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.
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 court considered an application in a matter that dealt with a judgment that omitted counsel’s name. The court was asked to review and/or vary and/or annulling part of the Judgment to reflect the change. The court had the inherent power to correct a slip in its judgment. However, the slip rule can never be used by a party to seek clarity over a judgment but only correct minor errors.
Where counsel does appear and argue for the appellant, their names should not appear on the judgment. Further, only the names of counsel and not the parties are listed on the judgment. Once a court has delivered its decision on a matter, it ceases to be seized of the cases (functus officio), and it cannot re-open it for any purpose whatsoever except in appropriate and exceptional cases such as when judgment
(a) was obtained by fraud or deceit;
(b) was a nullity;
(c) was given under a mistaken belief that the parties consented to it;
(d) was given in the absence of jurisdiction;
(e) the proceedings adopted was such as to deprive the decision or judgment of the character of a legitimate adjudication; or
(f) was rendered with fundamental irregularity.
A court can however review a judgment to give effect to its meaning, correct clerical errors or accidental slips or omissions.
The court rejected the application to review or vary the judgment because it did not meet the criteria above but permitted the application to delete phrases that it was made in the absence of counsel and deleted reference to parties from appearances.
In this case, the respondent had filed an application for the enforcement of a judgment by means of garnishee proceedings. The court then granted an order of garnishee nisi, which the appellants then filed an affidavit to show cause. The matter was heard and the court made the garnishee order absolute. This case illustrates effect of a null judgment.
The court considered whether the High Court erred in granting the garnishee orders absolute. The court considered the direct effect of the judgment that had been made by the same court. The court had found that the judgment of the court below was incompetent and therefore a nullity.
The court held that the law was settled that, ‘out of nullity nothing worth anything or something can emerge or be predicated’. The court held that a null judgment though it existed as a fact, was devoid of any legal consequences. It was as if the judgment did not exist.
Therefore, the court concluded that the garnishee orders absolute made by the court below had automatically become nullity as well and were liable to be set aside ex debito justitiae (as of right).
The court upheld the appeal and wholly set aside the garnishee orders absolute.
This was an appeal of a decision of the Court of Appeal that allowed a defective notice to commence suit for compensation against the respondent who was adversely affected by the execution of an approved development plan.
The court mainly dealt with the procedural grounds of appeal. The court determined whether the Court of Appeal erred in holding that the holding that the respondents had complied with the provisions of s 127 of the Local Government Act, 1993 in service of notice to commence suit and form of the notice on record. The court found that the notice was seriously defective and set aside the respondent’s action against the appellant. The court applied the rule that courts have no authority to grant immunity from consequences of breaching a statute unless the statute is incurably bad. The court also determined whether the Court of Appeal misdirected itself in holding that the application of provision under section 56 of the Local Government Act, 1993 is discretionary. The court interpreted the word “may” in this section to have a mandatory effect even though not stated in mandatory terms. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded and the judgment of the High Court was restored.
The application before the court concerns a multilayered application for summary judgement, an application for a writ to set aside consent judgement, an application to dismiss the writ and an application to the High Court to stay execution among others.
The court had to consider whether the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction (i) when it varied the ruling dismissing the 4th interested party’s application for the stay in execution pending the appeal, (ii) when it substituted the order to stay execution pending the appeal that had already been decided upon. Lastly, (iii) whether the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction regarding the 4th interested party for the suspension of the enforcement of consent judgement.
The court held that the application on the grounds (i) and (ii) be granted but dismissed the (iii) ground. The court went on to order a stay in execution pending determination before the appellate court. The court was of the view that the judges in the lower courts fell into an error of law and committed procedural irregularities.
The application was granted except on the 3rd ground, which was dismissed.
The applicant sought an order setting aside the judgement of the trial court due to a procedural flaw.
The court had to consider whether the trial court acted without jurisdiction when it struck out the application for a stay in proceedings.
The court held that the trial court, in not carrying out the required procedure when it struck out the application, acted without jurisdiction.
The court stated that the trial judge erred by allowing the respondent to make oral application and ought to have informed the respondent to file an application to relist the motion that was struck out. The court went on to say that it was settled practice that a formal application is required to restore motions that were previously struck out. As a result, the trial court, in deviating from settled practice acted without jurisdiction.
Consequently, the application for certiorari succeeds and the ruling of the trial court was quashed.
The court considered an application for a declaration on how to interpret an order made by the Supreme Court on the subject of a register of voters. The court provided that a party can apply to clarify a previous decision of the court to make it easier to understand, especially in cases where part of the judgment is ambiguous. The court has inherent jurisdiction to clarify a judgment, but such clarification cannot be used to make a substantive change to the existing decision. An application to clarify a judgment cannot be used to ask the court make the same order again as this would amount to suing a party again for the same cause.
The court in this case clarified the issue of what was meant by ‘delete’ names from the register of voters, but refused to clarify the judgment to the extent that would amount to modifying or altering the substance of the judgment.
The applicant was seeking a clarification of a court judgement.
The case emanated from a dismissal of an appeal by the first respondent to challenge a decision of the High Court in favour of Fidelity Bank. The plaintiff sought clarification of the judgement. It sought clarification on the nature of interest to paid and why the applicant and the respondent were jointly liable for payment of outstanding loan.
The court held that there was a contract between the applicant and the respondent and it provided that the applicant should obtain a loan from Fidelity Bank (the bank). The bank required an undertaking from both the applicant and the respondent that they are going to be jointly responsible for the repayment of the loan. The court found that the respondent reneged on all payments under the contract in the joint names and thus contributed to the non-payment of the loan, hence its liability.
On interest, the court ruled that the undertaking between the parties bears three different interest rates. It pointed out that the parties in this transaction are governed by their undertakings hence interest is calculable on the terms agreed.
Aggrieved by a High Court judgment concerning its dispute with the respondent, the applicant looked to the Court of Appeal for revision thereof in terms of section 4(3) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act.
The application neglected to include the record of proceedings from which the revision arose – a fatally defective error which rendered its case incompetent. The court therefore struck the matter out yet opted leniently to exercise its discretion on the award of costs – no award was made.
Its reasoning was twofold: the applicant had itself pointed out the defective nature of its application during proceedings; and secondly, the respondent had been caused no prejudice by the applicant’s error. It had filed no papers in opposition thereof, nor had it been required to argue the material flaws of the application before the court. The interests of justice, the court held, warranted that each party bore its own costs.
Aggrieved by the High Court order concerning its dispute with the respondent, the applicant sought revision thereof from the Court of Appeal. The application was made outside of the 60 day window prescribed by rule 65 the Court of Appeal Rules.
This defect was objected to by the respondent and promptly conceded by the applicant who acknowledged its fatal nature. The main question before the court was to conclude the matter by dismissal or striking out.
Surveying the authoritative case law, the court concluded that the proper position is to dismiss only competent applications; those which suffer from material defects are to be struck out. A time-bar constitutes one such flaw, and so the matter was consequently struck out.
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.