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 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 plaintiff/appellant unsuccessfully sued the defendant/respondent for breach of contract following the latter’s refusal to accept delivery of the relevant goods. Curtailing the appellant’s sizeable claim for special damages, the High Court awarded only nominal damages – an order later confirmed by the Court of Appeal.
At the Supreme Court, the scope of section 48 of the Sale of Goods Act (the act) was elucidated: the computation of damages thereunder may be either general or special depending on the circumstances of each case. General damages refer to those which are foreseeable without proving that special circumstances were brought to the breaching party’s attention. Special damages are those which are foreseeable by the parties at the time of contracting because certain circumstances have been highlighted which render the damages within the realm of the signatories’ reasonable contemplation. These must be pleaded and proved at trial.
The plaintiff’s claim for special damages for the losses suffered by the breach was not proven before the High Court and were subsequently abandoned. The Supreme Court thus took the plaintiff to be entitled only to general damages under section 48 of the act. To this end, the plaintiff did not lead any evidence on the multipliers which would entitle the court to award enhanced damages. Section 48 caters to the contract price/market price differential and not to a computation of lost profits. The plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient evidence to merit the proposed determination of damages and so the nominal award made by High Court in terms of s 48 was adequate.
The appeal 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 appellants sought to appeal the judgement of the appellate court which held that there was a legal and valid writ of execution in respect of the immovable property offered as security for the facilities provided by the respondent.
The court had to consider whether the writ of execution was legal and valid, and whether the writ was for movable or immovable property.
The court held that the writ was legal and valid and that the writ of execution was for the immovable property offered as security to the respondent.
With reliance on the procedural rules relating to the writ of execution, the court issued that a writ is executed upon the attachment of the property and not after the sale of property. The court also pointed out that when examining the rules, the court pointed out that one should adopt a purposive interpretation as a opposed to a literal interpretation because the latter will lead to an ambiguous or unjust result. The court stated that the appellant’s second ground was based on repealed law, thus it has no foundation in law.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal.
The respondent sought to introduce a new ground of appeal before the Supreme Court and the appellate court without doing so before the trial court.
The court considered whether the new ground of appeal relating to the regularity of the sale of shares belonging to the respondent’s deceased father could be raised as part of the respondent’s case.
The court held that a party is not permitted to raise on appeal an issue that they failed to raise during the trial.
Upon examining the rules regulating appeals, the court stated that r 8(8) does not override r 8(7) and that the court has discretion to whether to allow the introduction of a new ground or not. The Supreme Court stated that in the interests of justice and permission from the Constitution, it would give a ruling on the new ground. The court was of the view that the trial court had already made a ruling regarding the regularity of the sale of shares and that this ruling covered the the new ground that was being introduced.
As a result, the appeal had no merit and was dismissed.
This court considered whether the court below erred in stating that the plaintiffs’ action was statute barred, that they erred in their interpretation of s 24 of the Social Security Decree 1972 and finding that the abrogation (doing away with) of the scheme was illegal, and that their order for specific performance should be upheld.
The plaintiffs were former employees of the defendant. The defendant established a pension scheme in 1976 and abrogated it in 1990. In the premise, the plaintiffs alleged that they were entitled to the payments from the pension.
The court found that in determining the interpretation of s 24 of the Social Security Decree, the court needed to ascertain whether the defendant had abrogated the scheme lawfully. It found that the plaintiffs were adequately informed of the termination of the scheme and that the defendant had lawfully wound up the scheme.
In considering whether the action was statute barred, and if the plaintiffs were entitled to specific performance, the court found that the plaintiffs’ action was instituted 16 years after the scheme was terminated. In the premise, and owing to the fact that the scheme was lawfully terminated, the plaintiffs were not legally competent to accrue a right under the scheme, thus, they were not entitled to claim specific performance.
Therefore, the plaintiffs could neither maintain an action and attempt to enjoy the benefits of the scheme, nor could they compel the defendant to compensate them under an abrogated scheme.
The applicant sought orders from the court against an order made by the same court where one judge presided and the cross-examination of the applicant was ordered.
The court had to consider two issues; whether there was a violation of the applicant’s right to privacy and whether o 46 r 2 was applied appropriately.
The court held that there was no violation of the applicant’s right to privacy and that the aforementioned rule was applied appropriately.
Regarding the alleged violation of the right to privacy, the court stated that the applicant did not make reference to any legislation that prohibits the oral examination of a judgement debtor in an open court. Regarding the rules, the court drew a distinction between Order 42 r 1 and r 2; the former dealt with garnishee proceedings and the latter dealt with proceedings other than those relating to garnishee proceedings. The court went on to say that the rational for the rule was consistent with its application.
The court dismissed the application in its entirety and ordered that the oral examination of the applicant would continue.
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 matter dealt with a special leave to appeal application against the Court of Appeal’s decision that an appeal from the General Legal Council without lodging a Notice of Appeal to the Council was invalid.
In responding to the above question, the court relied on Article 131(2) of the Constitution and the Dolphyne case (Dolphyne (No.2) V Speedline Steveddoring Co. Ltd [1996-97] SCGLR) to find that special leave applications are discretionary and are not fettered by rules of practice nor legislation. The exercise of this discretion depended on whether, given the particular case and validity of the reasons given, leave should be granted in favor of applicant to further the interests of justice and or the public good. The court, in exercising its discretion, established that the General Council was not a lower court. Thus the court concluded that the requirement for lodging a notice was not applicable. Moreover, it reasoned that it would be in the public interest if a Supreme Court was given an opportunity to pronounce on appeals from the General Council. It thus concluded that the court below had erred in its decision resulting in the overriding of the applicant’s substantive right of appeal. The court thus granted the special leave application.
This was an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal to vary the decision of a single justice who had granted an application for stay of execution on terms. The single justice had ordered the respondents to pay half of the total judgment debt including half of the costs to the appellant until the final determination of the appeal.
The Supreme Court considered whether the respondents proved breach of the rules of natural justice and held that the Court of Appeal erred in varying the order of the single justice, since it failed to consider the plaintiff’s affidavit that revealed the respondent’s choice to be absent for trial. The Supreme Court also considered whether the full bench of the Court of Appeal exercised their discretion judicially in ordering the defendants to pay the appellant’s medical bills (GH¢30,000.00). The court observed that the amount was not based on the record and was insignificant thus prejudicial.
Accordingly, the court set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal and restored the decision of the single judge in its entirety. The remainder of the judgment debt was stayed for three months on condition that the defendants fulfill all the conditions of appeal.
This was a matter referred to the court for the interpretation of the right of privacy as provided in the constitution in relation to the admissibility of evidence in form of a secretly recorded telephone conversation.
The court determined whether the secret recording the defendant’s right to privacy. The court held that the recording interfered with the defendant’s right beyond what he had consented. This is because defendant opted for a means of communication that did not record his speech in a permanent form. The court also determined the admissibility of the evidence since it was obtained in violation of human rights. The court noted that Ghana does not contain a provision that provides for circumstances in which a court is required to exclude such evidence. The court was in favor of the discretionary rule approach that takes into account policy considerations when enforcing human rights by excluding evidence. It was held that admission of such evidence would undermine the integrity of court proceedings and bring disrepute to the administration of justice and should be excluded. Accordingly, the court gave an order to the same effect.
This was an appeal based on an action to set aside a consent judgment obtained before a court of competent jurisdiction on grounds of fraud.
The court determined whether such a consent judgment could be set aside despite its finality. The court observed that an appeal would not ordinarily lie against a consent judgment and that bringing a fresh action to challenge the validity of a consent judgment was a standard and accepted procedure. Thus, the court held that the court of appeal erred in treating the case as res judicata. The court also determined whether the Court of Appeal erred in striking the matter summarily when fraud was in issue. It was held that Court of Appeal erroneously denied the plaintiff a hearing leading to a violation of fundamental rule of natural justice.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed, the judgments the High Court and the Court of Appeal were set aside and the court ordered a trial on the merits based on the pleadings as they stood at the High Court.
This was an application for a review of the unanimous judgment of the ordinary bench of the Supreme Court which allowed an appeal filed by the respondents, in holding that failure to name foreign beneficiaries (per order 2 r. 4(2) of the Civil Procedure Rules) rendered the application void.
The court determined whether the application had passed the threshold of a review application. They applied the rule that review jurisdiction is not meant to be resorted to as an emotional reaction to an unfavorable judgment. In making the holding, the court considered the effect of noncompliance and held that the decision of the ordinary bench was not made through lack of care or misapplication of well-established case law. Accordingly, the court held that the circumstances of the case did not satisfy the requirements for review and dismissed the application. However, the dissent judgment faulted the decision to penalize parties on account of procedural blunders especially when the blunders can be easily cured by amendment.
This case considers the adducing of fresh evidence on appeal. The respondent had claimed title to a certain land. Dissatisfied by the High Court judgment; the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal. On appeal they sought an order granting them leave to adduce new evidence. The reasons being:
1. that this evidence showed that the disputed land had been acquired by the government and that the respondent lacked the required locus standi to institute this case;
2. in an action to protect acquired land, only the Attorney-General has the requisite standing to sue and the respondent can only sue if he had been granted leave to do so by the Attorney-General; and
3. that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to have heard the case.
The respondent contended that the documents now sought to be used as additional evidence are not of such a nature that would affect the jurisdiction of the court and that it was the appellants' choice then not to tender these documents.
This court agreed with the counsel for the appellants. In the judgment, the court found the documents entailing strong points which would likely affect the jurisdiction of the trial court.
Additionally, the issue of jurisdiction was found to be fundamental and could be raised at any stage of the proceedings (even for the first time in this court).
Thus, in the interest of justice. these documents could be tendered on appeal as fresh evidence.
The case considered the following issues, being (1) whether the lower court was right when it struck out the appellants notice of appeal on the ground of non-payment of filing fees; (2) whether the lower court was rights when it held that the witness statement constituted evidence sufficient to grant default judgment; (3) whether the lower court awarded a double compensation in respect of the same alleged loss; and (4) whether the lower court’s findings with respect to the award for special damages is competent.
The court held that an appeal is not filed unless the appropriate filing fees are paid. However, the fact that the registry failed to collect the filing fees should not be to the detriment of a litigant. Therefore, the lower court erred in striking out the notice of appeal on the ground of non-payment of the filing fees, as the appellant was not ordered to satisfy the filing fees. On the issue of the witness statement, the court found that the evidence to support a default judgment can be oral or documentary. Thus, judgment could be entered into in default based on the statement of claim, or a witness statement. On the issue of damages, the court held that the principle of assessment of damages is to restore the plaintiff to the position in which he would have been if the breach did not occur. The court found that a party cannot be awarded both special and general damages for the same set of fact. The court confirmed that the damages awarded amounted to a double compensation.
Appeal succeeds in part.
This appeal is in relation to whether an order of non-suit was the appropriate order. The appeal originated from an institution of an action against the respondents. The action was centred around an order for damages, due to an unlawful dismissal from employment. The respondent disputed these claims as they contended that the contract was lawfully terminated.
The courts below granted judgment in favour of the appellant. However, in the Court of Appeal a piece of evidence belonging to the appellant was expunged on the ground that those pleadings did not constitute evidence. An order of non-suit was made by the Court of Appeal. It is that order of non-suit that gave rise to this appeal at the Supreme Court.
The appellant submitted that there was a breach of the fundamental right to fair hearing as the non-suit was instituted before hearing. Furthermore, he claimed to have satisfactorily proved his case for damages on the now expunged evidence and that this was therefore not a case in which an order of non-suit ought to have been made.
This court resolved this issue in the appellant's favour and the judgment of the Court of Appeal was set aside. Accordingly, this appeal was remitted to the Court of Appeal to be heard by a different panel.
The subject matter in this case is a market stall at Igbudu Market, Warri. The second respondent permitted the appellant the use of a stall, ordinarily used by the appellant, during a temporary absence. However upon the second respondent’s return, the appellant refused repeated requests to vacate the stall.
In essence, this claim was for the possession of thr stall. The court was called upon to decide in whom the right to the stall resides.
It was the appellants claim that she was afforded lawful entry to the property. Additionally, that as a sub-tenant she was entitled to six months notice of eviction as per legislation. Such notice was not granted by the second respondent. The second respondent claimed damages for trespass to the stall. The judgment in the court below was in favour of the respondents.
On appeal, the appellant argued that the High Court did not properly evaluate certain evidence adduced. In any event, had it been properly evaluated, the judgment would have been favourable to the appellant. Thus, there was a miscarriage of justice.
This court held that the evidence that the appellant held on to possession of the stall could not on its own confer possession of the disputed stall. It found no merit whatsoever in this appeal and dismissed the appeal.
The subject matter of this appeal was an allegedly defamatory letter published by the appellant bank, relating to the respondent. This letter was compiled by the second appellant who was the bank’s employee, directed to the respondent’s employer. The contents related the respondent's alleged indebtedness to the bank and sought their cooperation in recovering the debt. It later transpired that this letter ought to not have been sent, as there was in fact no debt as alleged.
The respondent then claimed that the letter was defamatory and instituted a claim for damages. The appellants counterclaimed and raised the defence of qualified privilege. The courts below entered judgments in favour of the respondent and awarded damages in his favour.
The question on appeal is whether the court below was right to have held that the defence of qualified privilege did not avail the appellants.
The appellants went to great lengths to show that the second appellant and the respondent had never met before the defamatory letter was written and argued that this fact rebutted the inference of actual malice. The respondent claimed that the second appellant was motivated by malice in writing the letter.
This court found that the finding of the court below that the appellants were actuated by malice was erroneous. On the basis that the pleading lacks malice as a requirement, the appeal was upheld.
The appellant is a commercial bank and the respondent a holder of several accounts in the bank. The Imo State Task Force for the Recovery of Public Property and Funds (the task force) alleged that the respondent used contracts to defraud the Imo State government and paid the proceeds into the said accounts with the appellant.
The respondent admitted that the moneys in the two accounts operated with appellant were payments he received from the contracts which he failed to perform. The task force ordered the transfer and freezing of funds in these accounts pursuant to the Recovery of Public Funds and Property (Special Provisions) Edict, 1985, section 18(1). After hesitation and unfruitful communication with the respondent, the appellant consequently complied with the order of transfer and freezing of the funds in the account.
The courts below held that the action as constituted was a banker/customer relationship. Therefore, the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter.
However, this court held that the matter went beyond an ordinary banker/customer relationship. The freezing of the account of the respondent and subsequent transfer of the funds therein to government's’ bank account were acts done under Edict No. 7 of 1985. Thus, the cause of action was consequently not subject to litigation.
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 concerned the appellant's entitlement to notice of meeting prior to removal as company director. The appellant claimed relief for a declaration that his purported dismissal was a repudiatory breach of his contract of employment and that he was denied the right to a notice meeting pursuant to sections 236, 262 and 266 of Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).
The counsel for the respondent contended that against the background of the appellant's contention the trial court had no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. Given the above claim of the appellant, he should have approached the Federal High Court for the resolution of his complaint of the breaches and not the trial court.
This court held that the dismissal of the appellant was not lawful because of lack of due process. However, the trial court below lacked jurisdiction and since the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to enter the matter, the lower court, equally, lacked the jurisdiction to deal with the appeal before it. Thus, the appeal was found to be unmeritorious and was struck out for want of jurisdiction.
The respondent bought a piece of property from a third party. After the respondent had taken possession of the property, he became aware of the fact that his predecessor-in-title had mortgaged the property to the appellant. The respondent paid off the outstanding debt and thereafter demanded the release of the title deeds to him. Instead, the appellant demanded some authorisation from his predecessor-in-title before the documents could be released to him. The respondent instituted a claim on this basis. The trial court judgment was in the respondent’s favour.
After the respondent attached the property the appellant filed an application praying for an order staying execution of the judgment, particularly the sale of the property and ordered release thereof; before hearing of the application. The trial court dismissed this application.
The appellant eventually appealed to this court asking for the same. The appellant urged this court to allow the appeal, set aside the ruling of the court below and grant an order directing the High Court to retain the amount deposited as per judgment.
This court held that the order sought to be stayed was made by the trial court and there was no appeal against that order to the Court of Appeal. That being the case, it was held that it would be a wasteful academic exercise to delve into the merit of the issue. Consequently the appeal was dismissed.
The 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.
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.
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.