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FOREIGN COMPANY NOT INCORPORATED IN NIGERIA CAN SUE IN NIGERIA

Dictum

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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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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COMPANY WILL NOT BE USE AS AN INSTRUMENT OF FRAUD

It must be stated unequivocally that this court, as the last court of the land, will not allow a party to use its company as a cover to dupe, cheat and or defraud an innocent citizen who entered into lawful contract with the company, only to be confronted, with the defence of the company’s legal entity as distinct from its directors. Most companies in this country are owned and managed solely by an individual, while registering the members of his family as the share holders. Such companies are nothing more than one-man-business; hence, the tendency is there to enter into contract in such company name and later turn around to claim that he was not a party to the agreement since the company is a legal entity.

– MUNTAKA-COMASSIE JSC. Alade v. Alic (2010)

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CAMA ALLOWS COMPANIES TO RATIFY PRE-INCORPORATION CONTRACT

The intention of the legislature in enacting sections 72(i), 624(i), and 626 of CAMA is quite clear. It is relevant to re-emphasis that the rule of construction of statute is to adhere to the ordinary meaning of the words used according to the intent of the legislature. The provisions of sections 624(1) and 626 make it abundantly clear that existing companies who wish to ratify pre-incorporation contract agreements could do so because the Act (CAMA) applied to them. In section 650(i), the interpretation of words used in part A of CAMA, “Company or existing company means: a company formed and registered under this Act or, as the case may be, formed and registered in Nigeria before and in existence on the commencement of this Act”.

— U. Mohammed, JSC. Societe Favouriser v. Societe Generale (1997) – SC.126/1994

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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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ILLEGAL TO BUY CHATTEL/COMMODITY SIMPLY TO PUT THE OTHER JUST IN FUNDS ONLY

This reasoning assumes, as I understand it, that if the transaction under consideration is genuinely regarded by the parties as a sound commercial transaction negotiated at arm’s length and capable of justification on purely commercial grounds, it cannot offend against s.54 [Companies Act 1948]. This is, I think, a broader proposition than the proposition which the judge treated as having been accepted by counsel for Belmont. If A Ltd buys from B a chattel or a commodity, like a ship or merchandise, which A Ltd genuinely wants to acquire for its own purposes, and does so having no other purpose in view, the fact that B thereafter employs the proceeds of the sale in buying shares in A Ltd should not, I would suppose, be held to offend against the section; but the position may be different if A Ltd makes the purchase in order to put B in funds to buy shares in A Ltd. If A Ltd buys something from B without regard to its own commercial interests, the sole purpose of the transaction being to put B in funds to acquire shares in A Ltd, this would, in my opinion, clearly contravene the section, even if the price paid was a fair price for what is bought, and a fortiori that would be so if the sale to A Ltd was at an inflated price. The sole purpose would be to enable (ie to assist) B to pay for the shares. If A Ltd buys something from B at a fair price, which A Ltd could readily realise on a resale if it wished to do so, but the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the transaction is to put B in funds to acquire shares of A Ltd, the fact that the price was fair might not, I think, prevent the transaction from contravening the section, if it would otherwise do so, though A Ltd could very probably recover no damages in civil proceedings, for it would have suffered no damage. If the transaction is of a kind which A Ltd could in its own commercial interests legitimately enter into, and the transaction is genuinely entered into by A Ltd in its own commercial interests and not merely as a means of assisting B financially to buy shares of A Ltd, the circumstance that A Ltd enters into the transaction with B, partly with the object of putting B in funds to acquire its own shares or with the knowledge of B’s intended use of the proceeds of sale, might, I think, involve no contravention of the section, but I do not wish to express a concluded opinion on that point.

— Buckley LJ. Belmont v Williams [1980] 1 ALL ER 393

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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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