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FRAUD LIFTS VEIL OF INCORPORATION

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One of the occasions when the veil of incorporation will be lifted is when the Company is liable for fraud as in the instant case. – Galadima JSC. Alade v. Alic (2010)

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AT COMMON LAW, PRE-INCORPORATION CONTRACT IS NULL – HOWEVER

At common law a company before its incorporation has no capacity to contract. Consequently, nobody can contract for it as Agent nor can a pre-incorporation contract be ratified by the company after its incorporation -Transbridge Co. Ltd. v. Survey International Co. Ltd. (1986) 17 NSCC 1084; (1986) 4 NWLR (Pt. 37) 576; Edokpolo & Co. Ltd. v. Sem-EdoWire Industries Ltd. & Ors. (1984) 7 SC 119; Sparks Electrics (Nig.) Ltd. v. Ponmile (1986) 2 NWLR 579; Enahoro v.I.B.WA. Ltd. (1971) 1 NCLR 180; Kelner v. Baxter (1867) LR 2CP 174; Natal Land and Colonisation Co. v. Pauline Syndicate (1904) AC 120. The rationale for this rule was stated at page 183 of the report by Erle, C.J. in Kelner v. Baxter in these words: “………………….as there was no company in existence at the time, the agreement would be wholly inoperative unless it were held to be binding on the defendants personally. The cases referred to in the course of the argument fully bear out the proposition that, where a contract is signed by one who professes to be signing ‘as agent’, but who has no principal existing at the time, and the contract would be altogether inoperative unless binding upon the person who signed it, he is bound thereby: and a stranger cannot by a subsequent ratification relieve him from that responsibility. When the company came afterwards into existence it was a totally new creature, having rights and obligations from that time, but no rights or obligations by reason of anything which might have been done before.” The company can, however, after its incorporation, enter into a new contract to put into effect the terms of the pre-incorporation contract – Touche v. Metropolitan Railway Warehousing Co. (1871) 6 Ch. App 671; Howard v. Patent Ivory Manufacturing Co. (1888) 38 Ch D 156.

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

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THE STATUTE OF FRAUDS WILL NOT BE USED AS AN ENGINE OF FRAUD FOR WANT OF WRITING

He is bound by his bond, notwithstanding that the transaction is not evidenced in writing. Generally, section 4 of the Statute of Frauds requires that a transaction dealing with interest in land should be by a note or memorandum in writing. On the application of the Statute of Frauds, the Full Court of Divisional Court of Nigeria refused to lay it down as a strict rule of law that land, the property of an illiterate native, cannot be disposed of by him without complying with statute. See Bintu Alake and Ashafa Lawal v. Awawu 11 NLR 39,40 and Ashabi Okoleji v. M.A. Okupe 15 NLR 28. The parties to the instant appeal, as can be garnered from the record of proceedings are illiterates and on those authorities, the fact that the transaction is not in writing is not prejudicial.

— Salami, JCA. Manya v Idris (2000) – CA/K/29/97

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

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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FRAUD VITIATES; FRAUD MUST BE PLEADED AND PROVED STRICTLY

In the Duchess of Kingston’s Case (1775-1802) All E. R. Rep. 623 at 629 De Grey C. J., held that: “…Fraud is an extrinsic, collateral act, which vitiates the most solemn proceedings of Courts of Justice. LORD COKE says, it avoids all judicial acts, ecclesiastical or temporal.” Again in Fabunmi vs. Agbe (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 2) 299, Obaseki, JSC held at page 319 paragraph “C” that: “…Fraud is a serious crime and in civil matters, the particulars must be pleaded and proved strictly.”

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A COMPANY’S LEGAL PERSONALITY DIES AT THE DEATH OF THE COMPANY

A company is a legal person with legal capacity to sue or be sued. That legal personality and capacity continues until the company dies a legal death in the process, and as a result of winding up and dissolution.

– Oputa, JSC. Intercontractors v. National Provident (1988)

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