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 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set to regularise a process if the motion succeeds the other motions seeking to terminate the proceedings will be withdrawn.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 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 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.