to repay the loan.
The second issue concerned the right to mesne profits (i.e. profits received by tenant in wrongful possession and which are recoverable by the landlord) by the appellant and the amounts due. The court did not dwell much on the question of entitlement, instead accepting the trial court’s finding of indisputable occupation and rental collection by responded as a basis together with the fact that responded could not justify the occupation.
The court thus concluded that mesne profits were owed but order that they be set-off to the amount of the loan that the appellant still owed. The decision of the trial court was therefore set-aside and appeal allowed.
Aggrieved by a High Court decision concerning a dispute with the respondent, the applicant sought leave to escalate the matter to the Court of Appeal. The High Court summarily rejected the application without notice to the parties and prior to the set-down date of the hearing.
The appellate court was wholly convinced by the applicant’s main contention: that the High Court judgment was impugnable because the parties had not yet been heard at the time it was given. Outlining the basic tenets of the audi alterem partem principle, the court affirmed that courts are obligated to afford the parties a full hearing before determining the disputed matter on merit.
The appellate court invoked its revisional powers under section 4(3) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, setting aside the High Court’s decision and directing it to rehear the application.
The respondent sued the appellant for general damages and restoration of the value of certain of its properties, arising from their sale at a public auction, prompted by a warrant of distress issued under the Income Tax Act. The High Court found that the respondent bore no tax liability to the appellant at the time the warrant was issued, and consequently that the vehicles were unlawfully distrained and sold, before making an award of damages, interest and costs of suit in the respondent’s favour.
On appeal, the tax authority successfully challenged the High Court decision on the grounds of jurisdiction. It contended that the relevant tax legislation (primarily the Income Tax Act, 1973) had established fora to preside over tax disputes at the first instance. As the respondent had failed to exhaust these internal statutory remedies before launching court proceedings, the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter. The court had ousted the jurisdiction of the specialised fora designed for that very purpose.
Reiterating that jurisdiction may be raised by the parties or suo moto (by the court itself) at any stage of proceedings – even on appeal – the appellate court quashed and set aside the High Court’s decision and upheld the appeal.
The appellant sued the respondent for the allegedly unpaid balance of his retrenchment package. Proceedings at the High Court were adjourned several times and occurred before multiple presiding officers before a final judge made an order against him.
Noticing irregularities on the record of appeal, the appellate court focused on the competence thereof rather than the merits. The trial judge that made the order had failed to observe the relevant provisions of the Civil Procedure Code by neglecting to place on record the reasons why the matter had fallen unto his lap following several adjournments. The case law on the scope of this rule accounts for its importance in terms of judicial integrity and transparency. Moreover, the decree on record had been duly signed by neither the learned judge, nor the Deputy Registrar, as required by law.
These irregularities led the appellate court to exercise its revisional purview under section 4(2) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act to quash and set aside the High Court judgment, before remitting the matter to the same forum for a competent judge to adjudicate the matter de novo (afresh). No order was made as to costs.
In view of Rule 10 of the Tanzania Court of Appeal Rules, the applicant had to display good cause for a two-year delay in seeking to file an application for leave to appeal. Counsel for the respondents contended that two years was an unacceptably long deferment and that the applicant ought to have applied directly to the appellate court for leave within two weeks after the High Court rejected the application for leave to appeal. It was submitted that the applicant was required to account for each day of the delay-period, which he had not done.
The court, on the other hand, found that the many applications with which the applicant had been busy during the two-year period – albeit fruitless – offered some explanation for the delay. It found that as the respondent was still in possession of the property which formed the subject-matter of the dispute, no prejudice would be caused to it by permitting an application for leave to appeal. Moreover, the grounds that the applicant intended to raise – illegality and fraud – were of such import that they ought to be given an opportunity for airing before the court.
The application was granted.
A preliminary objection by the respondent set out to expose the lack of due diligence on the part of the appellant. The respondent’s claim was that the appellant’s records were fundamentally defective and incompetent. This was because the records of the appellant were issued signed by "N. Nwanodi & Co," (which is not a legal practitioner recognized by law in Nigeria) instead of counsel’s actual name.
The counsel for appellant stated that the habit of legal practitioners' merely signing court processes in their firm's name without indicating their actual name has been allowed by this court in many cases. Thus, it was an over-adherence to technicality to annul the process improperly filed.
The respondent sought this court to employ purposive interpretation of sections 2(1) and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act (the act) that would lead to the conclusion that the record filed was indeed fundamentally defective.
This court upheld the preliminary objection of the respondent. It held that the appellant's' notice of appeal was fundamentally defective. It concluded that the purpose of sections 2(1) and 24 of the act was to ensure accountability on the part of a legal practitioner who signs court processes.
The question for the court was whether a respondent who never pleaded his entitlement to a defence can be lawfully refused the reliefs he seeks against an appellant.
The respondent claimed title to the land in dispute, alleged trespass against the appellant and sought an injunction. On appeal, the appellant claimed laches and acquiescence against the respondent. This was on the basis that the respondent stood by waiting for the appellant to complete his residential building and moved in before he took legal steps.
The contention of the respondent was that the equitable defence of laches and acquiescence did not arise in the court below and therefore the respondent could not be said to be guilty of any.
This court held that the respondent, from his pleadings and evidence, continued to have the right to exclusive possession of the land in dispute. The appellant violated this right. The appeal was dismissed for lack of merit.
It was further held that the respondent failed to adhere to the rules of pleading in the conduct of their cases, therefore the respondent may not make any case outside the matters he pleaded.
This case considers the adducing of fresh evidence on appeal. The respondent had claimed title to a certain land. Dissatisfied by the High Court judgment; the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal. On appeal they sought an order granting them leave to adduce new evidence. The reasons being:
1. that this evidence showed that the disputed land had been acquired by the government and that the respondent lacked the required locus standi to institute this case;
2. in an action to protect acquired land, only the Attorney-General has the requisite standing to sue and the respondent can only sue if he had been granted leave to do so by the Attorney-General; and
3. that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to have heard the case.
The respondent contended that the documents now sought to be used as additional evidence are not of such a nature that would affect the jurisdiction of the court and that it was the appellants' choice then not to tender these documents.
This court agreed with the counsel for the appellants. In the judgment, the court found the documents entailing strong points which would likely affect the jurisdiction of the trial court.
Additionally, the issue of jurisdiction was found to be fundamental and could be raised at any stage of the proceedings (even for the first time in this court).
Thus, in the interest of justice. these documents could be tendered on appeal as fresh evidence.
The case considered the following issues, being (1) whether the lower court was right when it struck out the appellants notice of appeal on the ground of non-payment of filing fees; (2) whether the lower court was rights when it held that the witness statement constituted evidence sufficient to grant default judgment; (3) whether the lower court awarded a double compensation in respect of the same alleged loss; and (4) whether the lower court’s findings with respect to the award for special damages is competent.
The court held that an appeal is not filed unless the appropriate filing fees are paid. However, the fact that the registry failed to collect the filing fees should not be to the detriment of a litigant. Therefore, the lower court erred in striking out the notice of appeal on the ground of non-payment of the filing fees, as the appellant was not ordered to satisfy the filing fees. On the issue of the witness statement, the court found that the evidence to support a default judgment can be oral or documentary. Thus, judgment could be entered into in default based on the statement of claim, or a witness statement. On the issue of damages, the court held that the principle of assessment of damages is to restore the plaintiff to the position in which he would have been if the breach did not occur. The court found that a party cannot be awarded both special and general damages for the same set of fact. The court confirmed that the damages awarded amounted to a double compensation.
Appeal succeeds in part.
This appeal is in relation to whether an order of non-suit was the appropriate order. The appeal originated from an institution of an action against the respondents. The action was centred around an order for damages, due to an unlawful dismissal from employment. The respondent disputed these claims as they contended that the contract was lawfully terminated.
The courts below granted judgment in favour of the appellant. However, in the Court of Appeal a piece of evidence belonging to the appellant was expunged on the ground that those pleadings did not constitute evidence. An order of non-suit was made by the Court of Appeal. It is that order of non-suit that gave rise to this appeal at the Supreme Court.
The appellant submitted that there was a breach of the fundamental right to fair hearing as the non-suit was instituted before hearing. Furthermore, he claimed to have satisfactorily proved his case for damages on the now expunged evidence and that this was therefore not a case in which an order of non-suit ought to have been made.
This court resolved this issue in the appellant's favour and the judgment of the Court of Appeal was set aside. Accordingly, this appeal was remitted to the Court of Appeal to be heard by a different panel.
The subject matter in this case is a market stall at Igbudu Market, Warri. The second respondent permitted the appellant the use of a stall, ordinarily used by the appellant, during a temporary absence. However upon the second respondent’s return, the appellant refused repeated requests to vacate the stall.
In essence, this claim was for the possession of thr stall. The court was called upon to decide in whom the right to the stall resides.
It was the appellants claim that she was afforded lawful entry to the property. Additionally, that as a sub-tenant she was entitled to six months notice of eviction as per legislation. Such notice was not granted by the second respondent. The second respondent claimed damages for trespass to the stall. The judgment in the court below was in favour of the respondents.
On appeal, the appellant argued that the High Court did not properly evaluate certain evidence adduced. In any event, had it been properly evaluated, the judgment would have been favourable to the appellant. Thus, there was a miscarriage of justice.
This court held that the evidence that the appellant held on to possession of the stall could not on its own confer possession of the disputed stall. It found no merit whatsoever in this appeal and dismissed the appeal.
The subject matter of this appeal was an allegedly defamatory letter published by the appellant bank, relating to the respondent. This letter was compiled by the second appellant who was the bank’s employee, directed to the respondent’s employer. The contents related the respondent's alleged indebtedness to the bank and sought their cooperation in recovering the debt. It later transpired that this letter ought to not have been sent, as there was in fact no debt as alleged.
The respondent then claimed that the letter was defamatory and instituted a claim for damages. The appellants counterclaimed and raised the defence of qualified privilege. The courts below entered judgments in favour of the respondent and awarded damages in his favour.
The question on appeal is whether the court below was right to have held that the defence of qualified privilege did not avail the appellants.
The appellants went to great lengths to show that the second appellant and the respondent had never met before the defamatory letter was written and argued that this fact rebutted the inference of actual malice. The respondent claimed that the second appellant was motivated by malice in writing the letter.
This court found that the finding of the court below that the appellants were actuated by malice was erroneous. On the basis that the pleading lacks malice as a requirement, the appeal was upheld.
The appellant is a commercial bank and the respondent a holder of several accounts in the bank. The Imo State Task Force for the Recovery of Public Property and Funds (the task force) alleged that the respondent used contracts to defraud the Imo State government and paid the proceeds into the said accounts with the appellant.
The respondent admitted that the moneys in the two accounts operated with appellant were payments he received from the contracts which he failed to perform. The task force ordered the transfer and freezing of funds in these accounts pursuant to the Recovery of Public Funds and Property (Special Provisions) Edict, 1985, section 18(1). After hesitation and unfruitful communication with the respondent, the appellant consequently complied with the order of transfer and freezing of the funds in the account.
The courts below held that the action as constituted was a banker/customer relationship. Therefore, the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter.
However, this court held that the matter went beyond an ordinary banker/customer relationship. The freezing of the account of the respondent and subsequent transfer of the funds therein to government's’ bank account were acts done under Edict No. 7 of 1985. Thus, the cause of action was consequently not subject to litigation.
The respondent sued the appellant for default of payment in respect of loans granted to the appellant by the respondent in the course of the appellant’s employment.
The appellant claimed that liability in respect of the car loan should not have been determined solely by reference to the formal contract. Instead, the court should have had regard to extrinsic evidence.
The appellant further claimed that the summary judgment granted against him by the court below was erroneously made as there was a plausible dispute between the parties for which leave should have been granted to the appellant to defend the action. The respondent contended that the factual situation representing the appellant's defence did not constitute a good defence on the merit to the claim of the respondent. This court agreed with the respondent.
The appellant submitted that his continued retention in the employment of the respondent was a condition precedent to his repayment of the loans and his employment having been terminated, the enforcement of the personal loans had been frustrated. This court held that this stance was not sustainable because the contracts of employment and personal loans between the parties were two distinct contracts and their duration not co-existent. Thus, the appeal was dismissed.
This case concerned the appellant's entitlement to notice of meeting prior to removal as company director. The appellant claimed relief for a declaration that his purported dismissal was a repudiatory breach of his contract of employment and that he was denied the right to a notice meeting pursuant to sections 236, 262 and 266 of Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).
The counsel for the respondent contended that against the background of the appellant's contention the trial court had no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. Given the above claim of the appellant, he should have approached the Federal High Court for the resolution of his complaint of the breaches and not the trial court.
This court held that the dismissal of the appellant was not lawful because of lack of due process. However, the trial court below lacked jurisdiction and since the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to enter the matter, the lower court, equally, lacked the jurisdiction to deal with the appeal before it. Thus, the appeal was found to be unmeritorious and was struck out for want of jurisdiction.
The respondent bought a piece of property from a third party. After the respondent had taken possession of the property, he became aware of the fact that his predecessor-in-title had mortgaged the property to the appellant. The respondent paid off the outstanding debt and thereafter demanded the release of the title deeds to him. Instead, the appellant demanded some authorisation from his predecessor-in-title before the documents could be released to him. The respondent instituted a claim on this basis. The trial court judgment was in the respondent’s favour.
After the respondent attached the property the appellant filed an application praying for an order staying execution of the judgment, particularly the sale of the property and ordered release thereof; before hearing of the application. The trial court dismissed this application.
The appellant eventually appealed to this court asking for the same. The appellant urged this court to allow the appeal, set aside the ruling of the court below and grant an order directing the High Court to retain the amount deposited as per judgment.
This court held that the order sought to be stayed was made by the trial court and there was no appeal against that order to the Court of Appeal. That being the case, it was held that it would be a wasteful academic exercise to delve into the merit of the issue. Consequently the appeal was dismissed.
The case concerned the jurisdictional issue that was raised and whether the lower court had the jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the matter. Furthermore, the court considered whether a party was entitled to raise a new issue on appeal which hadn’t been previously canvassed. It was found that where a party seeks to raise a fresh issue on appeal, he must seek leave of the court. It was stated that it can never be too late to raise the issue of jurisdiction due to its fundamental and intrinsic nature and effect in judicial administration. The issue of jurisdiction is the court’s authority to hear the suit. If a court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the suit and proceeds to entertain it, the proceedings and judgment amount to a nullity. It was found that none of the below courts had jurisdiction to hear the suit and as a result the appeal court could not exercise its jurisdiction. Appeal dismissed.
This was an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal to strike out the appellant’s appeal on the ground that it only paid a fraction of the filing fee.
The respondents had filled an action claiming monetary compensation for a diesel spill from the appellant's facility which polluted the respondents’ water. The appellant admitted the spillage and judgment was passed against it. On appeal it paid N200 instead of N5000 to file documents into the registry. The respondents urged the court to dismiss the appeal on the basis of this and other irregularities. The appeal arose from an attempt by the appellant to regularise the payment of fees prior to the filing of the appeal but this was dismissed as incompetent due to payment of inadequate fees.
The court considered whether the lower court was right to strike out the appeal. It observed that a discretionary decision based on a principle that inadequate filing fees was fatal to an appeal was a wrong exercise of discretion. The court differentiated non-payment of fees from payment of inadequate fees. It held that a court of law could not allow the provisions of an enactment to be read in a way that would deny citizens access to court, thereby denying a litigant access to justice. It found that the lower court’s striking out of the appeal denied the appellant access to court.
Accordingly, the appeal was upheld and the appellant ordered to pay the correct fees.
The plaintiff won a tender for the supply of various medical supplies and equipment to be distributed by the first defendant. The framework agreement specified that the delivery thereof depended on ‘call off orders’, which were written instructions issued by the first defendant requiring the plaintiff to deliver stipulated numbers of medical supplies on specified dates.
When the first defendant unexpectedly deferred an order for additional supplies, the plaintiff incurred significant unforeseen costs with respect to the storage and security of the delayed goods. The plaintiff therefore instituted a claim against the first defendant for breach of contract.
The issues were common cause. First, whether the order of the goods as agreed was indeed deferred by the defendant. Secondly, whether the defendant delayed its payment for the goods delivered under the contract. These issues were simultaneously dispensed with, the court quickly finding on the evidence before it that the answer two both questions was affirmative.
The third issue, in light of this finding, was whether the defendant’s conduct amounted to a breach. This was also answered in the affirmative as the alterations made by the defendant were a departure from the specified dates and quantities required by the contract’s call off order protocol.
The establishing of loss on the part of the plaintiff to found its claim for damages emerged fourthly. That the record clearly demonstrated the costs incurred by the plaintiff – in the shape of storage and security fees, bank interests and charges from the manufacturer for delayed acceptance of goods – rendered this issue swiftly resolvable by the court.
The fifth issue concerned the determination of relief. The plaintiff was awarded a penalty for delayed payments and further general damages.
Judgment was accordingly entered for the plaintiff.
The essence of the suit was an alleged unjustified refusal by the first defendant to berth resulting in alleged loss to the plaintiff and attaching demurrage charges.
The issue was whether the first defendant deliberately refused to berth a ship, and the court found in the affirmative. The court went on to look at if the refusal was justified. The court found that the master’s refusal to berth was based on unfounded grounds resulting in a two week delay. It was on that basis that the court held that the first and second defendants had not been wrongly sued.
The other issue was whether there was delay in offloading the consignment and whether the plaintiff suffered economic loss. These losses were in a form of demurrage charges, drop in sales as a result of closure of the factory, salaries to workers and bank charges. The court relied on the principle of general damages which states that damages in law presumes follow from the type of wrong complained of. General damages do not need to be specifically have been sustained.
In the result, the suit succeeded and the plaintiff was awarded damages.