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ZENITH PLASTICS INDUSTRIES LIMITED v. SAMOTECH LIMITED

(2018) LPELR-44056(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 23rd day of March, 2018

SC.22/2008


Before Their Lordships

MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

EJEMBI EKO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

SIDI DAUDA BAGE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

ZENITH PLASTICS INDUSTRIES LIMITED - Appellant(s)

AND

SAMOTECH LIMITED - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Breach of Right to Fair hearing.
FACTS:
The respondent herein, as plaintiff before the High Court of Rivers State sitting at Port Harcourt, instituted an action against the appellant, as defendant seeking certain reliefs.

The facts of the case is that the plaintiff and the defendant entered into a contract for the plaintiff to construct an 11 KVA electric power line. The cost of the contract was N1,405,500 (one million, four hundred and five thousand five hundred naira).  The plaintiff completed the construction of the 11 KVA electric power line in September 1995 and demanded payment. The defendant did not pay the debt. In July 1996, the defendant and its neighbour, Belhope Plastics Ltd. gave the plaintiff a contract jointly. The contract sum was N193,000 (one hundred and ninety three thousand naira). On completion of the contract Belhope Plastics Ltd paid its own share of N96,500, while the defendant did not pay its own share of N96,500 despite demands for payment by the plaintiff.   The defendant's indebtedness to the plaintiff stood at N1,502,400 (one million five hundred and two thousand four hundred naira) made up of N1,405,500 on the 11 KVA contract and N96,500 on the contract shared with Belhope Plastics Ltd. Union Bank Plc (the plaintiff Bankers) stopped all credit facilities to the plaintiff, and this affected the execution of plaintiffs SHELL contract which SHELL terminated and which the plaintiff says caused him a loss of N1.9m. 

Due to mounting pressure on the plaintiff from its Bankers, Union Bank Plc to pay up the loans advanced to it to perform the contracts, the plaintiff authorized the defendant to pay its debt directly to Union Bank Plc. The authorization was an irrevocable authority. (Exhibit B). On receipt of Exhibit B, Union Bank Plc wrote to the defendant to make confidential inquiry about the plaintiff and to confirm the authenticity of Exhibit B. The defendant replied Union Bank Plc after which the defendant paid the plaintiff N1 million. This payment left outstanding balance of N502,500. 

Pleadings were filed and exchanged and evidence led by the parties in respect of their positions. At the conclusion of the trial, the Court found in favour ofthe plaintiff. The defendant/appellant was dissatisfied with the judgment and appealed to the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division. The Court of appeal dismissed the appeal.


The appellant, still aggrieved, further appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES:
The apex Court determined the appeal on the Appellant's issue one as follows:
"Whether from the circumstances of this case the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal afforded the appellant fair hearing when they held that "the learned counsel for the appellant did not file a Reply Brief to enable him respond to the submissions contained in the Respondent's brief."

DECISION/HELD:
In the final analysis, the appeal succeeded and was allowed. Consequently, the entire proceedings before the Court of Appeal was held to be null and void and was set aside. The apex Court thus ordered that the appeal be remitted to the President of the Court of Appeal for re-assignment to a different panel for expeditious hearing and determination.


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