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.
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.
The appellant sought to raise a fresh issue not canvassed in the court below. This case illustrates the court’s willingness to grant leave to raise and argue a fresh issue to ensure that justice prevails.
The court considered whether the applicants should be granted leave to raise and argue fresh issues on law in their appeal. In analyzing the principles for granting leave to raise fresh issues on appeal, the court held that one major consideration is if further evidence is required. The court held that it was satisfied that the fresh issue would be erected on the existing evidence in the printed record.
The court also held that the fresh issues must constitute a substantial point of law which will materially determine the fortunes of the appeal. The court found that the application for leave to raise and argue a fresh issue of law had satisfied all the established principles or templates for the grant of leave.
The court gave the appellant 30 days to file their brief of argument in this appeal. The court upheld the appeal.
In this case, the appellant appealed the decision of the lower court to strike out the appeal against the trial court’s interlocutory decision for being incompetent. This case illustrates how final and interlocutory orders are distinguished.
The court considered whether the Court of Appeal was right to hold that the appeal from the High Court on the issue of jurisdiction was interlocutory for which an appeal must be lodged within 14 days.
The court was called upon to determine whether or not a court’s decision is final in the course of determining the appeal. The court held that a final order at law was one which brings to an end the rights of the parties in the action. On the other hand, an interlocutory order was only intermediate and did not finally determine the rights of the parties in the action. The court held that this case was an interlocutory motion and the order that had been granted by the trial court was a final order. Therefore, an appeal on the order of the trial court was a right under section 220(1) of the Constitution.
The court also referred to Alor v. Ngene (2007) 17 NWLR (Pt 1062) 163 which provided that where a decision of a court finally and completely determined the rights of the parties, it was final, but if did not then it was only interlocutory. Thus, the court concluded that the trial court’s decision was interlocutory and could not be said to be perverse.
The court dismissed the application with parties bearing their own costs.
The appellant sought an order of the court nullifying the nomination of the first respondent as candidate of the second Respondent in the 2015 Governorship election in Yobe State. This case considered whether the lower court was right to have held that the appellant was not an aspirant in the second respondent for the purpose of invoking the provisions of s 87(9) of the Electoral Act (the act), and whether the lower court was right that the appellant had not established an allegation of forged documents.
The court held that two conditions must be present to confer the necessary locus standi to invoke the provisions of S 87(9) of the act, (1) there must be a complaint that the party’s guidelines or the provisions of the act were not observed in the nomination process and (2) the complainant must have participated in the primary election. The court found that the appellant did not participate in the primary election and was thus unable to invoke the provisions of s 87(9) of the act.
In determining whether a document has been forged, a party must prove; (1) the existence of a document in writing; (2) the document or writing is forged; (3) that the forgery was by the person being accused; (4) that the party who made it knew that the document was false; and (5) the party alleged intended the forged document to be acted upon as genuine. The court held that the court below was correct in holding that the appellant had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the document was forged.
In this case, the appellant protested the total absence of any service of the processes and claimed ignorance of the proceedings at the lower court. This case illustrates the essentiality of service of court process.
The court considered whether the appellant had been duly served with the notice of appeal, other processes filed by the respondent at the lower court and also the hearing notices.
The court followed the principle provided in Ihedioha v Okorocha Appeal No. SC. 660/2015 (unreported, delivered on 29 October 2015) where it was held that service is an important aspect of judicial process. It was held that failure to serve a named party with court process offends section 36(1) of the Constitution.
The court also took into account the provision of order 2 rule 6 of the Court of Appeal Rules, which stipulates that it is mandatory for the service of the notice of appeal on a respondent to be personal.
The court held that the validity of the originating processes in a proceeding before a court was fundamental because the competence of the proceeding is a condition sine qua non (an essential condition) to the legitimacy of any suit. The court held that there was a lack of certainty that the appellant was served with any process in accordance with practice and procedure of the rules of court.
The court upheld the appeal with no costs.
In this case, monies held by the appellant belonging to the Nigeria Customs Service were traced. An order nisi was served on the appellant as the fifth garnishee. This case illustrates how the garnishee proceedings do not avail the garnishee to attack a judgment that the judgment creditor and debtor have accepted.
The court considered whether the appellant should be granted leave to raise fresh issues in additional grounds of appeal. The court explained that garnishee proceedings were not a process employed by the garnishee to fight a proxy war against the judgment creditor on behalf of the judgment debtor. The court held that a decision of a court of law not appealed against is to be accepted by the parties and it remains binding on them other parties, including garnishees.
The court held that the appellant had prayed for leave to raise issues that this court did not have the benefit of the views of the court below. The court considered order 2 rule 12 of the Rules of the Court which provide that the court may exercise its discretion to accept fresh evidence. The court held that there was a mischievous purpose attached to the appellant’s application and no power in law inheres in the garnishee to fight the cause of a judgment debtor.
The court concluded that the cause of action available to the garnishee was quite limited and therefore the application in this case was an abuse of the court process.
The court dismissed the application with costs.
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.
The court determined that this was an application for special leave to appeal against the refusal of the Court of Appeal to discharge the order of the single judge of the Court of Appeal refusing to stay the execution of the preservation order made by the High Court.
The court determined whether the refusal to suspend the decision of the Court of Appeal could render the subsequent judgment nugatory. The court noted the difference between a stay and a suspension order. Further, the court stated that applications for the suspension of orders or decisions of lower courts where the conventional means of applying for stay of execution is not possible. The court held that the fact that the court granted the applicant leave to appeal against the ruling of the Court of Appeal was not an essential condition for the suspension of the ruling sought to be impeached. The court observed that the applicant raised the point that the failure of the application would render the subsequent judgment nugatory but failed to prove exceptional circumstances to merit the suspension of the order. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
This is an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal that held that retention of a vehicle with defects for 11 months is equated with acceptance, transfer of property and assumption of all risks terming the repudiation of the contract of sale void.
The court considered whether the Court of Appeal erred in its interpretation of the relevant sections of the Sale of Goods Act that were relevant in this case. The court applied the rule that if a man sells an article he thereby warrants that is fit for some purpose. The court was of the opinion that the plaintiff knew why they purchased the four wheel vehicle and had the responsibility and opportunity to inspect the vehicle before accepting the sale. The court held that the defects were not latent and could have been easily detected. The court also held that the plaintiffs waived their rights by their conduct in continuing to use the vehicle after becoming aware of the defects. Accordingly, the court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal and dismissed the appeal.
This was an application praying for special leave to appeal against the interlocutory decision of the Court of Appeal refusing a repeat application for stay of execution pending appeal.
The court considered whether the Court of Appeal misconstrued its jurisdiction under art. 138(b) of the Constitution or s. 12 (b) of the Courts Act. The court was of the opinion that the applicant failed to prove the constitutional requirement for special leave to appeal in s. 4(2) of the Supreme Court Act by failing to prove that the interlocutory appeal was likely to succeed. The court held that the applicant failed to prove that the single judge misused or abused his discretionary power. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.
This was an appeal against the decision of the High Court to decline jurisdiction to determine an issue of wrongful termination and compensation thereof.
The court interpreted the provisions of the Labour Act to differentiate the jurisdiction of the Commission from that of the High Court. The court applied the provisions of art 140 of the Constitution to the effect that the High Court has jurisdiction to enforce every right created by statute unless it is ousted in the Constitution. It was held that the previous court had the power to make the relevant award on the strength of the applicable law, terms of employment and evidence adduced before it. The fact that its jurisdiction is excluded in respect of other reliefs does not entitle the court to decline jurisdiction altogether. The court may hear the whole case but decline to grant the reliefs it is not competent to grant when it delivers its final judgment in the matter. Accordingly, the application was granted, the order of the High Court was set aside and an order was made for the High Court to assume its jurisdiction and determine the matter.
This was an appeal of a decision of the Court of Appeal that allowed a defective notice to commence suit for compensation against the respondent who was adversely affected by the execution of an approved development plan.
The court mainly dealt with the procedural grounds of appeal. The court determined whether the Court of Appeal erred in holding that the holding that the respondents had complied with the provisions of s 127 of the Local Government Act, 1993 in service of notice to commence suit and form of the notice on record. The court found that the notice was seriously defective and set aside the respondent’s action against the appellant. The court applied the rule that courts have no authority to grant immunity from consequences of breaching a statute unless the statute is incurably bad. The court also determined whether the Court of Appeal misdirected itself in holding that the application of provision under section 56 of the Local Government Act, 1993 is discretionary. The court interpreted the word “may” in this section to have a mandatory effect even though not stated in mandatory terms. Accordingly, the appeal succeeded and the judgment of the High Court was restored.
The case concerned the extent of the National Media Commission’s (‘the Commission’) legal mandate under the National Media Commission Regulations (‘the Regulations’). It was argued that certain provisions amounted to censorship, and control and direction of mass media communication as it required an operator to seek authorization of content prior to publication on a media platform, and were thus unconstitutional.
The issues for determination were: whether the original jurisdiction of the court was properly invoked; whether the cumulative effect of the impugned provisions amounted to censorship; whether the cumulative effect amounted to control and direction over professional functions and operations; and whether the Standard Guidelines issued under the regulations were vague and unconstitutional.
The jurisdictional issue concerned whether the plaintiff sought a striking down of provisions without scrutiny to assist the court in its determination. This issue was to be determined on an examination of the relief sought and the pleadings. What was important was that both raised a case cognizable under the Constitution, which the plaintiff’s documents did.
On the second issue, the court held that some form of censorship was permissible under the Constitution; however where censorship laws are introduced they must be justifiable by being reasonably required in the national security interest, for public order, public morality, or the protection of the rights of another. What the second defendant wanted was akin to prior restraint. With reference to case law, the court held that prior restraint was not legally justifiable. Law must be precise and guide future conduct, which it was not in this case. The regulations were contrary to the Constitution.
On whether the Commission was empowered to impose criminal sanctions, it was held that Parliament could not delegate this function to the Commission.
As regards the third issue, the court had to define ‘direction or control’ in the context of the Constitution. Control or direction as used in the provision had the same meaning and effect as telling operators what they should or should not do in their publications. This function belongs to the media, not the Commission.
The plaintiff’s claim was upheld.
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 key issues in this appeal were due compliance with time set down by the rules of court, and the principle of the audi alteram partem rule (right to be heard).
The court considered whether the Court of Appeal erred in disregarding the fifth respondent’s non-compliance of time set down for filing statement of defence. The court noted that this was caused by the ambiguous order by the Court of Appeal and confusion in the registry. Therefore, this and other grounds relating to case management directions by the court of appeal were dismissed.
The court also considered whether the court of appeal’s finding that the fifth respondent’s right to be heard was breached, was erroneous. The court affirmed the decision by the court of appeal and held that it lacked jurisdiction to proceed against a party who was not served or notified of a hearing date.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed and the court ordered the case be remitted to the High Court to be heard on its merits.
The court exercised its original jurisdiction to interpret constitutional provisions relating to the right of the General Legal Council to introduce examinations and interview as requirements for admission into the practical component of the law course.
The defendants raised a preliminary objection disputing the jurisdiction of the court claiming there was no issue of interpretation and also claimed that the plaintiff lacked locus standi (standing to bring the matter before the court). The court held that the matter was of public interest thus the plaintiff did not have to demonstrate personal interest. The court determined whether the imposition of the new admission requirements was unconstitutional. It was held that the council had the authority to do so but it was unconstitutional since the new requirements were implemented without legal backing (regulations). Secondly, the court determined whether the council’s failure to specify alternative places and modes of instruction for students who qualified to join the school of law was unconstitutional and held that the plaintiff was unable to prove the same. Accordingly, the matter succeeded in part and the court declared that the new admission requirements that led to exclusion of qualified persons were unconstitutional and that the Council’s policy on reviewing examination scripts and quota violated the constitution.
This appeal is based on a decision of the Court of Appeal that waived the respondent’s non-compliance with prerequisites to the issuance of a writ under Order 2 rule 4(2) of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2004.
The court determined whether the non-compliance was fatal to the proceedings. The court noted that the provisions of Order 2 rule 4(2) are obligatory, thus could not be waived as per Order 81 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2004. The court held that non-compliance with the rule rendered the writ void. The court applied the mandatory rule that a plaintiff should disclose the identity and addresses of all persons on whose behalf it is suing, and when the rule is not complied with the writ cannot be amended after its issue. Accordingly, the court upheld the appeal and the writ of summons issued on 4 March 2010 were declared a nullity. Consequently, all proceedings and judgments of the High Court and the Court of Appeal were set aside.
The appeal stemmed from the denial of the appellant's right to defend on merits due to the lower court’s grant of an Order 14 summary judgement in favor of the respondent, without properly engaging with the merits of the matter.
Substantively, the court held that in a summary judgement application the plaintiff must bring a prima facie case for the claim, which includes showing the basis of the claim, before the burden shifts to the defendant to defend. However, a complete defence is not required but rather the defendant only needs to show that he has a reasonable defence to the claim and his defence is not a sham or intended to delay payment.
Since the respondent’s claim had been based on an agreement and an alleged assignment, the court reasoned that on assessment of the evidence the argument of assignment lacked the element of intent and thus could not stand. Further, the argument that the respondent was a beneficiary of the agreement in question was unfounded. The trial court therefore erred in its decision to grant summary judgment as the very basis of the claim was reasonably challenged on the facts.
The court thus concluded that the appellant had been unjustifiably been shut out of trial. It thus allowed the appeal setting aside the summary judgement.
In this appeal, court determined whether the representations made by the respondents in their letter of 3rd October 2013 constituted promissory estoppels with regard to the auction that took place on 30th September 2013. The court noted that the principle of promissory estoppel relates to representations of future conduct and not past conduct and held that the principle was not applicable to the facts of the case. The court also determined whether the application was made out of time. The court applied the rule in Order 45 rule 10(1) of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004: that such an application should be made 21 days from the date of the sale. The appellant made the application on 8th November 2013 while the auction took place on the 30th September 2013. The court held that the application was incompetent since it was made out of time. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed and the judgment of the court of appeal was affirmed.
This was an appeal based on the decision of the trial court to try the question of res judicata as preliminary point of law. Res judicata dictates that once a matter is decided by a competent court it cannot be reopened in subsequent litigation.
The court held that the trial court erred in its interpretation of order 33 rule 5 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004 by purporting to put an end to the full scale trial. The court held that in such circumstances, a plea of res judicata should only be sustained if it would result in a substantial disposal of the matter or render the determination of the other issues in the matter unnecessary. The court considered the uncertainty over the subject matter and the fact that a merit consideration of the action had already begun (at the trial court).
Accordingly, the appeal was upheld and an order made for the case to be remitted to the trial court for a re-trial.
This appeal considered whether the respondent was barred from re-litigating a matter concerning a dispute on the ownership of property based on the concept of res judicata. Res judicata dictates that once a matter is decided by a competent court it cannot be reopened in subsequent litigation.
The court applied the rule that an appellate court must evaluate the evidence on record as if the case is being heard afresh. The court noted that the plea of res judicata was not explicitly set out by the appellant in the High Court though it was raised as a ground of appeal to the court of appeal. The court observed that the previous courts failed to consider the plea. Base on the evidence on record, the court was satisfied that the properties described by the respondent n her writ of summons had once been litigated and held that the respondent was estopped from re-litigating the issue.
Accordingly, the court set aside the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal and deemed it worthy to consider the other grounds of appeal.
In this appeal, the court considered whether the Court of Appeal had erred in upholding the respondent’s writ as per established rules. The court observed that the validity of the writ affected the jurisdiction of the trial court. The court held that the writ was competent since the court had to decide who had a better title to the property.
The court also considered whether there were legitimate grounds for the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision of the trial court on the disputed questions of fact. The court held that the Court of Appeal was right to intervene in order to make a judicial correction, based on the record of appeal, since the conduct of the 1st appellant was fraudulent. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed, the decision of the Court of Appeal affirmed and the respondent’s right to injunctive reliefs succeeded.
One of the judges expounded on the whether the Court of Appeal exceeded its jurisdiction by questioning an order of a public tribunal. The judge noted that the writ was made by appointees of the tribunal not the tribunal and could be questioned by the court.
The application was lodged as a response by the applicants (General Legal Council) to a decision of the Court of Appeal setting aside orders granted to them allowing for the suspension of the respondent from legal practice. The applicants sought leave to appeal against this decision.
In response, the court began its adjudication from the position that a special leave application is not concerned with substantive issues but rather with whether it satisfies the case law principles that there must either be (a) a prima facie error on the face of the record, or (b) a general legal principle arising for the first time, and or (c) that the Supreme Court decision on the appeal would be advantageous to the public.
The court assessed the grounds propounded by the applicants which in essence included allegations of fundamental errors that go to jurisdiction and which a determination by the Supreme Court would be advantageous to the public. The court reasoned that these issues were so important that a decision on them would have a public good. It therefore decided to allow the application.
The court was confronted with a question of liability for undelivered goods by the driver of a haulage company contracted by the plaintiff. The meat of the enquiry focused on the issue of the effect of a failure to sign the delivery note on bailment. Having assessed the understanding and intentions of the parties the court reasoned delivery occurred at the moment of loading by the supplier, upon which liability passed to the carrier. The issue of the signing of the note or lack of by the driver thus bore no significance on the question of liability. Only sufficient reasons for failure to adduce the signature and evidence of collusive fraud by defendant would commute the carrier’s responsibility. Consequently, a claim of contributory negligence could not stand once loading had been made by the supplier as they did not have an express duty of care to ensure signing of the notes. Moreover, the mere loading was in itself delivery thus the plaintiff failed to demonstrate negligence.
Finally, the court dealt with the question of whether a contract actually existed between the parties as this had an effect on surcharges deducted by the defendant. The court found that given the nature of the contracts involved, the defendant had no contractual relationship with the plaintiff and therefore could not sue on the surcharge agreement as they were not party to the contract made for their benefit.
The court thus dismissed the appeal.
This case concerned whether the Supreme Court had the authority to quash a judgment handed down by the court below. The applicant contended that the court below lacked jurisdiction to interpret articles 127 (3) and 161 of the 1992 Constitution. The court considered the difference between interpreting a constitutional provision and applying a constitutional provision. It was found that all courts and adjudicating authorities are obliged to apply the provisions of the Constitution. Therefore, it would be a denial of justice to parties if constitutional provisions are not considered by a court of law or any adjudicating authority. Furthermore, it is only when the issue of interpretation arises that a court must stay its proceedings and refer the matter to the Supreme Court. In this matter, the court below was not called upon to interpret any provisions of the Constitution but merely to ascertain where the Registrar was a holder of a judicial office and whether the holder of a judicial officer had judicial power. The court found that Article 161 of the Constitution did not define judicial power. Therefore, not all judicial officers exercise judicial power. The court found that the court below had not committed and error that destroyed its jurisdiction, thus there was nothing warranting the Supreme Court to be called upon to quash the judgment handed down by the court below. Application dismissed.
This case concerned the reversal of a judgment handed down in this court by a single judge in terms of article 134(b) of the 1992 Constitution. Furthermore, the order handed down was non-executable and that the court erred in ordering the suspension of a non-executable order. Article 134 (b) prescribes what a three-judge panel may do after hearing an application brought by a party who is aggrieved with the decision of a single judge. The court considered whether a three-judge panel should apply the conditions applicable by an appeal or a review or a combination of the two. It was found that an application of this nature couldn’t be treated as an appeal since the full record of appeal will not have been placed before the court. It was therefore found that it should be treated as a special review, considering all factors and merits of the case. Therefore, all rules on review should largely apply. The court found that where there is no executable order from the decision of the court below, this court cannot make an order to stay execution. The court found that the decision by the single judge did not disclose what factors were taken into consideration to enable him to conclude that it was fair to grant the application. Thus, the record did not disclose any special circumstances. Application granted.
The plaintiff sought a writ (being a written order of the court to abstain from acting) against the defendants. The plaintiff asked the court to find that the court below did not have jurisdiction to determine matters involving the interpretation and enforcement of the Constitution. The defendants in turn raised a preliminary objection to the plaintiff’s writ.
This case considered the preliminary objection raised in objection to the writ and whether the court had jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiffs action calling for a writ against the defendants, thus did the plaintiff properly invoke the jurisdiction of the court and whether the proper parties were before the court.
The court found that in determining whether its jurisdiction had been properly invoked, they were obliged to look at the preliminary objection of the writ before them.
The plaintiff argued that a single judge lacked the jurisdiction to determine matters involving the interpretation and or enforcement of the Constitution.
The court found that its jurisdiction had been properly invoked. On the second issue the court found that the Plaintiff had capacity to bring the application before this court.
The court found that the first defendant was properly cited and was a party in this application, however the second defendant was not a party to the action as the plaintiff did not show any act or omission which would justify the plaintiff citing him.
The second defendant was therefore struck out.
Preliminary objection overruled.