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NATURE OF PRE-JUDGEMENT INTEREST

Dictum

The law on pre-judgment interest is that it is to be awarded where there is an agreement for payment of interest or under mercantile custom or under principle of equity, as in breach of fiduciary duty. In all such cases the law is that pre-judgment interest is as of right. The Appellant is no doubt a licensed Commercial Bank and thus bound by its trade custom to give interest on money lodged with it. The law requires a person claiming such right to pre-judgment interest to so plead and prove at the trial. In law generally the Courts have the power to award post-judgment interest but not pre-judgment interest since pre-judgment interest which must be based on pleadings and proof by the party so claiming entitlement to it save if it is part of the mercantile custom of the transaction involving the parties. In all therefore, it is never granted as of course, but must either be part of the contemplation of the parties by virtue of their contract terms or mercantile custom of fiduciary duty or it is specifically pleaded and proved. In Ferrero and Company Ltd. v. Henkel Chemicals Nigeria Ltd. (2011) LPELR 12 (SC). His Lordship, Onnoghen, JSC (as he then was, now CJN) had expatiated on the rationale behind this principle of law inter alia thus: It follows that before a party can claim pre-judgment interest, he has to plead not only his entitlement to the interest but the basis of the entitlement either by Statute or contract/agreement between the parties, or mercantile custom or principle of equity, such as breach of fiduciary relationship. It is not for the Court to speculate or conjecture or assume the facts relevant to the claim. The relevant facts must be pleaded, as fact not pleaded goes to no issue. In addition to the requirement of pleading the relevant facts, the Plaintiff must adduce evidence at the trial in proof of the relevant facts. Where there is no evidence in proof of the facts, then the pleadings are deemed abandoned. See also UBA Plc. v. Oranuba (2013) LPELR- 20692 (CA). See also Hausa v. FBN Plc (2000) 9 NWLR (Pt. 671) 64; Ekwunife v. Wayne W/A Ltd (1989) NWLR (Pt. 122) 422: Hinma Merchant Ltd v. Alhaji Inuwa Aliyu (1994) 5 NWLR (Pt. 347) 667 @ pp. 676-677; Stabilini Visinoni Ltd v. Metalum Ltd. (2007) LPELR-8661 (CA) UBN Ltd v. Salami (1998) 3 NWLR (Pt. 538) 347: Idakula v. Richards (2000) FWLR (Pt. 14) 2439; Jallco Ltd. v. Owoniboys Tech Serv. Ltd. (1995) 4 NWLR (Pt. 391) 534 @ p. 550; Petgas Resources Ltd. v. Louts N. Mbanefo (2007) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1031) 545 @ p. 549; Consolidated Resources Limited v. Abofar Ventures Nigeria Limited (2007) 6 NWLR (pt. 1030) 225.

— B.A. Georgewill JCA. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc V. Longterm Global Capital Limited & Ors. (CA/L/427/2016, 9 Mar 2018)

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CLAIM FOR INTEREST MUST BE SPECIFICALLY PLEADED

Also, the law is now clear that a claim for interest must be specifically pleaded. Some of the pleading requirements may be summarized as follows: If the claim for interest is under a contract, express or implied or under mercantile usage, the relevant contractual term or any other relevant facts and matters relied upon for the entitlement must be specifically pleaded. If the plaintiff claims interest under the equitable jurisdiction of the court, he must plead all the relevant facts and matters relied upon to support such claim (See Bullen and Leake and Jacobs, (13th Ed.) pp. 567 – 8). It is evident that the appellant had completely ignored these requirements.

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

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INTEREST IS NOT PAYABLE ON ORDINARY DEBT

Ordinarily, interest is not payable on ordinary debt in purely commercial transaction, in the absence of a term to that effect expressly or impliedly in the contract or mercantile usage or custom of the parties or as may be contained in a statute. It may also be in place through fiduciary relationship between the parties. See; RNA Ekwunife V. Wayne (West Africa) Ltd. (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt.122) 422 at 455.

— O. Ariwoola, JSC. African Intl. Bank Ltd. v Integrated Dimensional System (2012) – SC.278/2002

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REVERSIONARY INTEREST CANNOT BE SOLD WHEN ANOTHER IS IN POSSESSION

It appears to me to be the law that a reversioner, such as the 2nd respondent, cannot sell his reversionary interest, that is his particular estate, as fee simple while another person is in possession of the land. He must first either first recover possession from that other person in possession or sell his reversionary interest subject to that person’s possession. For what the reversioner has in such a case is the freehold reversion subject to the possession in another person and not a fee simple absolute free from incumberances. It must be noted that interests in land, whether legal or equitable, are carved out as it were on a plane of time. Any holder of a particular interest or estate who attempts to sell more than the quantum of his estate will be caught by the maxim: nemo dat quod non habet (no one can give or sell what he has not).

– Nnaemeka-agu, JSC. Ude v. Nwara (1993)

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EVEN WHERE INTEREST IS NOT CLAIMED, COURT MAY AWARD INTEREST

It has been held in effect “that in purely commercial transactions a party who holds on to the money of another and keeps it for a long time without any justification and thus deprives that other of the use of funds for the period should be liable to pay compensation by way of interests.” See; Nigerian General Superintendence Co. Ltd. Vs Nigeria Ports Authority (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt.129) 71, Adeyemi V. Lan & Baker (Nig.) Ltd (2000) 7 NWLR (Pt.653) 33. However even where interest is not claimed in the Writ of Summons, the Court is entitled, in appropriate cases, to award interest in the form of consequential order. See; N.G.S.O. Ltd V. N.P.A. (supra) Ferrero & Co. Ltd. V. Henkel (Nig) Ltd. (2011) 8 SCM1 at 11.

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SUPREME COURT JUDICIAL NOTICE ON INTEREST RATE

The matter is not made easy by their claiming that they agreed on the interest rate of 13% when there was no such clause in the deed of legal mortgage and when it is a well-known fact which this court takes judicial notice of that interest rates are dependent of the policy on the Central Bank. No interest rate is static. It is not immutable. It varies depending on the nature of Government policy which follows the state of the economy.

– Pats-Acholonu, J.S.C. Pinder v. North (2004)

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TWO CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE INTEREST MAY BE AWARDED

Interest may be awarded in a case in two distinct circumstances, namely: (i) As of right: and (ii) Where there is a power conferred by statute to do so, in exercise of the Court’s discretion. Interest may be claimed as a right where it is contemplated by the agreement between the parties, or under a mercantile custom, or under a principle of equity such as breach of a fiduciary relationship. Where interest is being claimed as a matter of right, the proper practice is to claim entitlement to it on the writ and plead facts which show such an entitlement in the statement of claim. See Per NNAEMEKA-AGU, JSC in EKWUNIFE V. WAYNE WEST AFRICA LTD (1989) LPELR-1104(SC) (PP. 33-42, PARAS. C-A).

— U.M. Abba Aji, JSC. Cappa v NDIC (2021) – SC.147/2006

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