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 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
Freedom of association – Labour unions – Membership in labour union
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 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 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.