G.K.F. INVESTMENT NIG. LTD. V. NIGERIA TELECOMMUNICATIONS PLCCase Laws . Supreme Court
G.K.F. INVESTMENT NIG. LTD. V. NIGERIA TELECOMMUNICATIONS PLC
In the Supreme Court of Nigeria
Friday, July 10, 2009
Case Number: S.C. 177/2005
NIKI TOBI, JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
ALOMA MARIAM MUKHT AR , JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
IKECHI FRANCIS OGBUAGU , JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
JAMES OGENYI OGEBE.JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
JOHN AFOLABI FABIYI , JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
G. K. F. INVESTMENT NIG. LTD
NIGERIA TELECOMMUNICATIONS PLC.
(Delivered by A. M. MUKHTAR, JSC)
This is an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos
Division, which affirmed the judgment of the Lagos State High Court in favour of the appellant who was plaintiff in the trial court. The case of the appellant as per its amended statement of claim was that it was allocated a telephone line No. 0012630142 formerly owned by Linx Collavino Nigeria, in April, 1996 on applying to the respondent for one. In September 1996, the telephone services were withdrawn by the respondent, leaving the appellant unable to communicate through the line. As a result of this development, the appellant lodged a complaint to the respondent, and the appellant was informed that the withdrawal was necessitated by the non-payment of the sum of N23,655.00 which the respondent charged the plaintiff.
According to the appellant it had already paid the said sum vide the Nigeria Arab Bank, and the bank remitted the money to the respondent on 23 September 1996. Inspite of the payment the respondent refused to restore the telephone services, even after several demands. The failure to restore the line has created hardship on the appellant, to wit it claimed the following:-
‘(a) The sum of =N=30,000,000.00 (Thirty million naira) being special Exemplary and general damages from the defendant for breach of the contract between the plaintiff and the Defendant by the defendant or for negligence.
(b) Loss of income/profits at the rate of =N=500,000.00 per week.
(c) Interest on the above damages and loss of income/profit at the rate of 21 % per annum from the 5th day of December, 1996 till final payment, and 6% thereafter until liquidation.’
The defendant/respondent denied most of the allegations. On completion of pleadings both parties adduced evidence. The trial court appraised the evidence, and at the end of the day found for the appellant and awarded damages which it was not satisfied with, and therefore appealed to the lower court, which dismissed the appeal. Again it is not satisfied with
the judgment, and it has appealed to this court on fourteen grounds of appeal. Briefs of argument were exchanged in compliance with the practice of this court. Fourteen issues for determination were raised in the appellants brief of argument to relate to the fourteen grounds of appeal which he has filed. The respondent however raised four issues for determination, and the issues are:-
‘1. Whether grounds 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11 of the Appellants notice of appeal are competent having been. filed without leave of court?
- Whether the Court of Appeals evaluation of evidence and refusal to reverse damages awarded by the trial court is perverse or unreasonable so as to warrant interference by the Supreme Court?
- Whether the Court of Appeal was right to discountenance the appellants claim for negligence for breach of contract?
- Whether the Appellant is entitled to 21 % interest on the judgment sum and if costs of N 1 0,000 awarded against the Appellant are appropriate under the circumstances?’
Issues 2 and 3 I have reproduced above are more comprehensive and succinct to the appeal than those raised in the appellants brief of argument, and so I will adopt them for the treatment of this appeal.. The appellants issues for determination are just as prolix and unnecessarily verbose as their grounds of appeal. I find some of them
absolutely unnecessary. It was as though the learned counsel for the appellant wanted to appeal against every point the learned justice made in his lead judgment. That to my mind is poor advocacy, as the success of an appeal is not dependent on the number of the grounds of appeal, but the substantiality and competence of the grounds of appeal. See Sossa v. Fokpo 2001 I NWLR part 693, page 16,. and Kupoluyi v. Phillips 2001 13 NWLR part 731 page 736.
I will commence the treatment of the appeal with issue (2) supra. The argument of the learned counsel for the appellant is that the appellants appeal to the Court of Appeal did not raise the issue of findings of facts, credibility of witnesses and evaluation of evidence by the trial court, and so the lower court had no business veering or raising the issues suo motu. He placed reliance on the case of Oshodi v. Eyifunmi 2000 13 NWLR part 684 page 298. In reply, the learned counsel for the respondent argued that the true position is that the appellant in its grounds of appeal and brief of argument before the Court of Appeal severally questioned the basis upon which the trial Court awarded N200,000 damages to it. On the other hand the respondent had inter alia contended that the award was proper given the fact that the uppellal1t had failed to properly prove special damages according to the test laid down by a plethora of cases. The learned counsel referred to the cases of ACB Ltd v. EBB Manufacturing Co. Ltd 1996 4 NWLR part 444 page 564 and Incar v. Adegboye 1985 2 NWLR part 8 page 453.
According to him the questioning by the appellant of the basis of the . award of damages clearly opened the issue to scrutiny by the Court of Appeal, and this it did. The learned counsel for the respondent further submitted that even though the assessment and evaluation of evidence produced at the trial is within the exclusive power of the court of trial, by virtue of section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act (Cap 36 of the Laws of
the Federation of Nigeria), the Court of Appeal in its appellate jurisdiction is in as good a position as the trial court to evaluate such evidence to arrive at its own conclusion where the lower court either fails to evaluate or improperly evaluates evidence. See Fashanu v. Adekoya 1974 I All NLR part 1 page 35, and Anyaoke v. Adi 1986 3 NWLR part 310 page 731. It is also the submission of learned counsel that the act of the lower court in reviewing the issue of damages would not lead to the disturbance of its decision, and that an appellate court will only intervene on issue of damages where there is clearly a very high or low estimate and same is perverse or appears to have been arrived at on wrong principles. See Usman v. Abubakar 2001 12 NWLR part 728 page 685, Bahegu v. Labiran 1988 3 NWLR part 80 page 66,.and Lasisi v. Allied Bank (Nig) PLC 2002 7 NWLR part 767 page 542.
At this juncture I consider it pertinent to look at the record of proceedings in the lower court. In the notice of appeal in the Court of Appeal, (to be found on page 62 of the printed record of appeal), the pertinent grounds of appeal to this discussion read as follows:-
‘1. The learned trial judge erred in law and facts when he failed to award the Appellant the whole amount claimed as special damages when he (learned trial judge) has held same to be unchallenged, believed and as such Appellant entitled to special damages claimed.
PARTI CULARS OF ERROR
(a) The Appellant was not challenged, contradicted, or even at all cross examined on the special damages claimed or any of the damages at all.
(b) There was no iota of evidence that the amount the Appellant is claiming as special damages excessive or any alternative amount suggested by the Respondent.
(c) The Appellant in spite of being unchallenged as aforesaid led credible and relevant evidence with over two hundred documentary (Exhibits) in support of her claim for special damages.
(d) By paragraph 1 of the conditions for supply of telephone services contained in the last page of the Agreement for supply of telephone services Exhibit B the Respondent covenanted or agreed to be liable to any damage(s) or loss arising from an interruption of telephone services to Appellant for a continuous period of 14 days when such interruption has been acknowledged by the respondent as in Exhibits HI-8.
- The learned trial judge erred in law when he failed to award a reasonable and substantial amount as special, general and exemplary damages but awarded a paltry sum of N200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand Naira) as special, general and exemplary damages in favour of the Appellant against the respondent.
PARTICULARS OF ERROR
(a) The Appellant led credible, unchallenged and uncontradicted evidence that she suffered substantial or colossal loss or damage as a result of the respondents breach of contract for the supply of telephone services.
(b) The learned trial judge failed to take cognizance of or consider the relevance of the value of naira in the award of damages as enunciated in the case of Onagoruwa vs. I.G.P. (1991) 5 NWLR (part 193, 593 at 621.
(c) The essence of exemplary damages which is to teach a defendant hard lessons and to deter others is lost or unattainable in the above paltry sum awarded.’
These grounds covered the following issues raised in the appellants brief of argument:
‘1. Is the learned trial judge right, to have failed to award the whole amount claimed as special damages to the Appellant, when he held evidence on same to be unchallenged, true and as such Appellant entitled to special damages claimed?
- Whether having regards to the circumstances, and evidence of the colossal loss incurred by the Appellant in this suit the paltry sum of N200,000.00 (two hundred thousand naira) awarded as special, general, and exemplary damages is reasonable?’.
The argument covering these issues in the parties briefs of argument centred on the evidence before the trial court, their credibility, the very nature of their substance and consequence where they were not challenged. In a situation like that the Court of Appeal had no choice than to re-examine the pertinent pieces of evidence, albeit evaluate them where necessary if that will meet the end of justice, and for the just determination of the appeal. There was no way the lower court could have ignored this aspect of the argument, without occasioning substantial miscarriage of justice, as it was bound to raise the issues it raised, even if suo mota in the circumstance of the appeal.
In this case it is on record that issues were raised in the court vide the appellants grounds of appeal, issues and the arguments proffered. I refuse to subscribe to the stance of the learned counsel for the appellant that the appellant never raised the issue of finding of facts. Although an appellate court is bound by the finding of a trial court, in view of the principle of law that the trial court having seen and heard witnesses is in a better position to make findings of fact, an appellate court is at liberty to interfere with the findings of a trial court when the findings are perverse. The cardinal principle of law is that an appellate court will disturb such findings were they are not supported by evidence, and they are perverse. See Olohunde v. Adeyeru 2000 10 NWLR part 676 page 562, Ibhafidon v. Igbinosun 2001 8 NWLR part 716, page 653, Woluchem v. Gudi 1981 5 SC 29, and Nwosu v. Mbadugha 2000 1 NWLR part 641 page 486.
Besides, section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act 1976 vests the court below with wide powers in such a situation to re-appraise evidence, as the provision states inter alia thus:-
’16. The Court of Appeal may, from time to time make any order necessary for determining the real question in controversy in the appeal
And generally shall have full jurisdiction over the whole proceedings as if the proceedings had been instituted in the Court of Appeal as court of first instance and may re-hear the case in whole or in part………………………………………..”
A very careful perusal of the judgment of the lower court does not reveal a departure from the law, and its requirements. An appel1ate court cannot be put in a straight jacket (so to speak) in the pursuance of its judicial -function, and power of ensuring that justice in its undiluted form is arrived at in its judgment. Anything short of that is bound to occasion miscarriage of justice.
In this wise, I endorse the finding of Muhammad JCA in the lead judgment of the lower court which reads as follows:- –
‘Looking at the findings of the lower court in the context of the pleadings and evidence before it, one is inclined to agree with Respondents counsel that Appellants claim for weekly loss of profit as well as that as to the amount it expended in its resort to prepaid phone cards had not been proved for same to attract any award. Appellant did not provide the trial court with its previous sales figure or cash flow to enable the court make necessary deduction there from.–The total number of the prepaid telephone cards used by the Appellant following the withdrawal of the telephone line installed by the Respondent inspite of the evidence before the court, is not ascertainable. And receipt of purchase to determine the expenditure incurred in that regard has not also, been made available. These specific heads of claim cannot, in the circumstances, be said to have been made out. It does not matter that Respondents counsel has in one breath conceded in their brief of argument that the two heads, of claim are recoverable. Counsels submission does not substitute evidence. Concession by counsel is relevant only where the law allows it to be so. The trial courts finding that the special damages claimed has been proved given the reasonings now advanced is clearly perverse. The inadequacies recounted had made it legally impossible for the damages which relate to these two specific heads of claim to be recovered. The Appellant has also failed to prove malice on the part of the Respondent in the course of breaching the contract.’
In the light or the foregoing reasoning, the answer to issue (2) supra is in the negative, and the related grounds of appeal fail, and they are hereby dismissed.
I will now proceed to the treatment of issue (3) supra. It is necessary to reproduce and consider the pleading that is relevant to the argument covering this issue. In its amended statement of claim the appellant averred as follows;–
’22. Further to (sic) in the alternative to the following, the defendant was negligent in respect of handling the said contract of and withdrawal of telephone services to the plaintiff.
PARTICULARS OF NEGLIGENCE:-
(a) The plaintiff after payment of the said sum ofN23,655.00 to the bank dropped a duplicate or counterpart of the said bank acknowledging payment into the Defendants box placed at the said banks premises, however the defendant failed and or refused and or neglected to cross check the said box and the said charge sheet/bill before cutting or withdrawing telephone services from the plaintiff.
(b) The plaintiff pointed out the fact in paragraph A above to the defendant but the defendant refused and or failed and neglected to check same,, and to properly handle the said contract and withdrawal of telephone services.
(d) The defendant would not have withdrawn, telephone services till date from the plaintiff she had exercised reasonable or due care and diligence paying regards to the above…………’
The learned counsel for the appellant in proffering argument under this issue set out the definition of the word negligence as is set out in some Supreme Court judgments, as Odinaka v. Moghalu 1992,4 NWLR part 23 page 1, and A.N.T.S. v. Atoloye 1993 6 NWLR part 298 page 233. In the case of Anyah v. Imo Concorde Hotels Ltd 2002 18 NWLR part 799 page 377 the conditions that have to exist before the claim of negligence can be raised were set down. Kalgo JSC in the lead judgment had the following to say:-
‘The general principle is that the tort of negligence arises when a legal duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff is breached and to succeed in action for negligence the plaintiff must prove by the preponderance of evidence or the balance of probabilities that:
‘(a) the defendant owed him a duty of care;
(b) the duty of care was breached;
(c) the defendant suffered damages arising from the breach’.
See Agbonmagbe Bank Ltd v. C.F.A.O. (1966) 1 All N.L.R. 140 at 145.
The most fundamental ingredient of the tort of negligence is the breach of the duty of care, which must be actionable in law and not a moral liability. And until a plaintiff can prove by evidence the actual breach of duty of care against the defendant the action must fail. See Benson v. Utubor (1973) 3 SC. 19; Okoli v. Nwagu 1960 SCNLR 48; (1960) 3 FSC 16, Nigeria Airways Ltd. v. Abe 1988 4 NWLR (pt.90) 524……………’
I am fortified by the above.
The learned counsel has submitted that the respondent was very negligent in the breach of the contract for supply of telephone services to the appellant, having failed
in their obligation or duty to supply the appellant with uninterrupted telephone services, which occasioned loss or damages to the appellant.
It is the submission of the learned counsel for the respondent that the evidence and the present appeal rested squarely on the issue of the quantum of damages and not negligence as contended by the appellant.
It is a fact that the claim as in the appellants pleading was premised on negligence in the alternative, having premised the claim on the breach of contract and the issue of the quantum of damages as the main claim. In a situation like this, the court can adopt only one of the claims for the purpose of the consideration of the case and judgment. In the instant case, the learned trial judge considered and based his judgment on the main claim, rather than the claim in the alternative, which he was at liberty to do.
The appellant by its pleadings sought for damages in respect of breach of contract, or the breach of duty arising from the tort of negligence, and the claims being in the alternative, the law permits the court to consider only one of the claims and base its damages on it. The other arguments of the learned counsel for the appellant are of no moment. My answer to this issue (3) is in the affirmative. The grounds of appeal covering the said issue fail, and they are dismissed.
On the last issue, which is in respect of the award of interest, the learned counsel for the appellant has argued that the law is trite that once a party is kept out of his/her money the party is entitled to interest on same. The learned counsel for the respondent, however took solace in a rule of the Lagos State High Court Civil Procedure Rules 1994 as amended, which makes the following provision.
‘The court at the time of making any judgment or order, or at anytime afterwards, may direct the time within which the payment or other act is to be made or done, reckoned from the date of the judgment or order, or from some other point of time, as the court thinks fit, and may order interest at a rate not exceeding seven and a half per centum per annum to be paid upon any judgment, commencing from the date thereof or afterwards.’
It is the submission of the learned counsel that the provision is mandatory, as such, the entitlement is automatic unless otherwise ordered by court. He referred to the case of DPMS L TD v. Larmie 2005 5 NWLR part 655, page 138. He further submitted that it behoves the appellant to prove its claim of 21% if it wished to claim interest in excess of the statutory provision, which the appellant failed to do.
The above provision of the Lagos State High Court rules is very clear. The learned trial judge in this case did not make any order on payment of interest to the appellant. However, as one of the grounds of appeal of the appellant in the lower court complained against the failure of the trial court to award interest of 21% per annum before judgment on the damages and 6% per annum thereafter, the lower court was bound to examine and determine the issue married to the ground, which it did, and ordered as per Muhammad JCA in the lead judgment as follows:-
‘In the instant case where the rules of court have provided for the recovery of interest on a judgment sum, the entitlement is automatic unless otherwise ordered by the court. Since the lower court had neither ordered the payment of interest to the Appellant nor given a direction to the contrary, the sum of N200,000.00 awarded to the Appellant automatically carries interest at the rate of 71/2% fixed by -order 38 rule 7 of the Lagos State High Court (Civil Procedure) rules 1994 as amended.’
I endorse the above finding and affirm it. This last issue is resolved in favour of the respondent, and its related ground of appeal fail and it is dismissed. In the final analysis this appeal fails in its entirety, and it is hereby dismissed. The costs of N50,000.00 is awarded to the respondent against the appellant.
JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT
Mr. C. I. Uruakpa for the Appellant.
Mr. Mosediq A. Kazeem, with him M .T. Kura for the Respondent.
[Delivered by I. F. OGBUAGU, JSC.]
This is an appeal by the Appellant against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division (hereinafter called ‘the court below’) delivered on 27th April, 2005 affirming the award of N200,000.00 (two hundred thousand naira) as damages for breach of contract. It also awarded interest of 7½% on the judgment sum pursuant to Order 38 Rule 7 of the Lagos State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 1994 as amended (hereinafter called ‘the Rules’).
Dissatisfied with the said decision, the Appellant, has appealed to this Court on (14) fourteen grounds of appeal. It has also formulated in its Brief (14) fourteen issues for determination. On its part, the Respondent, has formulated (4) four issues for determination, namely,
‘4.1 Whether grounds 4,6,7,8,10 & 11 of the Appellants notice of appeal are competent having been filed without leave of court?
4.2 Whether the Court of Appeals evaluation of evidence and refusal to reverse damages awarded by the trial court is perverse or unreasonable so as to warrant interference by the Supreme Court?
4.3 Whether the Court of Appeal was right to discountenance the appellants (sic) claim for
negligence for breach of contract?
4.4 Whether the Appellant is entitled to 21st% interest on the judgment sum and if costs of N10,000 awarded against the Appellant are appropriate under the circumstances?
When this appeal came up for hearing on 2ih April, 2009 the learned counsel for the Appellant, Uruakpa, Esqr., adopted both their main and Reply Briefs. He urged the Court to allow the appeal stating that the question of proof of special damages, is not negotiable.
The leading learned counsel for the Respondent – Kazeem, Esq, adopted their Brief. He urged the Court, to dismiss the appeal in its entirety and uphold the Judgment of the court below.
Thereafter, Judgment was reserved till today.
In my respectful view, the crucial issue revolves on the quantum of
damages awardable to the Appellant in what amounts to a breach of contract by the Respondent. With respect, it does not and need not involve the framing of fourteen grounds of appeal and formulating fourteen issues as have been done in this appeal. It is now settled that grounds of appeal, are not predicated on matters other than pleadings and evidence or address of counsel. See the case of Oladapo & anor. v. Bank of the North Ltd. & anor.(2001) 1 NWLR (Pt. 693) 285 @ 262 C.A.
I need to stress that this Court, discourages the proliferation of issues.See the cases of Ogbuanyinya & 3 ors. v. Okudo & ors. (No.2) (1990) 4 NWLR (Pt. 146) 551 @ 556; (1990) 7 SCNJ 29; Nwobosi v. Afl-ican Continental Bank Ltd. (1995) 6 NWLR (Pt.404) 658; (1995) 7 SCNJ. 197 and Chief Agbaisi & 3 ors. v. Ebikorefe & 6 Ors. (1997) 4 NWLR (Pt.502) 630 @ 650; (1997) 4 SCNJ. 137 @157. citing some other cases therein.
I have therefore, deliberately, decided not to go into Issue I of the Respondent complaining about the competence of some of the grounds of appeal and which has led to the Appellant, filing on 11th January, 2007, a Reply Brief of (14) fourteen pages. I note that in that Reply Brief, the Appellant submits in support of the competence of the said grounds of
Appeal that they are premised on law and not mixed law and facts or facts alone, and therefore, do not require leave of this Court. But in respect of Ground 10 of the grounds of appeal, the following appear inter alia:
‘……………. is premised on law, though the counsel to the appellant by slip of the pen mistakenly couched it as misdirection or misapplication of law and fact whereas it is purely a misdirection or misapplication of the law to proved facts ‘.
Now, to the merits of this appeal. In paragraph 25(a) of its Amended Statement of Claim which appears at pages 26 and 27 of the Records the following appear inter alia:
‘Whereas the plaintiff claims as follows:
(a) The sum of N30, 000. 000. 00 (thirty million naira) being special Exemplary and general damages from the defendant for breach of contract between the plaintiff and the Defendant by the defendant or for negligence
(b) Loss of income/profits at the rate of N500, 000. 00 per week
(c) An immediate restoration of telephone services to plaintiff by the Defendant.
(d) interest on the above damages and loss of income/profit at the rate of 21% per annum from the 5th day of December, 1996 till final payment and 6% thereafter until liquidation ‘.
(the italics mine)
I note that the Appellant under its issue No.3, also reproduced the above. It could be seen that from claim(a), there is an ‘alternative’ claim – i,e. the said sum for breach of contract or for negligence. On the claim for breach of contract, the trial court, awarded N200,000.00 (two hundred thousand naira) and made no award of interest. The court below, affirmed the said award of N200,000.00 (which the Appellant describes as paltry) and awarded interest at the rate of 7½% pursuant to the Rules of that High Court. It is therefore, clear that the claim for negligence, is in the alternative while-the claim for interest is pre and post the judgment as rightly found by the court below. In respect of an award of damages for breach of contract or negligence, it is at the discretion of the court except where special damages,is pleaded and proved to the satisfaction of the trial court. Award of interest,is either based on either prior agreement of the parties as contained in a document to that effect or as provided by a Rule of court.
General damages, are such as the law, will presume to be the direct natural or probable consequences of the act complained of. On the other hand, special damages, are such as the law, will not infer from the nature of the act. They do not follow in the ordinary course. They are exceptional in their character and therefore, they must be claimed specially and proved strictly. There are too many decided authorities in this regard. But see the cases of Stroms Bruks Aktie Bolag v. Hutchison (1905) A.C. 515 @ 525 –526 – per Lord Machnaghten; Susquehanna (1926) A.C. 615 @ 661 – per Lord Dunedin; Messrs Dumez (Nig.) Ltd. v. Ogboli (1972) 1 All NLR (Pt.1) 241 @ 249 -250; Odulaja v. Haddad (1973) 11 s.c. 357; ACME Builders
Ltd. v. Kaduna State Water Board & anor. (1999) 2 NWLR (Pt.590) 288 @ 305 – 306, 309; (1999) 2 SCNJ 25 and The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nig. Ltd. & 4 ors v Chief Trebo VII (2005) 4 SCNJ. 39 @ 57; (2005) 3 – 4 S. C. 137 just to mention but a few.
Exemplary, Punitive, vindictive or Aggravated damages where claimed, are usually awarded, whenever the defendant or defendants conduct, is sufficiently, outrageous to merit punishment as where for instance, it discloses malice, fraud, cruelty, insolence, or flagrant disregard of the law and the like. See the cases of Ellochin (Nig.) Ltd. & ors. v. Mbadiwe (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.14) 47; (1986) ANLR 1; Shugaba Abdulrahman Derman v. Minister of Internal Affairs (1981) 2 NCLR 459; (/983) 3 NCLR 915; FRA WILLIAMS v. Daily Times of Nig. Ltd. (1990) 1 SCNJ 1 @ 22 – 23; Odogu v. Attornev-General o(the Federation & 6 ors. (1996) 6 NWLR (Pt.456) 508 @ 513; (1996) 7 SCNJ. 132 @ 139, 141 – 142 – per Ogundare, JSC, Allied Bank of Nigeria Ltd. v Akubueze (1997) 6 SCNJ. 116 @ 143 – 144 and Odiba v Azege (1998) 9 NWLR (Pt.566) 370.-(1998) 7 SCNJ. 119 @ 135 – per Iguh, JSC just to mention but a few.
The award made by the trial court, was in its discretion which the court -below, did not disturb or interfere with, but affirmed the same.
I will now deal with an alternative claim and the duty of the court in such a claim. Where a claim is in the alternative, the court should first consider whether the principal or main claim, ought to have succeeded. It is only after the court may have found that it could not for any reason, grant the principal or main claim, that it would now consider the alternative
claim. See the case of Mercantile Bank of Nig. Ltd. v. Adalma Tanker & Bunkering Services Ltd.(1990) NWLR (Pt.153) 747. In other words, where there are alternative reliefs as in the instant case leading to this appeal, once one of the reliefs is granted, the other relief cannot be granted as there would be no need to do so. See the cases of William Agidigbi v. Danaha Agidigbi & 2 ors. (1996) NWLR (Pt.454) 303, 313; (1996) 6 SCNJ 105; Chief Yesufu & anor. v Kupper International N. V (1996) 4 SCNJ 40 and Gaii & 2 ors. v. Paye (2003) 5 SCNJ 20.
In other words again, an alternative award, is an award that can be made instead of another. It is a separate claim and a separate award. It is not an additional award otherwise, it would amount to double compensation which must be avoided. See the cases of The M.V ‘Caroline Maersk’ etc. & 2 ors. v.Nokoy Investment Ltd. (2002) 6 SCNJ 208 @ 224; Kaycee v. F.S.C. Ltd. (1986) 2 NWLR (Pt.23) 458; Egharevba v. Oruonghae (2001) 11 NWLR (Pt. 724) 318 @ 340 C.A. and Ajao v. Adenola (2005) 3 NWLR (Pt.913) 630 @ 660-661 C.A.
I will add quickly as this is also settled, that there is nothing in a plaintiff or party in an action, to include in his pleadings, two or more inconsistent sets of material facts and claim reliefs thereunder, in the alternative. See the case of S.C.E.I. v Odenewu & anor. (1965) 2 ANLR 138. In other words, it cannot be disputed that either party to a suit may, in a proper case, include in his pleadings, alternative and inconsistent allegations of material facts, as or so long as he does so separately and distinctly. A plaintiff is thus entitled to plead two
Mr. C .I. Uruakpa for the Appellant.
Mr. Mosediq A. Kazeem, with him M. T. Kura for the Respondent.