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M.T.N. NIGERIA COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED v. C-SOKA NIGERIA LIMITED

(2018) LPELR-44423(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Tuesday, the 15th day of May, 2018

CA/EK/42/2017


Before Their Lordships

AHMAD OLAREWAJU BELGORE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

FATIMA OMORO AKINBAMI Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

PAUL OBI ELECHI Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


Between

M.T.N. NIGERIA COMMUNICATIONS LTD - Appellant(s)

AND

C-SOKA NIGERIA LTD - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Civil Procedure.
FACTS:
This appeal arose out of the judgment of the Ekiti State High Court of Justice delivered on the 9th of June 2017.  At the High Court, the Respondent (as Claimant) by the writ of summons dated April 4, 2016 instituted Suit No. HAD/21/2013 against the Appellant (as Defendant). By Amended Statement of claim dated September 15, 2016, the Respondent as claimant claimed some reliefs against the Appellant.

By an Amended statement of defence dated February 15, 2017, the Appellant denied the Respondent's claim in its entirety. According to the Appellant the gist of the case was that the Appellant entered into a Distribution Agreement with the Respondent dated July 17, 2013. By an addendum dated September 30, 2013, the Main Agreement was amended to subsist for a period of three months from October 1, 2013 and terminate on December 31, 2013. The aim of the Contract was for the facilitation of distribution by the Respondent, of the Appellant's network services through the sales of starter packs handset, airtime (physical and electronic), consumer data products and accessories being   produced by the Appellant. The Contract was the fulcrum of the relationship and embodies all the terms of reference between the Appellant and the Respondent.  The contract according to the Appellant terminated by effluxion of time on December 31, 2013 and was never renewed. The Appellant paid to the Respondent the sum of N5, 439, 495.66 (Five Million, Four Hundred and Thirty-Nine Thousand, Four Hundred and Ninety Five Naira, Sixty-six Kobo) as the Respondent's final entitlement arising from the Contract. 

The Respondent via letter dated February 4, 2015 accused the Appellant of wrongfully terminating the contract and demanded for the payment of various bogus, non-existent sums of money. By a letter dated May 4, 2015, the Appellant explicitly informed the Respondent that the contract had been terminated by effluxion of time and that the Appellant was not in any way liable under the contract to the Respondent to pay any sum of money that the Respondent had demanded. On the side of the respondent, it was stated that the Appellant and Respondent had a trade partnership business relationship that commenced in 2006, that business relationship was brought to an end in a December 23, 2013, letter of the Appellant marked Exhibit E at the trial of the case. It was the position of the Respondent that the Appellant wrongfully terminated the business relationship in breach of the agreement regulating it. After the Appellant spurned the overture of the Respondent for parties to meet and explore the possibility of mediation and conciliation as provided for in the governing agreement, the Respondent was constrained to file the action that brought about this appeal. In proof of her case before the High Court, the Respondent called one witness, PW1. 

???Trial commenced on January 26, 2016. Both the Appellant and the Respondent called one witness each at the trial. The Trial Court delivered its Judgment on June 9, 2017. In the Judgment, the High Court in the Appellants view did not evaluate the evidence of the parties. The High Court made no finding of facts and did not draw any conclusions/inference on the facts and evidence presented by the parties. The High Court also held that an objection by the Appellant that there was no reasonable cause of action brought by the Respondent against the Appellant was an objection that could be raised as a preliminary objection. By the judgment, the High Court also awarded double compensation to the Respondent by granting the Respondent, Reliefs 2 and 5 endorsed on the Respondent's Writ of Summons. In fact, there was no evidence before the High Court that could have formed the basis for entering judgment in the Respondent's favour against the Appellant. Dissatisfied with the decision of the High Court, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES:
The Court determined the appeal on the issues raised by the Appellant and couched as follows:

(i) Whether the failure of the trial Court to evaluate the evidence of the parties resulted in a miscarriage of justice thereby rendering the judgment null and void? 

(ii) Was the trial Court right when it awarded to the Respondent the sum of N89, 000.00 (Eighty Nine Million, Two Hundred Thousand Naira) as the sum owed the Respondent by the Appellant for alleged unused pins between 2008 to 2013 and unpaid sim registration on pre-paid start kit (PPSK) from 2010 to 2013? 

(iii) Was the trial Court right when it awarded to the Respondent the sum of N1, 200,000 (One Million Two Hundred Thousand Naira)? 

(iv) Was the trial Court right when it awarded N200,000,000. (Two Hundred Million Naira) to the Respondent as damages against the Appellant for wrongful termination of the contract between the Appellant and the Respondent when there was no evidence before the lower Court of wrongful  determination of the contract and how the quantum of damages was arrived at?

(v) Was the trial Court right when it awarded the interest claims of the Respondent? 

(vi) Whether the judgment is not against the weight of evidence? 

(vii) Was the trial Court right when it held that the Respondent's suit disclosed a reasonable cause of action against the Appellant?

DECISION/HELD:
On the whole, the Court found merit in the appeal and accordingly allowed same. The Judgment of the High Court was thereby set aside and the suit dismissed.


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