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.
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.
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.
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 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 appellant appealed the decision of the trial court to rely on an affidavit of a court process server, having held that service was properly done. The prime issue for determination was whether the appeal was meritorious.
Order V Rule 16 of the Civil Procedure Code provides that where the serving officer delivers or tenders a copy of summons to the defendant personally or to an agent or other person on his behalf he shall require that person to sign an acknowledgement of service, if refuses to sign the acknowledgement the serving officer shall leave a copy thereof with him and return the original together with an affidavit stating that the person refused to sign the acknowledgement) that he left a copy of the summons with such person and the name and address of the person (if any), by whom the person on whom the summons was served was identified.
The court held that these specifications were not indicated in the process server's affidavit and the trial court never bothered to establish and ascertain if the service was properly done to the appellant to accord her the right to be heard.
The decision of the trial court giving rise to this appeal could not be allowed to stand on account of being arrived at in violation of the constitutional right to be heard. In the result the appeal was granted.
The applicant filed an application for correction of arithmetical error from a consent settlement order. The respondent argued that a party seeking to have an arithmetical or clerical error corrected as it were in this application must do so within sixty days from the date of the decree sought to be corrected.
The question for determination by the court in this application was whether that power could be exercised at any time. To answer the question the court relied on the court of appeal judgment where it was held that "we are satisfied that the phrase 'at any time means just that at anytime' subject to the rights of the parties, there should be no point in limiting the time in which to correct such innocuous mistakes or errors which are merely clerical or arithmetical with absolutely no effect on the substance of the judgment. Hence if what was sought in Misc. Civil Application No. 57 of 1993 was merely to correct clerical or arithmetical mistakes arising from an accidental slip or omission; we agree that such correction can be made at any time subject to the rights of the parties”.
The court then concluded that the phrase ‘at any time’ was not be construed to extend beyond the period after a decree is fully satisfied.
The application was therefore dismissed.
The issues for determination were whether this suit was time barred and whether the suit was bad in law for being in contravention of s 6 (2) of the Government Proceedings Act [Cap.5 R.E. 2002].
Section 6(2) of the Government Proceedings Act states that ‘no suit against the government shall be instituted, and heard unless the claimant previously submits to the government minister, department or officer concerned a notice of not less than ninety days of his intention to sue the government, specifying the basis of his claim against the government, and he shall send a copy of his claim to the Attorney-General.’
The court held that in determining the question of limitation, two principles must be considered. In the first place, the court must look at the whole suit, including the reliefs sought, and see if the suit combines more than one claim based on different causes of action as one of them may be found to be time barred while the others may not. In such circumstances, it is not proper to dismiss the whole suit as time barred. Second, the court, in interpreting the provisions of a law, should read those provisions in their context as a whole. Single sections should not be read or interpreted in isolation.
The court found that the suit against the government, having been prematurely instituted before complying with the mandatory provisions of section 6 (2) of the Government Proceedings Act, was bad in law and incompetent. The suit was dismissed.
In this case, the court considered whether a writ of summons issued for more than 12 months and not served within that period can be renewed.
The court held that pursuant to order 5 rule 6 a writ has a life span of 12 months. It follows that an application for renewal must be made to the court before the expiration of the 12 months on the grounds that the defendant had not been served or for another good reason.
The court held that a writ is regarded as void where the expiration of the period of 12 months prescribed. An application for renewal of a writ can be made before the expiration of the 12 month period of issuance of a writ and after. Although order 5 rule 6 is a specific provision for renewal of a writ which is still in force, order 47 rule 3 provides for cases where the period of its effectiveness had expired and the two provisions must be read together.
In this case, the court had difficulty ascertaining reasons to jusitfy the exercise of discretion to renew the writ which had remained unserved after 12 months. The application of the appellant in the court below was found to be without merit.
The court dismissed the appeal.
In this case, the appellant protested the total absence of any service of the processes and claimed ignorance of the proceedings at the lower court. This case illustrates the essentiality of service of court process.
The court considered whether the appellant had been duly served with the notice of appeal, other processes filed by the respondent at the lower court and also the hearing notices.
The court followed the principle provided in Ihedioha v Okorocha Appeal No. SC. 660/2015 (unreported, delivered on 29 October 2015) where it was held that service is an important aspect of judicial process. It was held that failure to serve a named party with court process offends section 36(1) of the Constitution.
The court also took into account the provision of order 2 rule 6 of the Court of Appeal Rules, which stipulates that it is mandatory for the service of the notice of appeal on a respondent to be personal.
The court held that the validity of the originating processes in a proceeding before a court was fundamental because the competence of the proceeding is a condition sine qua non (an essential condition) to the legitimacy of any suit. The court held that there was a lack of certainty that the appellant was served with any process in accordance with practice and procedure of the rules of court.
The court upheld the appeal with no costs.
The appellant sought to raise a fresh issue not canvassed in the court below. This case illustrates the court’s willingness to grant leave to raise and argue a fresh issue to ensure that justice prevails.
The court considered whether the applicants should be granted leave to raise and argue fresh issues on law in their appeal. In analyzing the principles for granting leave to raise fresh issues on appeal, the court held that one major consideration is if further evidence is required. The court held that it was satisfied that the fresh issue would be erected on the existing evidence in the printed record.
The court also held that the fresh issues must constitute a substantial point of law which will materially determine the fortunes of the appeal. The court found that the application for leave to raise and argue a fresh issue of law had satisfied all the established principles or templates for the grant of leave.
The court gave the appellant 30 days to file their brief of argument in this appeal. The court upheld the appeal.
In this case, monies held by the appellant belonging to the Nigeria Customs Service were traced. An order nisi was served on the appellant as the fifth garnishee. This case illustrates how the garnishee proceedings do not avail the garnishee to attack a judgment that the judgment creditor and debtor have accepted.
The court considered whether the appellant should be granted leave to raise fresh issues in additional grounds of appeal. The court explained that garnishee proceedings were not a process employed by the garnishee to fight a proxy war against the judgment creditor on behalf of the judgment debtor. The court held that a decision of a court of law not appealed against is to be accepted by the parties and it remains binding on them other parties, including garnishees.
The court held that the appellant had prayed for leave to raise issues that this court did not have the benefit of the views of the court below. The court considered order 2 rule 12 of the Rules of the Court which provide that the court may exercise its discretion to accept fresh evidence. The court held that there was a mischievous purpose attached to the appellant’s application and no power in law inheres in the garnishee to fight the cause of a judgment debtor.
The court concluded that the cause of action available to the garnishee was quite limited and therefore the application in this case was an abuse of the court process.
The court dismissed the application with costs.
The main preliminary issue was whether the respondent, an executive agency, could be sued in its own name by the applicant who was seeking an order of temporary injunction.
Before the court could decide on the issue, however, it had to decide on whether the preliminary objection had been made prematurely. In response, it pointed out that the established position in the law is that a preliminary point ought to be raised as earliest as possible. It therefore held that the objection had been appropriate.
Returning to the main question, the court considered the Executive Agencies Act (the act), establishing that an executive agency can be sued under the act without joining the government and Attorney General only when there is a contractual dispute. Since the court could not ascertain that the application had been based on a contract, it found it improper that the applicant had filed for an order against the respondent without joining the government and Attorney General.
The court thus concluded that the application had been made in contravention of the legally required procedure and was thus not legally maintainable.
The matter stems from an alleged breach of an agreement of refund by the respondent against the applicant. The agreement in question arose from a breach of the shipping contract by the applicant resulting in the respondent incurring a penalty from Tanzania Revenue Authority.
The main issue is whether the court could order for the joinder of the shipper and agent as defendants even when the applicant does not intend to sue them. The court began by clarifying that it has unlimited powers to join any party as a defendant if it is necessary to enable the court to effectually and completely adjudicate upon and settle all the relevant questions in suit. However, this power is exercised under the guidance of the dominus litis principle that grants the plaintiff the power to decide whom to sue.
In its reasoning, the court could not find a reason why the joinder was necessary as the dispute in question arose from a communication in which only the applicant and respondent were privy. Furthermore, the court heeded the respondent’s contention that as master of her own case she should not be compelled to sue a person she feels she has no claim. The court thus rejected the application to join the shipper and agent as co-defendant.
The case concerned a dispute about how to commence litigation on behalf of companies. The court held that whether or not failure to seek and obtain the permission of a company to institute litigation or an application is no longer the law in Tanzania. It was held that the issue of jurisdiction will allow a court to investigate factors to determine if the company gave permission to institute court proceedings. However, the party alleging that the company did not give authority must prove their case. Only when there is sufficient evidence will the court investigate the issue of jurisdiction. In this case, the applicant failed to prove his case and the application was dismissed.
This was an application for a revision in respect of execution proceedings and a garnishee order.
The respondent raised preliminary objections: that the court lacked jurisdiction to determine the revision; that the court has not been moved and that the application was bad for not being accompanied with the order sought to be revised.
The court dismissed the final objection since there is no legal requirement for the same.
The court determined that it had jurisdiction, by applying the rule that all revisions of a civil nature in a resident magistrate court shall lie to the high court. The court interpreted this provision to include execution proceedings from resident magistrate courts.
In determining the second objection, the court observed that the applicant had cited non-existent legislation by referring to the Magistrates’ Court Act as the Resident Magistrates Court Act. It applied the rule that when an applicant cites the wrong provision the matter becomes incompetent since the court is not properly moved, to hold that it had not been moved. The court also considered that the applicant wrongly cited s 79 of the Civil Procedure Code. In doing so, it appreciated the difference on revision that may be undertaken per s 79 of the Civil Procedure Code and per ss 43 and 44 of the Magistrates Court Act: s 79 referred to finalized cases while the rest refer to any civil proceedings.
Accordingly, the application was struck out with an order as to costs in favor of the respondent.
This was a ruling based on preliminary objections against an application brought by the applicants.
The respondents submitted that the applicant’s chamber application was in contravention of Order XXIII r 3 of the Civil Procedure Code, 2002. The court observed that the respondents had cited the provisions wrongly and took reference of the right provision (Order XXIII r 1(3). The court determined the interpretation of this provision and specifically whether the prayers sought in the two applications ‘there is no valid injunction after the expiry of six months’ and ‘the order for temporary injunction granted by this court on 28th June 2012, has expired and be vacated’ were similar.
The court applied the rule that one is barred from instituting a fresh suit after withdrawing a suit without securing leave for instituting the same case. The court also observed that this rule is applicable to suits and applications. The court held that they were similar and in absence of an order to have the formally withdrawn application reinstituted, the present application could not stand.
The second respondent raised another preliminary objection based on s 5 of the Oaths and Statutory Declarations Act, 2002 as read with r 2 of the Oaths and Affirmation Rules, 2002, then withdrew it.
Accordingly, the court found merit in the preliminary objection raised by the respondents and struck out the application with and order as to costs excluding three quarter of the costs incurred by the applicant in respect of the abandoned preliminary objection.
This case concerned a dispute between the parties which had previously resulted in the matter being referred to arbitration and an award being handed down. The court considered an application to set aside that award. The respondents made a preliminary objection to this application on three grounds: (1) that the petition could not be heard as the filing fees had not been paid, (2) the application was time-barred, and (3) the failure of the applicant to adduce evidence of the arbitration award.
On the first issue, the respondent contended that as a non-government entity, the failure to pay filing fees renders the applicant’s petition liable to be struck out. However, the court considered the rule that a government party is exempt from making payment of filing fees. In determining who is a ‘government’ party, the court considered that this status extends to local government. Accordingly the applicant is exempt from paying filing fees.
On the issue of the application being time-barred, the court considered the argument that the time within which to institute action started running from the date of publication of the award. The court found that the time for challenging an award starts to run from the day the said award is filed in court for the purpose of registration and adoption. Furthermore, the period of limitation for filing an award without intervention is 6 months, but the time for challenging the same should be brought within 60 days from the date it is filed in court for registration and adoption.
On the third issue (the adduction of the arbitral award), the court considered that it was not properly a preliminary objection per the test articulated in Mukisa Biscuit Manufacturing Ltd v Westend Distributions  EA 696. The question of whether additional evidence ought to have been adduced is not amenable to treatment as a preliminary point of law.
Accordingly, all three preliminary objections were overruled.