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 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.
The respondents/plaintiffs had successfully approached a court seeking a declaration of rights asserting their bona fide title in respect of certain immoveable property. They further sought a permanent injunction against the appellant/defendant, who alleged a stronger claim to the property, barring its interference therewith.
The appellant appealed the factual findings of the trial court, which the Court of Appeal found were substantiated by the evidence on record. Absent any evidence of perversity in its factual conclusions, its findings were deemed reliable on appeal.
The respondents adduced evidence which met the criteria – from the instructive methodology of the Supreme Court – for the proof of declaration of title to land. They showed that the property had been lawfully conveyed to their grandfather and fallen unto them by succession, after which time they consistently exercised possession and ownership rights thereover. The appellant adduced insufficient evidence to establish his contestations of historical ownership to the property having accrued to his family via crown grant, as well as his own roots of title.
The appellant/defendant unsuccessfully tried to raise estoppel on the grounds of res judicata, alleging that the matter had already been heard by the Lands Registry Court. The appellate court made an adverse finding on the basis that the parties’ dispute had been incomprehensively ventilated before that authority and so res judicata could not apply.
The appeal was dismissed.
The case concerned an appeal against the ruling of the High Court relating to land ownership.
Based on the evidence adduced in the High Court, the court had to consider whether the appellant and the respondent proved their respective cases and whether the land in question was clearly described during the trial.
The court held that only the appellant was able to prove his case and that the land in question was clearly identified by the appellant.
The court went on to state that the appellant was able to prove title to the land in question through his grandfather and that the respondents did not dispute the claim. Furthermore, the respondents asserted in their pleadings that the land in question was acquired by the state but failed to discharge the burden that rested on them in proving so. The court ruled in favour of the appellant in so far as him being able to clearly identify and describe the land in question.
The appeal succeeded, and the judgment of the High Court was set aside. The court confirmed that the title of the land vested in the appellant and granted a perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from trespassing on the land.
This was an appeal on a decision of the High Court determining the title of a land.
The court determined whether the judgment by the trial court was a nullity on grounds of being delivered after three months in contravention of s 294(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended. The court applied the rule that a judgment in such a case may only be nullified if the appellant can prove that the delay in the delivery caused a miscarriage of justice. The court observed that the trial court did not properly evaluate evidence of the witness and made a declaratory order where the identity of the land was unknown. Secondly, the court determined whether the trial court erred in relying on pleadings that were amended and the court found that the trial court caused a miscarriage of justice for doing so. Finally, the court determined whether the trial court erred by declaring the title of the disputed land in favour of the respondents and resolved the issue in favour of the appellant.
Accordingly, the appeal succeeded, the judgment of the High Court was set aside and an order as to costs was made against the respondents.
The court considered whether the court below was correct in finding that the re-allocation of land was valid in law. Furthermore, it considered whether the below court was correct in finding that ownership could not be established, irrespective of a subsisting agreement and whether the court was correct in admitting inadmissible evidence.
The appellants alleged that they were staff of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (‘NITEL’) purchased flats from NITEL and occupied them with supporting letters to confirm their purchase. They subsequently discovered that a portion of their land had been re-allocated and used as a car park without their consent.
The court found that a party for a declaration of title of land must show the court clearly the area of land to which the claim relates. The court found that the appellants did not prove their title by failing to prove acts of ownership or long possession.
On the issue of ownership, the court considered the five requirements for a contract to be valid, namely, 1) offer, 2) acceptance, 3) consideration, 4) intention to create a legal relationship and 5) capacity to contract. These must co-exist for a contract to be formed in law. It was found that a valid sale agreement had been established, therefore denoting ownership.
The court found that the admission of evidence which was made during the pendency of the suit was inadmissible and should not have been relied upon by the court below.
The issue determined by the courts was whether the appellant was an interested party in the suit and whether the firstand second respondent were owners of the property in dispute.
The dispute emanated from the decision of the lower court to award a certificate of occupancy to the respondents after their original certificate was revoked. When their original certificate of occupancy was revoked the land was allocated to the appellant who had built a shopping mall. The appellant challenged the decision to award the occupancy certificate to the respondents. It argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter because of non-joinder of all parties whose rights were affected by the court’s decision. The appellant further claimed that their right to fair hearing was infringed.
The respondents argued that the revocation of the original occupancy certificate was null and void because it was in breach of the Land Act. They contended that they could not join the appellants because they did not know of their existence and they were original owners of the land.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the respondents knew of the existence of the appellant and had a legal duty to join the appellant in the suit so that they can be given an opportunity to be heard. It ruled that the court had no jurisdiction to make orders that bind a party who was not given an opportunity to be heard. The appeal was thus upheld.
First appellant applied for, and was allotted, a piece of state land under a temporary right of occupancy (TRO), which was non-transferable to third parties. First appellant built a restaurant on the land, which second appellant managed while first appellant lived in the USA. The second appellant was not granted any right of occupancy.
The issues for determination were: whether the trial court made a finding of fact that could only be made after leading evidence; whether the trial court was justified in discrediting or attacking evidence tendered by the appellant that was without objection by the respondent, who also led no evidence to contradict the same; and whether the trial court was justified in refusing to admit the pictures of the restaurant.
The appeal court found that the trial judge properly evaluated the documentary evidence before it and used its evaluation thereof to arrive at its decision. An appellate court may interfere where the trial court fails to evaluate the evidence properly. The court found that it was not in a position to interfere with the views of the trial court.
Issue two was resolved in favour of the respondents for the same considerations and conclusion as issue one. Issue three was decided in favour of the respondents as the evidence was held to be inadmissible because it was not in conformity with the pleadings.
The appeal was without merit and dismissed.
The appeal turned on whether the plaintiff’s action in the trial court was statute barred. The plaintiff claimed that he owned a plot of land that he later transferred to a company, which was erroneously confiscated by the government, and occupied by the fifth defendant. It was argued, however, that the plaintiff acquiesced to the unlawful occupation of the land.
The plaintiff argued that the land was never transferred to the state, and the plaintiff remained owner. This meant that the government could not transfer ownership in the land to another as it still belonged to the plaintiff, who had not acquiesced in the matter.
The court held that there was uncontroverted evidence that the plot was transferred from the company to Gold Coast Motors as early as 1991, of which the plaintiff was aware. There was nothing preventing the plaintiff challenging the presence of Gold Coast Motors or the fifth defendant. The court held that Gold Coast Motors was in adverse possession since 1991, and fifth defendants continued such when they purchased the plot. Adverse possession is open, visible and unchallenged, giving notice to an owner that someone is asserting a claim adverse to the owner’s right of ownership. Gold Coast Motors had exercised rights inconsistent with the plaintiff’s since 1991, and later sold the plot to the fifth defendant who continued the chain of adverse possession. Neither recognized the title of the plaintiff since 1991, of which the plaintiff was aware but failed to challenge.
The appeal was dismissed.
The court was called upon to determine who was entitled to ownership and possession of property in dispute between two purchasers. One purchaser claimed the property because they executed a writ of fieri facias (writ of fifa) attaching the property to recover a debt but this was not executed. A writ of fifa is a document issued by the court for the purpose of enforcing a judgment debt by permitting a judgment debtor to have a legal right to seize the losing party’s property to recover the amount due to them
Sometime later another party attended an auction, another purchaser purchased the same piece of property.
The court held that the sale at the auction was illegal because of the principle of nemo dat which provides that the first person to get title is entitled to that property notwithstanding any subsequent sale. Therefore even though the writ of fifa has expired, the party who got judgment get title to the property as judgment debtor.
The plaintiff claimed ownership of a property because he was the sub-lessee of the property and the true owner did not come forward to claim it. The defendant holds the title deeds to the property but the plaintiff continued to argue that he was not the true owner.
The court held that the defendant leased the property to a third party who thereafter sub-leased the property to the plaintiff. As a result the plaintiff could not claim to be owner in possession because he was not truly owner in possession. The defendant satisfied the court and discharged the burden of proving they own the property.
The dispute emanated from a decision of the appeal court to overturn compensation award given to the appellant by the High Court.
The appellant was offered 6.19 acres of land by the respondent under a lease agreement. The respondent after 10 years was ordered to cede the land leased to the appellant back to its original owners. The respondent took 5 acres from the appellant leaving him with 1.6 acres of the land which was given to him for free. After 11 years the appellant successfully claimed compensation for the 5 acres taken, a decision which was later overturned by the appeal court.
The appellant was now appealing against the decision to overturn the compensation award. He argued that the trial court erred by concluding that the 1.6 acres given to him was compensation. He further contended that there was no evidence to show that as the respondent’s employee he manipulated the system to allocate himself land. The respondent maintained that there was evidence to show that the 1.6 acres allocated to the appellant was compensation and that he manipulated the system to allocate himself large pieces of land.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the appellant was the lessee and not the owner of the land in dispute. He was not entitled to any compensation. It ruled that the 1.6 acres that he received was more than enough compensation. It further ruled that the appeal court never said the appellant manipulated the system. The appeal was thus dismissed.
The appeal arose from judgement on a dispute of sale and ownership of property granted in favor of the respondent. The appellant alleged that the judgement of the trial court had been fraught with errors.
The first issue was whether the evidence before the court indicated a sale or was a receipt of rent. The court weighed the evidence and reasoned that as the appellant admitted to voluntarily signing the document in issue even when she was warned by the witness of the disjuncture between the discussed agreement and the written terms, the trial court was correct in finding that the evidence was a receipt for rent paid. The trial court’s finding of facts was thus upheld.
On the appellant’s second contention that the court had committed an error of law in attesting weight to an invalid agreement, the court responded that it was important for the appellant to point out the error that led to miscarriage of law. Since this had not been done, the court concluded that there was no evidence of miscarriage of justice.
Finally, the court also had to decide whether the granted mesne profits (i.e. recoverable profits gained by tenant during the period of unlawful possession of property) were too excessive. It stated that mesne profits are usually determined on the least rent payable rate during the period of dispute. The court thus reasoned that given the case’s circumstances, the trial court had not been justified to not use the least rent payable rate in its valuation. It thus varied the mesne profits award.
The court considered whether; the land occupied by the respondent was registered land, the grant of the lease was fraudulent, and estoppel is applicable.
The court held that s 31(1) of the Land Act gives security of tenure to a tenant on registered land. Moreso, the implications of the abolitions of statutory leases in terms of art 237 of the Constitution remains a grey area. The court also held that security of tenure protects a bona fide occupant 's interest. Also, under s 176 of the Registration of Titles Act, a registered proprietor is protected against ejectment except in certain cases including fraud. Further, to procure registration of title to defeat an unregistered interest amounts to fraud. The court also held that registration tainted with fraud does not give rise to the doctrine of estoppel.
The court found that respondent must continue occupation because they were in undisturbed possession and occupation before the 1995 Constitution. The abolition of statutory leases did not automatically extinguish such right. Also found that fraud was attributable to appellants because the grant and registration of suit land in the name of the second appellant was intended to defeat the unregistered interest of the respondent.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal with costs. Further ordered the first appellant to give due consideration to the respondent's application for a lease over the suit land including giving it a priority in the granting of the lease.
The Uganda Land Commission transferred a
parcel of land to the first respondent in 2005,
which leased the land to the second
respondent. In 2006, the appellant wrote to
the Ugandan Land Commission and received
a lease offer for the same land that had
already been transferred to the first
respondent. Both the respondents and the
appellant have been issued a certificate of
title for the same property. In first instance,
the trial judge ruled in favour of the
respondents. The appellant then filed an
In 1998 the appellant filed a suit against the respondent, to which the responded reacted with a counter-claim. The appellant’s claim was withdrawn in 2006 but the respondent’s counter-claim was not. The trial judge ruled in favour of the respondent. The appellants were dissatisfied with the decision and filed an appeal.
The Court of Appeal considered whether the burden of proof of fraud alleged in the counter-suit rested on the appellants. The court held that the burden of proof rests on the party who alleges that fraud was committed. In this case, the appellants had withdrawn their case against the respondent and only the respondent’s counter-claim remained. Consequently, the court upheld the appellant’s complaint and placed the burden to prove that fraud was committed on the respondent.
The court then considered whether the lease of the suit property to the first appellant was fraudulent and reviewed the lower court’s order in cancellation. The court held that fraud must be specifically pleaded and strictly proved and cannot be left to be inferred from the facts. Neither party attempted to prove fraud against the other. Therefore, the courts held that the lease of the suit property to the first appellant was not fraudulent and that the trial judge should not have cancelled the first appellant’s certificate of title.
The court also considered whether the respondent’s lease agreement was breached because the first appellant denied the respondent possession of the suit land and reviewed the lower court’s order to extend the respondents lease. The court found that the respondent was in breach of contract and, therefore, had no right of possession and overturned the trial judge’s order to extend the respondent’s lease because the respondent had failed to request it in due course.
All grounds of the appeal succeeded.
In this case the plaintiff claimed for special and general damages against the defendant for fraud and conversion of the plaintiff’s petroleum products. The case deals with fraud, where the party that benefited was not a bona fide purchaser of the products in this case. The court considered whether the defendant had good title for the products sold to him by the third party. Whether the defendant had a claim against the third party and whether there were remedies available to the parties.
In dealing with the first issue the court considered whether the defendant had acquired a better title than the mysterious seller had because the mysterious seller did not have any title to the good. The court applied the general rule in the latin maxim nemo dat quod non habet which was reflected in section 22 (1) of the Sale of Goods Act. The court found that the mysterious seller had no title to pass to the defendant and thus the defendant never acquired good title to the property. Therefore, the defendant was liable to make good any loss suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the conversion of the plaintiff’s goods.
In considering the second issue, the court found that the defendant had proved the transaction it had made with the third party and was therefore indemnified against the third party.
In considering the remedies available to the parties, the court held that general damages are compensatory to fulfil the principle of restitution in integrum which aims at restoring the plaintiff as nearly as possible to the position he or she would have been had the injury not occurred.
Therefore, the court upheld the plaintiff’s claim with costs.
The court also held that for the indemnity suit against the third party, the third party was to settle all liabilities ordered against the defendant less the amount against the defendant.
The main question of contention was who the rightful owner of the land in the dispute was and whether the person who distributed the farms to the plaintiffs had authority to do so.
The court considered the evidence adduced before it by both sides in an attempt to prove who is the rightful owner of the land. The court observed that despite the fact that the plaintiffs in the matter at hand were 51, only two out of all the plaintiffs testified before the court.
The law as provided under section 110 (1) of the Evidence Act, Cap 11 R.E 2002 states that whoever desires any court to give judgment as to any legal right or liability dependent on the existence of facts which he asserts must prove that those facts exist. The court held that when the question is whether any person is owner of anything to which he is shown to be in possession, the burden of proving that he is not the owner is on the person who asserts that he is not the owner. Since the plaintiffs asserted in the plaint are the rightful owner of the land in dispute it was their duty to prove the first defendant is not the owner of the land.
In the result the plaintiffs were found to have failed to prove the claims they filed to court against the defendants. Consequently, the plaintiffs’ suit was dismissed.