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IN RECEIVERSHIP COMPANY DOES NOT LOSE ITS LEGAL PERSONALITY

Dictum

It is important to appreciate the fact that the company neither loses its legal personality nor its title to the goods in the receivership.

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

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TESTIFY: ANY OFFICIAL CAN TESTIFY FOR A COMPANY

It is not necessary that it is only that person who carried out the function on behalf of the company that must testify. Not at all, as any official of the company well equipped with the transaction and or related documents would suffice to testify. – Peter-Odili JSC. Chemiron v. Stabilini (2018)

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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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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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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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LEAVE OF COURT BEFORE SUING A COMPANY UNDER LIQUIDATION

Let me quickly state that Section 417 of Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990 is in all fours with Section 580 of Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020. Now Section 417 of Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990 provides:- “…if a winding up order is made or a provisional liquidator is appointed, no action or proceedings shall be proceeded with against the company except by leave of the Court.” The above provision is very clear and unambiguous. It means clearly that if a winding up order is made or a provisional liquidator is appointed, no action or proceedings shall be proceeded with against the company undergoing liquidation. The intendment of the said provision is not to stop an aggrieved party from proceeding against the company which has been issued a winding up order or which a provisional liquidator has been appointed, but that leave of Court must be sought and obtained before commencing the action or proceedings.

— J.I. Okoro, JSC. Universal Properties v. Pinnacle Comm. Bank, NJA, Opia, Heritage, Fatogun (SC.332/2008, Friday, April 08, 2022)

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APPELLANT CASE WAS BASED ON THE POST-INCORPORATION CONTRACT

The facts averred in the statement of claim which are deemed to be true for the purpose of the objection taken in limine show that the appellant and the 1st respondent company entered into a new contract in the terms of the preincorporation contract after the 1st respondent company had been incorporated. In the circumstance, the rule of company law that a company is not bound by a preincorporation agreement entered into by its promoters and that the company cannot ratify such agreement after its incorporation is inapplicable to the facts of the case as pleaded in the statement of claim. As the appellant alleged that his claim was founded on the post-incorporation agreement whereas the respondents said the claim was based on the preincorporation contract, the dispute cannot be resolved in limine. The issue can only be determined upon the hearing of the case on the merits.

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

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