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.
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.
The dispute emanated from reversal of a bank deposit by the appellant bank from the respondent’s bank account. The respondent deposited US $51,700 in to his bank account which was reversed by appellant bank on the basis that the money deposited was counterfeit currency. The respondent successfully challenged the reversal and was awarded damages amounting to 1 million Naira.
The appellant appealed against the ruling on the basis that the trial judge erred. The bank maintained that the currency deposed with bank was counterfeit. It based its argument on the failure by the respondent to disclose the source of the money and the verification of the money at its head office which proved that the money was counterfeit.
The respondent opposed the appeal on the grounds that there were not present at the verification of the currency and that it was the appellant who bears the onus of proving that the currency was not authentic. He argued that the bank staff verified the authenticity of the currency when he made the deposit.
In deciding the case the court held that the was no evidence to show that deposit acceptance was subjected to authentication. It ruled that deposit of the US $51,700 created a rebuttable presumption that authentic dollars were deposited. It pointed to the teller stamp and initials as consituting prima facie proof of payment and after producing that the respondent need not to go further. The appeal was thus dismissed.
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 appeal emanated from the advance of a loan by the first respondent to the appellant. The appellant deposited with appellant bank a certificate of occupation and a share certificate as security. The appellant then failed to repay the loan resulting in the sale of the appellant’s shares deposited as security. The appellant instituted legal proceedings against the respondent claiming that it was not indebted to the first respondent for any amount because the arrangement between the parties was a joint venture agreement and that the sale of the second appellants shares was done mala fide and without their consent.
The challenge was dismissed. The appellant appealed against the dismissal arguing that the trial court erred. It pointed out that the deed of mortgage was not properly executed and that the contract between the parties was invalid.
The respondent argued that the appellant was raising new issues not canvassed in the court below. It argued that there was a valid contract between the parties.
The court held that there was a loan agreement between the parties and the appellants did not complain of anomalies in the contract hence it waived any right it may have had. The court ruled that a party cannot raise new issues in an appeal and dismissed the appeal.
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 court considered whether the respondent’s witness' statement on oath needed to be amended notwithstanding the amendment of the statement of defence. Further, whether the appellant was properly retired from the service of the second respondent.
The court held that the giving of a written statement on oath is a distinct process from the statement of defence which serves to support the statement of defence but is not part of it. Further, according to the public service rules the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service shall be sixty years or thirty-five years of pensionable service whichever is earlier. A statement of policy cannot overrule public service rules, especially where such terms are not written in terms of the contract of employment.
The court found that when the respondents were given leave to amend their statement of defence, the amended statement of defence took effect from the date of the original statement of defence. Therefore, it was too late for the appellant to object to the effect that there was no written deposition to support the amended statement of defence. The court also found that the premature retirement was unlawful, null and void thus entitled to reinstatement.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal and awarded costs.
The court considered three issues. Firstly, how a court should exercise its discretion in regulating a motion meant to regularise the process and the other meant to terminate the process. Secondly, whether the respondents were necessary parties to the suit. Lastly, whether the trial court was correct in awarding costs.
The court held that the practice was to give priority to hearing a motion set to regularise a process if the motion succeeds the other motions seeking to terminate the proceedings will be withdrawn. The court also held that respondents are necessary to a suit if they would be directly or financially affected by the outcome of the judgement of the case. Also, the court held that courts have absolute discretion to either award or refuse costs.
The court found that the trial judge instead of taking the motion for joinder and amendment, preliminary objections of the first and second respondent based on jurisdiction were taken which were meant to terminate the points in limine. The court also found that the respondents were necessary parties because they are not only interested in the subject matter of the proceedings, but they constitute those who in their absence the proceedings could not be fairly dealt with. The court found that the costs awarded were not exceptionally high or punitive to conclude that the court's discretion was not in the interest of justice.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal.
The court considered whether the invoice receipt issued by the first respondent to the appellant constituted a contractual agreement.
The court held that the requirements for a valid contract are offer and acceptance, consideration, intention and capacity to contract. Further, in the absence of fraud, duress or plea of non est factum, the signature of a person on a document is evidence of the fact that he is either the author of the contents of the document. Therefore, a court is expected to uphold contracts once the condition precedents are met.
The court found that the requirements for a valid oral contract were met and the parties intended the contract to be binding and enforceable. Further, the appellant had introduced the document which was admissible therefore had to rely on all the contents of the document. On whether the receipt issued for purchasing the vehicle constituted a valid contract, the court found that construing the receipt as a contract was an error in law. The court also found that the appellant intended to buy the car he purchased from the first respondent and only changed his mind when he had the duty to pay the balance.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal and awarded costs to the respondent.
The court considered whether the joining of the fourth to the sixth respondent constituted an abuse of court process which had an interest in the land in dispute.
The court held that the effect of the High Court rules was that substantial justice is achieved if the parties and trial judges achieve just, efficient and speedy dispensation of justice.
The court found that the joinder of the fourth to sixth respondents to contest title to the land did not constitute an abuse of court process. They were entitled in law to file a statement of defence or counterclaim against the appellants.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal with costs.
The court considered the admissibility of a land agreement, the conditions to prove for the existence of a customary arbitration and the court 's discretion in awarding damages.
The court held that for a document to be admissible it must be relevant to the facts in issue and fulfil the prescribed conditions in law. According to s 108 (1) of the Evidence Act Cap 112, courts are permitted to form their opinion about signatures. The court also held that the conditions for an existence of a customary arbitration are : (a) voluntary submission to arbitration, (b) agreement of binding decision of the arbitration, (c) arbitration was per custom, (d) published award and (d) acceptance of the award. The court held that general damages are the judge's discretion.
The court found that the trial judge was correct in admitting the document as evidence and establishing equitable interest in the land dispute and that the plaintiff had proved better title to the land. The court also found that the parties were aware fully aware of the land in dispute. The court further found that the evidence on record did not meet the condition for an existence of a customary arbitration. Relief cannot be claimed by a deceased person. Also, found that the pleading of the parties and evidence adduced were in tandem with the conclusion made by the trial judge according to s 149 of the Evidence Act.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and respondents awarded costs.
The court considered whether it is proper for a trial court to embark upon an examination of documents tendered as exhibits when such examination will amount to a fact-finding investigation that leads to the discovery of fresh facts. Further, whether the trial court was justified in refusing to admit the pictures of the restaurant as an exhibit.
The court held that evaluation of evidence is primarily the function of the trial court. However, where the trial court fails to evaluate such evidence properly, the appellate court can interfere and reevaluate the evidence. The court also held that photographs are not admissible in evidence without their negatives in terms of the Evidence Act.
The court found that the trial court did not make sufficient effort to evaluate the evidence. The court also found that although exhibit 3 was tendered and admitted without objection, the trial court did not discredit the exhibit in the process of its evaluation. The court found the evidence of the photographs inadmissible because it was in variance with the pleadings and the negatives were destroyed.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal.
The court considered whether the second respondent was an agent of the appellants and entitled to a commission.
The court held that an agency is a fiduciary relationship created when a principal gives authority to an agent to act on his behalf which is accepted by the agent. The court also held that for a real estate agent to claim commission they must show that there was an introduction of a purchaser which was an efficient cause in bringing about the sale of a property. Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 Rule 7(2)(b) does not forbid a legal practitioner from engaging in the business of a commission agent.
The court found that there was no illegality in the agency agreement between the second respondent and appellants.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and awarded costs to the respondent.
The court considered whether the appellants were necessary parties in the suit, and what is the procedure to determine a reasonable cause of action.
The court held that a necessary party is one who is bound by the result of an action. Further held that cause of action is the facts which when proved entitle a plaintiff to a remedy against the defendant and the procedure thereof is showing that the statement of claim contained facts which if proved plaintiffs would succeed.
The court found that the appellants had made a premature application which supported the respondent’s contention that there is a reasonable cause of action, and that the second appellant is a necessary party to the proceedings.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and costs were awarded to the respondent.
Trials – onus of proof in civil proceedings – plaintiff to adduce satisfactory evidence in support of their case
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.
The appellants, employees of the first respondent, appealed a decision against the lower court that dismissed the appellants’ suit claiming wrongful termination.
The court began its consideration of the appeal by assessing the implication of collecting entitlements by the appellants whilst their case was pending, and whether this estopped them from bringing a challenge against their termination. The Supreme Court held that collection of terminal benefits in respect of wrongfully terminated employment would not be a bar to challenging the wrongful termination. If a termination is wrongful then it cannot be remedied by the subsequent act of the injured party. The appellants were therefore held not to be estopped from challenging their termination.
The court held that the main issue for determination was whether employment of the appellants was wrongfully terminated. The sole witness for the appellants stated that there were conditions of service governing their employments, but failed to tender any documentary evidence in support thereof. The onus of proof rests on the appellants to tender the terms and conditions of service; failure to do so had dire consequences for the appellants’ case as it is a vital issue. The court held that at the trial the appellants failed to discharge the onus of proving wrongful termination and how the respondents breached the terms of employment. The appeal was dismissed for lacking merit
Appeal against the lower court’s judgment dismissing its suit to declare the actions of the respondents to be illegal, and unconstitutional.
There were four issues for determination: whether the lower court’s decision was wrongly founded on a non-viable, invalid, and non-existent statement of defence; whether the lower court erred in holding that the appellant was a registered member of the respondents’ association; whether the respondents may rely on the defence available to the defendants’ association, which was not party to the proceedings; and whether the lower court erred in dismissing the appellant’s claims.
The court found that the lower court granted the application to amend the statement of defence. The amended statement already filed was deemed as properly served and filed. This order was not challenged by the appellants and was binding on the parties.
The second issue was decided in favour of the appellant. The appraisal of evidence and ascription of probative value thereto was the exclusive purview of the trial court. An appellate court will only interfere if the findings made were found to be perverse or unsupported by the evidence adduced. On examining the record, the court held that the trial court erred in finding that the appellant was a member of the respondents’ association, and the interests of justice justified an interference with the findings.
Issue three was held to be unrelated to any complaint or portion of the trial court’s judgment, and issue four was resolved in favour of the appellant.
Appeals – evidence before trial judge leading to draw inferences and conclusions on the facts of the case
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.
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.
Second respondent was informed of a building for sale by the appellants with a 5% commission to whoever secured a buyer. Second respondent found a buyer but received no payment. He successfully claimed payment in the lower court, which the appellants appealed.
The issue was whether the second respondent was an agent of the appellants and entitled to the commission claimed.
Agency is created when the principal authorises the agent to act on their behalf, and the agent accepts to act on their authority. The appeal court agreed that the second respondent began acting as agent immediately after being given the sale price and rate of commission. The first appellant authorised several agents, including second respondent, to look for a buyer. The ultimate buyer was introduced to the first appellant by second respondent.
At issue was whether the second respondent could act as a commission agent or receive commission. He was not a qualified estate surveyor and valuer, or a member of the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors, Agents and Valuers. Furthermore, a lawyer may not practice as a legal practitioner while engaging in the business of a commission agent. Though the second respondent contravened the latter rule, the court held that this contravention did not vitiate the agency agreement. A party who has benefitted from a contract cannot evade their obligations by relying on an allegation of illegality; illegality must be on the face of it. There was no illegality in the agency agreement.
The appeal was dismissed.
Appeal against the judgment in favour of the respondent for arrear rent with costs. The appeal was brought on two grounds: the lower court erred by ordering the rent payable in British Pounds (GBP); and the trial court erred in holding that the burden of proving non-payment of the rent in GBP rested on the appellant.
The first issue concerned the interpretation and applicability of the Decimal Currency Act (the act) on the mode of payment of the rent, which was fixed by the Deed of lease. Applying literal interpretation, the court concluded that section 1(2) of the Act related only to contracts entered into in Nigerian Pounds. It was not the legislature’s intention to constrict contractors from deciding the terms and manner of payment. Parties to a contract are bound by its terms and conditions, and a court will respect the contract.
Issue two as to who bore the onus of proving the currency of payment post-Decimal Currency Act, was decided in favour of the respondent. The burden of proof generally lies with the plaintiff to establish their case, however this burden is not static. The respondent adduced evidence of non-payment of rent, the burden shifted to the appellant to adduce evidence rebutting this, and in proof of the assertion that regular payments of rent were made. The appellant failed to produce evidence that payment was made, and that it was done in Naira and not GBP.
The appeal was dismissed.
The appellant brought his initial suit against a decision of the main committee of the first respondent suspending him from the Lagos Polo Club. The initial suit was dismissed in its entirety.
The appeal concerned three issues. Issues one and two were decided together, and concerned whether the lower court was correct in holding that the respondents complied with the provisions of the Lagos Polo Club Constitution in suspending the appellant; and whether the main committee of the Club could delegate any part of its disciplinary functions to its Disciplinary Sub-Committee.
Generally, courts will rarely interfere with the decisions of voluntary associations except where rules of natural justice were ignored. At issue was whether the appellant was given a fair hearing, which the court held that he was. The main committee was empowered to discipline its members for misconduct. Furthermore, the main committee was empowered to co-opt other persons to act under its authority. The power to constitute a sub-committee was incidental to the power to co-opt persons. Issues one and two were resolved against the appellant.
Issue three concerned whether the lower court considered all the processes filed by the appellant when arriving at its decision. In determining issues, a court is not bound to list all the material considered. Failure to expressly mention all the different processes does not mean the trial court failed to consider them. The court found against the appellant on this issue.
The appeal was dismissed.
The respondent refused to accept the principle of simple interest. The appellant declined to pay compound interest. The dispute was taken to court for resolution. The liability whether to pay compound or simple interest can only commence from the date when the dispute whether to pay that interest is resolved.
The court held that when determining which interest to use a clear distinction needs to be made between the reasons for awarding a simple interest and those that justify an award of compound interest in legal proceedings. A simple interest arises invariably when a party which is liable or owes money fails to pay what is due before or on the date agreed, stipulated, implied. The court exercises its discretion as to the rate and date when interest shall be paid.
However, the award of compound interest depends on other different criteria beside the discretion of court. Compound interest is not founded simply on the mere fact of indebtedness nor on the date the principal debt becomes due nor on the duration it has taken to pay since accruing. It is based on one or more of a multiplicity of reasons such as the law applicable to the transaction, the nature of the business transacted or agreed between the parties, the construction of the agreement or contract made between the parties, the trade custom of the business out of which the indebtedness arose, intentions of the parties or the consequences of the commercial transaction that was concluded between them.
The court concluded that the arguments advanced on behalf of the respondent did not point to the award of a characteristically compound interest. There was no evidence presented or authorities cited to suggest that in this case compound interest was intended, implied or anticipated by the parties or implied by law. The authorities cited in this appeal did not assist court to decide that there was a compound interest implied or contemplated in this case. In the result, the appeal succeed.
The respondent sold a car to a man who paid half price and took the vehicle
leaving the original registration book with the respondent. The new buyer on
the same day sold the car to the appellant. The respondent bought a suit
against the appellant and his predecessor in title for orders of specific
performance of the sale agreement, damages, interest and costs of the suit.
The trial court entered judgment for the respondent and the appellant’s
appeal to the court of appeal was dismissed hence this appeal.