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  • 2001-01-01
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Jeric Nig. Ltd v. U.B.N. Plc

JERIC NIGERIA LIMITED

V

UNION BANK OF NIGERIA PLC

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

ABUBAKAR BASHIR WALI, JSC ( Presided )

IDRIS LEGBO KUTIGI, JSC

UTHMAN MOHAMMED, JSC

UMARU ATU KALGO, JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

AKINTOLA OLUFEMI EJIWUNMI, JSC

SC.72/1998

FRIDAY, 15TH DECEMBER, 2000

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Reliefs not claimed - Court awarding same -  Impropriety of

JURISDICTION - Issue of Jurisdiction - Fundamental nature of  - Need to determine first

JURISDICTION - Issue of jurisdiction - When raised - Whether can be raised for the first time at the Supreme Court

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Counter-claim - Nature of  - Need for counter-claimant to prove his claim against the other party

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Irregularity - Effect on proceedings Issues:

  1. Whether an error of mis-stating the date of the judgment, being appealed against in the notice of appeal, is fundamental or mere irregularity.
  2. Whether the Court of Appeal is right in holding that, from the pleadings, no issue was joined on variation of the original agreement and that there was a valid contract between the parties.
  3. Whether the Court of Appeal was right in awarding the respondent a sum not specifically counter-claimed.

Facts:

The respondent was the appellant’s banker at its branch in Jos. The appellant, a limited liability company incorporated and registered in Nigeria, carries on agro-industrial projects in Plateau State of Nigeria. On the 6th of June, 1986 the appellant applied through a documentary letter of credit, Exhibit 1, to the respondent to open a letter of credit in favour of CRC Agricultural Export Incorporated, Michigan, United States of America. The letter of credit was to the value of USD$120,546 for the importation to Nigeria, of two containers of feed mills, spare parts and concentrates/ additives.

At the time of the application to open letter of credit for the appellant, it had no  money in the account with the respondent which will cover the Naira equivalent and which was then N125,765.00. However, the manager of the respondent’s branch in Jos, where the appellant maintained its account for many years, approved a loan sum of N300,000 to the appellant to cover the value of the letter of credit and to use the balance as working capital. But this was not finally granted, because the branch manager had no power to grant such an overdraft.

On 4th of December, 1986, the goods finally arrived in Lagos. The respondent with full knowledge and co-operation of the appellant instructed Panalpina, a clearing agent, to clear the goods and store them in their warehouses. The appellant voluntarily submitted all the necessary documents for the clearance of the goods to the respondent. And the goods were fully cleared by Panalpina on 6th of May, 1987.

As a result of delay in the movement of the letter of credit to CRC in United States, the value of the letter of credit has escalated from N125,765.00 to N206,510.00. The appellant failed to pay for the letter of credit opened for it to import the goods and all the necessary expenses incurred by the respondent in respect thereof. However, the respondent, believing that it had a right of lien  over the goods, refused to release them to the appellant. And when all efforts to settle the matter failed, and the goods could not be sold for value, the appellant sued the respondent claiming the cost of the goods and N5,000,000.00 ( Five Million Naira) damages for breach of contract. The respondent, however, counter-claimed. Judgment was entered for the appellant at the trial High Court. The respondent dissatisfied appealed to the Court of Appeal which gave judgment to the respondent. The appellant aggrieved and dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal decision appealed to the Supreme Court.