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.
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 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.
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 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 main issue faced by the court in this matter was whether an appeal could be allowed to proceed when the notice of appeal is incompetent.
On the assertion that the notice was defective for failure to reflect names and addresses of the parties, the court was quick to dismiss the objection as baseless as the error was a mere irregularity which could not affect the hearing of the appeal on merits. It reasoned that a liberal interpretation must be followed thus non-compliance per se could not be a ground for nullifying a proceeding unless it could amount to a denial of justice. Since the requirement of endorsement of names and addresses was a measure of convenience and not mandatory, it could not render the notice invalid.
On the contention that the notice did not relate to any suit, the court acknowledged the presence of incongruities between record of appeal and the notice to an extent that there was no nexus between the two. Further, it observed the incompleteness of the record, defects which amounted to a failure in invoking the court’s jurisdiction. The court decried the applicant’s failure to remedy the above defects by way of motion on notice to the lower court, a defect it held to be fundamental and stems to the very root of the appeal process. The court thus held the appeal was effectively incompetent and therefore there was no jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
The matter involved an appeal over a decision made about a contractual dispute between the appellant and the respondent.
The first issue was whether the trial court had jurisdiction to consider a contractual matter between an individual banker and his bank. The court engaged with the interpretation of the relevant constitutional provision (s 251(1)(d)) as given by the Supreme Court and established that it granted concurrent jurisdiction between federal and state High Courts in customer-bank matters. The court reasoned that the provision is an exception to the exclusive jurisdiction enjoyed by federal courts. It concluded that the trial court had jurisdiction, though concurrent, to decide the matter at issue.
The second issue was whether there had been sufficient proof at the trial court to support judgment in favour of the respondent. Acknowledging that this issue required the court to embark on a re-evaluation of the evidence, the court emphasised that interference could only be done if it is shown that the trial court’s judgment was perversely flawed. After reviewing the trial court processes, the court concluded that there was a failure to properly evaluate the totality of all evidence, particularly determining what was admissible or inadmissible, before making its decisions. Since there was proof of an absence of a nexus link between the conclusions of the court and the proven facts, the appellate court could thus interfere and re-evaluate the evidence. The trial court’s judgment was therefore found to be fraught with error and was set aside.
The respondent/plaintiff had sued the appellant/defendant for a liquidated debt following its default in payment and successfully applied for the matter to be placed on the undefended list. There it was heard exclusively on the papers to the respondent/plaintiff’s success. Two issues emerged on appeal: whether the trial court’s judgment contradicted the evidence, and whether the appellant’s notice of intention to defend disclosed a defence on the merits of the case, thereby justifying the matter’s transfer to the general cause list.
The appellate court held in favour of the respondents on both issues, finding first that the court had been thorough in its analysis of the evidence before it, and had crafted a reasoned order reflecting this.
The judge elucidated the purpose of the undefended list as a vehicle for swift justice where a defendant has no credible case. This was one such instance; the court found that the appellant had failed to raise a triable issue warranting the matter’s transfer to the general cause list. The appellant’s allegations of fraud did not conform to the recognised rules for establishing such a claim and were found lack any substance.
The appellant unsuccessfully invoked s 36(1) of the Constitution, contending that its right to a fair hearing had been breached through its being deprived of a comprehensive trial. The court affirmed the lawful function of the undefended list, emphasising that parties are given equal opportunities to be heard via the papers. Where a defendant was unable to raise a triable issue against the plaintiff’s claim, it could not resort to arguing that audi alterem partem had been flouted.
The appeal was dismissed.
The subject-matter of this appeal concerned the enforceability of an English court order on the parties’ dispute. The first and second respondents argued in the court below that the appellant and third respondent were in breach of the order of a lower court, and so they sought an order restraining its enforcement. The trial judge admitted a copy of the English court’s ruling but made further other orders affirming the subsistence of the lower court ruling which led the appellant to lodge an appeal on multiple grounds.
Regarding the main appeal, the court endorsed the first and second respondents’ argument that the third respondent ought to be compelled to observe the subsisting order of the lower court. It affirmed the inherent power of the court to act where an existing court judgment is flouted to uphold the integrity of the judiciary. Such an issue may be raised by either party orally, by formal application, or raised by the court itself.
Although the appellant was not part of the suit and lacked the requisite legal standing without formal application, that it was a beneficiary of the English court’s order meant that the trial judge was justified to restrain it from enforcing the order. However, the appellant had been incorrectly found to be jointly liable with the third respondent for flouting the judgment of the court below, so it experienced some success on this count.
On the challenge of the trial court’s jurisdiction to make one of its pronouncements, the appellate court found that the judge had unlawfully addressed the substance of a forthcoming application. This violated the well-established principle that a court must make its findings and orders on the same grounds of argument it has received from the parties. This issue was therefore resolved in the appellant’s favour.
Overall, the appeal was meritorious and allowed in part.
The crux of the matter is whether or not the trial court erred in holding the appellant/defendant was given ample opportunities but failed, refused and/or neglected to defend the suit and present its case before the court. The appellant contended that the lower court’s refusal to re-open the case amounted to a violation of its right to fair hearing. The court held that the appellant had ample time to defend its case but failed.
The second issue was whether the exhibits admitted by the lower court were deserving of ascription of any probative value. The court held that documentary evidence can be admitted in the absence of the maker; what matters is admissibility. This means that a document can be admitted without the court attaching probative value to it.
The court reiterated that where the lower court fails to examine documents tendered before it, an appellate court is in good position to evaluate such exhibits. The court thus held that the lower court erred when it held that the respondents were entitled to judgment.
In the result, the appeal succeeded even though the first issue was held in favor of the respondent.
The appellant brought an appeal against the judgement of the High Court, where the lower court dismissed the appellant’s suit on grounds that the claim had prescribed.
The court considered whether the appellant’s right to a fair hearing could be determined despite having failed to initiate its case prior to it prescribing and whether the High Court correctly dismissed the appellant’s case due to prescription.
The court held that the appellant’s right to a fair hearing could not be determined under the circumstances. The court also held that the High Court incorrectly dismissed the appellant’s case without considering important aspects.
Regarding the right to a fair hearing; the court was of the view that since the appellant initiated their case by writ of summons for a declaration against the respondent, it was not an application for the enforcement of a fundamental right and it stood to be affected by the operation of a statute including any limitations the statute could have had. Furthermore, the court issued that the High Court ought to have made an inquiry as to the definition of a ‘public officer’ as used in the statute and if there were any exceptions to the statute that prescribes claims against public officers after three months. The omission by the High Court was held to be an error.
The appeal was successful, and the judgment of the High Court was set aside. Court ordered the case to be heardafresh by the High Court. No costs were ordered.
The appellant, a federal government agency, claimed that the first respondent, in the lower court, sought relief while the matter was still pending in the high court and the jurisdiction was exclusive to the federal high court according to the constitution. The court considered whether the lower court had the jurisdiction for the withdrawal of a building plan that was an executive decision by the appellant.
The court held that s 230(1) of Decree 107 of 1993 (‘the decree’, now s 251 of the constitution) automatically ousted the jurisdiction of the Lagos State High Court. This provision gave the federal high court exclusive jurisdiction in administrative or executive decision by the federal government or its agencies. The court also held that any decision or proceedings emanating from such a court are a nullity.
The court found that the lower court did not have jurisdiction according to s 230(1) of the decree.
Accordingly, the court upheld the appeal.
The court considered whether money accruing to the state can be subject to a garnishee order and whether the trial court had jurisdiction to entertain the proceedings.
This case concerned an appeal of a garnishee order on the basis that the court below erred in adjudicating upon the matter as a it did not have the requisite jurisdiction.
On the first issue, the court found that money had accrued to the state and thus they were entitled to the garnishee order.
On the second issue, the court the court found that jurisdiction is not exercised at large but must be exercised within the confines of the law. In effect, a court can only be clothed with jurisdiction if and only if it was competently constituted in the proceedings before it.
The factors which determine jurisdiction of a court are 1) the subject matter of the case is within its jurisdiction; 2) there is no feature of the case which prevents the court from exercising jurisdiction and 3) the case comes before the court initiated by due process of law.
Therefore, the court found that the trial court had acted within the confines of their jurisdiction.
This was an appeal of the decision of a lower court to grant the respondents leave to amend their writ of summons in terms of substituting the 1st to the 12th plaintiffs with their personal representatives and guardians. The writ was taken out in the names of the deceased victims of the fire incident occasioned by the appellant. The appellant, via a notice of preliminary objection challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the application having been brought by deceased persons. This preliminary objection was not dealt with by the lower court in its decision.
The court held that the lower court committed a serious error when it did not consider a preliminary objection which challenged the jurisdiction of the court. A court must always establish that it has jurisdiction before it deals with any matter such as the merits of an amendment.
The court further held that the law recognizes two categories of persons who can sue and be sued. They are natural persons with life, mind and brain; and other bodies or institutions having juristic personality.
Accordingly, a dead person ceases to have legal personality and can neither sue nor be sued.
Therefore if the original writ of summons and initiating process are void, the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain or enter judgment in the matter. Based on the above principles, the court upheld the appeal and struct out the claim for want of jurisdiction.
The appellant and respondent of this case entered into an agreement of service relating to aviation. The respondent as plaintiff before the lower court alleged that the appellant has not paid the amount determined in the contract in full. The trial court ruled in favour of the respondent (as plaintiff).
The court considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction over the matter under s 251 of the Constitution. The court held that the court has jurisdiction over matters relating to aviation. Both parties were engaged in the business of aviation and their dispute arose out of this activity. Consequently, the lower court had jurisdiction.
The court further considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction although the writ of summons did not contain the respondent’s address. Further, the court considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction despite the presence of an arbitration clause in the contract. The court held that the right to complain about irregularities is waived if it is not exercised in due course. It found that the appellant failed to object before the lower court and, therefore, waived the right.
The court was also asked to determine whether the lower court adequately evaluated the evidence presented before it. The court held that the party that files a counter-claim must proof that claim. It found that the appellant in this case did not provide evidence for the claim. Consequently, the court concluded that the lower court adequately evaluated the evidence.
All grounds for appeal were dismissed.
This case concerns liability for damage caused to a vessel.
The court considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction over the second appellant which was only served indirectly. The court held that where a party does not object to any irregularity or invalidity in the service of process on him before
The trial court, he waives his right. In this case the second appellant, then defendant, did not object. Consequently, the court found that the trial court did indeed have jurisdiction.
The second ground of appeal was declared incompetent.
The court also considered whether the trial court had taken into account all evidence. It held that where a trial court unquestionably evaluates the evidence adduced and appraises the facts, it is not the business of the appellate court to substitute it is own view. The court was satisfied that the trial court took all evidence into account, although it was not explicitly referred to in the judgement. Consequently, the court decided against the appellants.
The court finally considered whether the negligence precludes the right to limit liability. It held that the ship master is the alter ego of the vessel on behalf of the owner. Consequently, the owner, together with the other appellants, was held jointly and severally liable.
The appeal was dismissed.
The issue was whether the state high court has jurisdiction over matters that are governed by the Investment and Security Act (the act). The case emanated from a dispute where the appellant was being sued in the court aqua for defrauding the respondents of units of shares. The appellant had raised a preliminary objection that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the matter which was dismissed. The appellant thus was challenging the dismissal of the objection.
The appellant argued that the trial judge erred in dismissing its objection on the basis that jurisdiction of the high court is limited and excludes matters that are regulated by the act. The appellant pointed out that disputes around the act should be determined by the Investment and Security Tribunal (the tribunal).
The respondent opposed the appeal on the grounds that the trial judge was correct because the jurisdiction of the high court was unlimited. They argued that the dispute emanates from torts, conspiracy and fraud which fall within jurisdiction of the high court and that the act was unconstitutional.
The court ruled that s 270 of the act establishes the tribunal to resolve disputes that fall under the act. It observed that s 284 of the act give the tribunal exclusive jurisdiction to determine matters regarding capital markets. It held that the dispute revolved around capital market operator (appellant) and its clients (respondents) hence it falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the tribunal. It concluded that the trial judge erred and the appeal was upheld.
The appeal was against a garnishee order attaching a sum of approximately N97 million belonging to the appellant granted by the lower court. The appeal was based on the claim that the garnishee order was made without hearing the appellants’ earlier motion for a of stay execution. This, the appellants argued, was a violation of their right to a fair trial.
The respondent raised a preliminary objection that the appellant had no standing because it was judgement debtor, not the garnishee. It further argued that the appellants had not obtained leave to appeal.
The appellants responded by pointing out that they were respondents to the garnishee application, and that the funds that were to be attached belonged to them. Thus, they had locus standi (the standing and right to file this appeal).
The court held that it is only the garnishee that can appeal an order made by the court. It ruled that garnishee proceedings are strictly between the creditor and the garnishee. It found that the appellant lacked locus standi to file the appeal and the appeal was dismissed.
Contract Law – payment of money – specific performance Civil procedure – jurisdiction - ratio decidendi
This was an appeal against a garnishee order granted by the court. The appellant contended that the garnishee proceedings were null and void because the first respondent did not disclose that the second respondent fell within the jurisdiction of the lower court. Further, the appellant argued that there was abuse of court process because the garnishee order was made after the appellant was granted leave to appeal.
The respondent argued that the appellant was not a party to the garnishee proceeding and cannot challenge the procedure.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the question of the judgement creditor establishing that the garnishee was within jurisdiction was not for the judgement debtor to determine but the court. It found that the appellants were not parties to the garnishee proceedings and that an appeal does not operate as a stay of execution. The appeal was thus dismissed.
The issue was whether the trial court had jurisdiction to hear a petition for winding up and whether the respondent had required authorization to petition for winding up.
The appeal emanated from the dismissal of the appellant’s objection to a petition for winding up the appellant company. The appellant argued that the trial court had no jurisdiction to decide on the matter. It pointed out that only the English courts had exclusive jurisdiction to decide on any dispute between the parties. Moreover, the appellant challenged the legal personality of the respondent arguing that they did not provide original certificates of incorporation and that the respondent did not receive authority of shareholders to petition for the winding up.
The respondent opposed the appeal on the grounds that the English courts had exclusive jurisdiction only on disputes and not on a petition for winding up. It further argued that it required a trail to verify the authenticity of the certificate of incorporation. Lastly the respondent pointed out that since they were duly incorporated, they were authorized to work on behalf of the shareholders.
The court in dismissed the first two points raised by appellant. The court held that the English court’s exclusive jurisdiction did not extend to petitions and that documents attached to an affidavit in an interlocutory application should not be used as an objection to the issue of admissibility. However the court ruled that the respondent required the approval of directors and shareholders to file a petition to wind up. Thus the appeal was upheld.
This is an appeal against a High Court decision granting a summary judgement. The dispute emanated from share trading facility offered to the appellant company by the respondent bank. However, the appellant failed to pay for the shares when payment fell due, prompting the respondent to approach the court where a summary judgement was awarded in favor of the respondent.
The appellant appealed the decision on the ground that it was not given a fair hearing. It pointed out that the determination through summary judgement ignored issues of merit. The appellant argued that sufficient issues had been raised to warrant a full trial of the case, and that it had a bona fide defense.
The respondent opposed the appeal on the basis that the summary judgement was employed to prevent a sham defense, and that an objection to summary judgement must address a specific claim not a general sweeping denial of the claim.
The court held that the case hinges on whether the appellant’s defense constitutes a triable issue. It found that the appellant failed to raise triable issues. It held that the trial court was correct in finding that the appellant defense was a sham. It ruled that the appellant was indebted to the respondent. The appeal was thus dismissed.
The court considered whether the failure to omit the court name in a notice of motion and error in arrangement of parties invalidated the application.
The court held that a notice of appeal is the foundation and any defect to it renders the whole appeal incompetent. In that regard, to validly invoke the jurisdiction of a Court of Appeal, it must be shown that the decision appealed against arose from the courts listed in s 240 of the Constitution.
The court found that the particulars of the claim did not invoke the jurisdiction of the court of appeal which is a material defect. Moreso, cannot be cured by an amendment. Therefore, the court was not able to grant the reliefs claimed.
The court accordingly dismissed the application.
The court considered whether the State High Court had jurisdiction to entertain a matter about mines and minerals.
The court held that according to s 251(1)(n) of the Constitution as amended, the Federal High Court had jurisdiction about mining operations.
The court found that the statement of claim showed that the cause of action accrued in 1996; therefore, the law that was in existence at that time is applicable. Further, the court found that the construction, operation and maintenance of an oil pipeline by a holder of oil prospecting license is an act of mining operations. The facts of the case therefore fell within s 230(1)(0) of the 1979 Constitution. The trial court lacked jurisdiction.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal.
The appellants appealed a judgment granting the respondent payment of a sum of money in terms of an indemnity agreement between the parties.
There were four issues for determination in the main appeal: whether the lower court had jurisdiction to hear the matter; whether the personal indemnity form did not constitute a contract between second appellant and first respondent to make second appellant personally liable to indemnify first respondent; whether the deposit of the second appellant’s title deeds with the first respondent was in furtherance of the personal indemnity form; and whether the judgment was against the weight of evidence.
As regards the first ground of appeal, the court found that the lower court was vested with the jurisdiction to hear the matter, as stated in the Insurance Act, 2003. The second ground was resolved in favour of the first respondent as the indemnity form was held to be a contract with the main aim of making the second appellant personally liable to indemnify the first respondent. Issue 3 was found in favour of the first respondent as the words of the document were found to have created an equitable mortgage over the second appellant’s property, using it as collateral to secure the counter indemnity granted by the first respondent on behalf of the second appellant. The fourth issue was resolved in favour of the first respondent, and the appeal was held to be lacking in substance and merit. The appeal was dismissed.
Freedom of association – Labour unions – Membership in labour union