THE MEANING OF JUDGMENT IS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE
CASE TITLE: AKOSILE v. OANDO (2020) LPELR-50808(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 17TH SEPTEMBER, 2020
PRACTICE AREA: LABOUR LAW
LEAD JUDGMENT: OBANDE FESTUS OGBUINYA, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on Labour Law.
This appeal is against the decision of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Lagos Division, coram judice: J.D. Peters, J., in Suit No. NICN/LA/77/2013, delivered on 3rd December, 2015.
In 1991, the appellant was employed by the defunct AGIP (Nigeria) Limited which ultimately metamorphosed into the respondent. The respondent is an incorporated company that deals in sales of petroleum products at various outlets across the country. The appellant, during his employment with the respondent, was the sales manager of its service station at Itori, Ogun State, under the dealership of one Akeem Odunlami. The said Akeem Odunlami was indebted to the respondent under the Trade Account Receivables (TAR). The respondent asked the appellant to explain his involvement/participation in the indebtedness. The appellant offered his written explanation. The respondent set up a Disciplinary Committee which invited the appellant for his defence. Later on, the respondent terminated his employment, on 25th August 2004, and stated that his terminal benefits would be paid to him on completion of police investigation and recovery of the outstanding debt from Akeem Odunlami. The appellant alleged that the police exonerated him of any criminal acts against the respondent’s property and Akeem Odunlami paid the debt. The respondent refused to pay the appellant his terminal benefits despite the exoneration and discharge of the debt. Sequel to that, the appellant approached the trial Court, via a complaint filed on 19th February 2013, and tabled against the respondent the following reliefs:
i. Sum of N13,700,000.00 (Thirteen Million, Seven Hundred Thousand Naira) being the terminal benefit due to the Claimant which the Defendant has refused neglected to pay despite persistent and repeated demands.
ii. Interest at the rate of 25% from the 25th day of August, 2004 until judgment and thereafter until final liquidation of the judgment debt.
iii. The sum of N5,000,000.00 (Five Million Naira) in cost and legal fees for prosecuting this suit.
In reaction, the respondent joined issue with the appellant and denied liability. It filed a statement of defence wherein it asserted that Akeem Odunlami had not discharged his debt to it.
In a considered judgment, delivered on 3rd December, 2015, the trial Court dismissed the appellant’s claim.
The appellant was dissatisfied with the decision. Hence, he filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
The Court determined the appeal based on the following issues for determination:
1. Whether in view of the extant provisions of Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic 1999 (As amended) Sections 19, 20 & 123 of the Evidence Act, 2011 (As amended) the learned trial judge was right to have delved into extraneous issues not raised by the parties in their respective pleadings suo motu without affording the Appellant the right to be heard on the point?
2. Whether the learned trial judge properly directed himself in ruling that admitted facts be proved in spite of the extant provisions of Sections 19, 20 & 123 of the Evidence Act, 2011?
3. Whether in view of ‘the state of the parties’ pleadings filed, exhibits, admitted facts and the undisputed claim, the learned trial judge did not reach a perverse judgment in holding that the claim was not established?
In the final analysis, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and affirmed the trial Court’s judgment.
- EVIDENCE – WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE: Meaning of judgment is against the weight of evidence; what the Court must consider to ascertain the weight to be attached to evidence
- JUDGMENT AND ORDER – PERVERSE DECISION: When a decision of Court is said to be perverse
- WORDS AND PHRASES – “CONDITION PRECEDENT”: Meaning of “condition precedent”
- COURT – RAISING ISSUE(S) SUO MOTU: Instance when a Court cannot be accused of raising issue suo motu