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INCORPORATED LTD. LIABILITY COMPANY IS DISTINCT FROM HER SHAREHOLDERS/DIRECTORS

Dictum

In NEW NIGERIAN NEWSPAPERS LTD. V. AGBOMABINI (2013) LPELR-20741(CA) held that: “An incorporated limited liability company is always regarded as a separate and distinct entity from its shareholders and directors. The consequence of recognizing the separate personality of a company is to draw the veil of incorporation over the company. No one is entitled to go behind the veil. This corporate shell shall however be cracked in the interest of justice” Per ABIRU, J.C.A. (Pp. 40-41, Paras. F-E).

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A COMPANY IS NOT BOUND BY A PRE-INCORPORATION CONTRACT

It is now a settled principle of company law that a company is not bound by a preincorporation contract being a contract entered into by parties when it was not in existence. No one can contract as agent of such a proposed company there being no principal in existence to bind. It is also settled that after incorporation a company cannot ratify such a contract purported to be made on its behalf before incorporation … But there is nothing preventing the company after incorporation from entering into a new contract to put into effect the terms of the preincorporation contract. This new contract can be in express terms or can be implied from the acts of the company after incorporation as well as from the minutes of its general meetings and board meetings.

— Nnamani, JSC. Edokpolo v. Sem-Edo & Ors. (1984) – SC.89/1983

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COMPANY CANNOT ACT ON ITS OWN, BUT ACT THROUGH HUMAN BEINGS

It is now trite in law that a company or corporate body not being a human being cannot act on its own and so carries out activities through human beings who are the operators or managers of the corporate body and so the manager or operators do not become personally liable for acts carried out for and on behalf of the company in the management or day to day business of the company. The follow up is that the company is an abstraction and operates through living persons and so an officer of the company takes an action in furtherance of the affairs of the company who is the principal and it is that principal that is liable for any infraction occasioned by those acts and not the official or employee. SeeN.N.S.C. v Sabana Company Ltd (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt.74) 23; Yusuf v Kupper International NV (1996) 4 NWLR (Pt.446) 17; UBN Ltd v Edet (1993) 4 NWLR (Pt.287) 288; Niger Progress Limited v North East Line Corporation (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt 107) 68.

— Tanko Muhammad, JSC. Berger v Toki Rainbow (2019) – SC.332/2009

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WHO MAY SUE FOR INJURIES DONE TO THE COMPANY

Jenkins, L.J. in Edwards Vs Halliwell (1950) 2 ALL ER 1084 @ 1066, where His Lordship held inter alia: “The rule in Foss Vs Harbottle, as I understand it, comes to no more than this. First, the proper plaintiff in an action in respect of a wrong alleged to be done to a company or association of persons is prima facie the company or the association of persons itself. Secondly, where the alleged wrong is a transaction which might be made binding on the company or association and or all its members by a simple majority of the members, no individual member of the company is allowed to maintain an action in respect of that matter for the simple reason that if a mere majority of the company or association is in favour of what has been done, then cadit quaestio. Thus, the company or association is the proper plaintiff in all actions in respect of injuries done to it. No individual will be allowed to bring actions in respect of acts done to the company which could be ratified by a simple majority of its members. Hence the rule does not apply where the act complained of was ultra vires the company, or illegal or constituted a fraud on the minority and the wrongdoers are in the majority and in control of the company.”

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FOREIGN COMPANY NOT INCORPORATED IN NIGERIA CAN SUE IN NIGERIA

On this appeal, it was argued by counsel on behalf of the respondent that even though it may be a legal entity in its country of incorporation, it had no artificial personality in Nigeria since the Companies Act is silent on whether a company such as the appellant would be allowed to sue or not. That submission is misconceived. The principle of law that a foreign corporation, duly created according to the laws of a foreign state recognized by Nigeria, may sue or be sued in its corporate name in our courts is part of the common law. The suggestion that a foreign company duly incorporated outside Nigeria should first be registered in Nigeria under the provisions of the Companies Act, 1968 (which was then the applicable statute) dealing with registration of foreign companies, notwithstanding that it does not fall into the category of foreign company” as defined by that Act, is too preposterous and patently inimical to international trade to merit any prolonged or serious consideration. It suffices to say that the appellant company which was admitted by the respondent to be a limited liability company with its registered office in Copenhagen properly sued in its corporate name.

— Ayoola, JSC. Saeby v. Olaogun (1999) – SC.261/1993

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ANY OFFICIAL CAN GIVE TESTIMONY FOR A COMPANY

Comet Shipp. Agencies Ltd v. Babbit Ltd (2001) FWLR (Pt. 40) 1630, (2001) 7 NWLR (Pt. 712) 442, 452 paragraph B, per Galadima JCA (as he then was ) held that: “Companies have no flesh and blood. Their existence is a mere legal abstraction. They must therefore, of necessity, act through their directors, managers and officials. Any official of a company well placed to have personal knowledge of any particular transaction in which a company is engaged can give evidence of such transaction.”

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COMPANY’S DIRECTORS MAY DEAL WITH ASSET OUTSIDE RECEIVERSHIP

The Receivership in the instant case which does not necessarily result in the liquidation or winding up of the company, the right to deal with the assets in the receivership are revived at the termination of the receivership. In all cases the right of the directors of the Company to deal with the assets of the company not in receivership or other matters not suspended are not affected by the appointment of a Receiver/Manager over the assets of the Company. The directors of the company do not by virtue of a receivership become functus afficio for all purposes of the company.

– Karibi-whyte, JSC. Intercontractors v. National Provident (1988)

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