[PDF copy of this judgment can be sent to your email for N300 only. Just order through email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org or text 07067102097]
NATIONAL ELECTRIC POWER AUTHORITY
CHIEF ETIM INAMETI
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL
11 NWLR (Pt. 778) 397
BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS:
DENNIS ONYEJIFE EDOZIE, JCA (Presided and delivered the leading judgment)
OKWUCHUKWU OPENE, JCA
SIMEON OSUJI EKPE, JCA
Imo Inyang Esq. for the appellant.
Chief Orok Oyo for the respondent.
ENERGY LAW – ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION:- Billing of electricity consumer – Outrageous or scandalous billing – Whether can found a claim for damages under the tort of defamation (libel) against electricity company – Relevant considerations
TORT AND PERSONAL INJURIES:– Defamation – Publication of defamatory statement by plaintiff – Whether actionable
TORT AND PERSONAL INJURY:– Libel – Duty of Judge in an action for libel – Test for determining whether words complained of are in the natural and ordinary meaning defamatory – Duty of plaintiff relying on innuendo in an action for libel.
TORT AND PERSONAL INJURIES:- Defamation – Defamatory statement – Meaning of – Duty on plaintiff to plead the precise defamatory words in the statement of claim – Effect of failure thereto – Excessive and scandalous electricity bill – Whether capable of founding an action in libel
TORT AND PERSONAL INJURIES:- Defamation – Requirement for publication – Meaning of – How proved – Onus of proof – On whom lies – Publication by agent of plaintiff – Publication with consent – Self-publication – Meanings and effect – When self publication would be deemed valid and actionable against maker of libelous content – Publication to members of one’s family – Need to plead and prove publication alleged
ELDERS LAW:- Elderly pensioner given scandalous and excessive electricity bills – Failure to rectify same after several petitions – Use of third party agent to pay bill due to advanced age – Publication of alleged defamatory content through such agent – – Whether can sustain a claim for defamation
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – ACTION:- Undefended case – Implication for the rule that a plaintiff must succed on the strength of his case and not on the weakness of the defence – Duty of court thereto
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – APPEAL:– Award of damages by trial court –Attitude of appellate court to invitation to interfere therewith – Principles governing when an appellate court will interfere with same
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – APPEAL:– Findings of fact by trial court – Where not supported by evidence on record – Principles governing when an appellate court will review same
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – APPEAL:– Issues for determination – Need to relate same to grounds of appeal – Ground of appeal from which no issue is distilled – Issue not connected to any ground of appeal – Competence – Need to avoid proliferation of issues – Ideal way to formulate issues
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – DAMAGES:– Award of damages by trial court – Duty of trial court thereto – When nominal damages would be appropriate – Principles governing when an appellate court will interfere with same.
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – EVIDENCE:– Burden of proof in civil proceedings – Burden on plaintiff to establish prima facie case before the burden of rebuttal shifts to the defendant – Circumstance in which the need for proof can be dispensed with
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – EVIDENCE:– Uncontradicted and unchallenged evidence – Duty of court to act on same – Whether does not preclude the corollary duty of court to evaluate the evidence for its sufficiency in establishing that which it asserts – Proper treatment
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – PLEADINGS:- Rule that parties are bound by their pleadings – Unpleaded facts – Evidence led thereon – Effect .
DENNIS ONYEJIFE EDOZIE, JCA: (Delivered the following judgment):
This appeal raises a rather novel question as to whether an electricity bill showing arrears of cost of electricity used by a consumer is libelous of that consumer. This issue arose in a suit No. C/305/95 dated 14th June, 1995 filed at the Calabar High Court wherein the respondent herein as plaintiff sought against the defendant therein, now appellant reliefs set out in the writ of summons and paragraph 13 of the statement of claim as follows:-
“(1) N200,000.00 (Two hundred thousand naira) damages for the defamation of the plaintiff’s character by reason of the malicious publication of scandalous bills against the plaintiff inspite of repeated protests and warnings from the plaintiff.
(2) Perpetual injunction restraining the defendant by itself or through its agents or servants howsoever from publishing any further scandalous bills against the plaintiff”.
The initiating process, that is, the writ of summons on which was endorsed a thirteen paragraphed statement of claim of the plaintiff was served on the defendant but it refused or neglected to file a statement of defence. Subsequent proceedings in the case commenced on 23rd of October 1995 and in the process the plaintiff testified as PW1 and called one other witness (PW2) in an effort to establish his case. The record of appeal shows that although the defendant was duly served with all the relevant court processes for the proceedings it never showed up either through its officials or counsel.
The facts giving rise to the case may be summarized as hereunder: The plaintiff, age 72, is a pensioner having retired from government service as a Senior Accountant. He resides at No. 13 Inyang Street/Atuabom Street, Calabar where an electric meter is installed and maintained for the purpose of recording energy consumed at the aforesaid residence. Since the year 1972, the plaintiff had been a customer of the defendant authority a public body which generates and supplies electricity to numerous consumers including the plaintiff. The business relationship between the parties had been cordial over the years until about November 1993 when, as reflected in the plaintiff’s electricity bill of that month, the meter reading which had in the past been recording figures in four digits showed figures in five digits. Thus in the said bill of November 1993, the meter reading as recorded was 71212 instead of 7121 indicating the consumption of 64,243 units of electricity instead of 152 and the consequential inflated cost of N12,500.00 instead of N34.00. It is the plaintiff’s case that upon noticing these anomalies or irregularities he wrote protest letters exhibits 1, 2 and 3 to the defendant and these were followed by his solicitor’s letter to the defendant exhibit 4. Despite these protest letters, the defendant continued to send to the plaintiff electricity bills computed on the basis of the figures from the meter reading with the result that in the May 1994 bill exhibit 7 and April 1995 bill exhibit 13, the amounts shown to be due for payment as arrears were N28,982.54k and N24,206.04 respectively. To avoid disconnection of energy supply from his residence, the plaintiff paid piecemeal small amounts on the bills presented the receipts of which payments were acknowledged on the bills exhibits 5 to 11. The plaintiff contends that he was in no way indebted to the defendant as falsely represented in the May 1994 and April 1995 bills exhibits 7 and 13 which he described as scandalous and defamatory of his character. It is his further contention that the publication of the defendant’s scandalous bills to various agencies including his (plaintiff’s) boyhood friend, one Etinyin Etubom Essien Ita (PW2) was intended and has been understood to represent him (plaintiff) as grossly irresponsible and not fit to command the respect he enjoys in the eyes of right thinking members of the society.
At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case followed by an address of his counsel, the learned trial Judge, O. Ita J, as he then was, in a reserved judgment delivered on 16th January 1997 entered judgment in favour of the plaintiff in terms of his claims. In challenge of that judgment, the defendant as appellant has lodged the instant appeal premised on four grounds of appeal which shorn of their particulars are:-
Ground 1: The learned trial Judge erred in law in holding that the plaintiff had proved his case of defamation and entitled to the reliefs sought.
Ground 2: The learned trial Judge erred in law in holding that giving erroneous electric bills to the plaintiff despite protest and warnings from plaintiff was defamatory of him when such was not capable of a defamatory meaning having regard to the relationship of the parties and all the circumstances of the case.
Grounds 3: The learned trial Judge erred in law when he failed to assess and or evaluate the evidence before him before arriving at the conclusion and judgment in this matter.
Ground 4: The learned trial Judge erred in law when he failed to assess the damages claimed nor applied appropriate principles and considerations known to assessment of damages in libel cases but proceeded arbitrarily to hold that the plaintiff was entitled to the colossal sum of N200,000 (Two hundred thousand naira) as claimed and thereby came to a wrong decision and award.
In the briefs filed in prosecution of the appeal, three issues were identified by the appellant’s counsel as arising for the determination of the appeal, viz:-
“1. Whether the plaintiff’s/respondent’s case of defamation was proved having regard to the pleadings, evidence adduced before the court and the law.
On his part, respondent’s counsel in his brief formulated a lone issue for determination which reads thus:
“Whether in the light of the facts of this case, the trial Judge was right in law in proceeding to hear and grant all the reliefs as claimed in the libel suit which was undefended and if any miscarriage of justice had occurred.”
In formulating this lone issue, counsel to the respondent had contended in his brief of argument that none of the issues formulated by the appellant’s counsel supports grounds 2 of the grounds of appeal which it was submitted had been abandoned on the authority of the case of Ugo v. Obiekwe & Anor. (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 99) 566. No doubt, in the practice of brief writing, it is an elementary principle that issues formulated for determination in a brief must arise from and be related to the grounds of appeal. Any issue not supported by a ground of appeal is incompetent and ought to be discountenanced vide: Osinupebi v. Saibu (1982) 7 S.C. 104 at 110-111; Western Steel Works Ltd v. Iron and Steel Workers Union of Nigeria (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 49) 284 at 304. As a corrolary, a ground of appeal not related to any of the issues for determination is deemed to have been abandoned vide Aja v. Okoro (1991) 7 NWLR (Pt. 203) 260 at 272 – 273; Bakare v. L.S.C.S.C. (1992) 8 NWLR (Pt. 262) 641 at 687; Buhari v. Takuma (1994) 2 NWLR (Pt. 325) 183 at 190; Ogunlade v. Adeleye (1992) 8 NWLR (Pt. 260) 409.
I have carefully examined the respondent’s contention that none of the appellant’s issues for determination relates to ground 2 of the grounds of appeal, I am however unable to agree with that contention. It is my considered view that appellant’s issue No. 1 is distilled from grounds 1 and 2 of the grounds of appeal. It is not the practice that an issue should be distilled from each ground of appeal. Rather, several related grounds of appeal are combined to raise an issue for determination. The ideal is to formulate an issue as encompassing more than one ground of appeal: see Agbetoba v. Lagos State Executive Council (1991) 4 NWLR (Pt. 188) 644. Being of the view that the appellant’s issues for determination are appropriately related to the grounds of appeal, I will adopt those issues in the consideration of the merit of this appeal.
In regard to the first and second issues for determination which were argued together, it is submitted in the appellant’s brief of argument that the publication complained of as grounding the action are not capable of any defamatory meaning as reasonable men in Nigeria would not understand the publication of electricity bills in a libelous sense, citing the case of Dumbo v. Idugboe (1983) 1 SCNLR 29 at 48. It was contended that the fact that the respondent was being permitted to pay small amounts on the bills was a clear indication to any right thinking man in the circumstances that the content of the electricity bills complained of could not be taken seriously; that no reasonable man could have understood them in a libelous sense nor could they have caused the respondent to be shunned, ridiculed or brought into hatred and contempt. It was argued that the various libelous imputations pleaded in paragraph10 of the statement of claim are meanings
“which only persons setting themselves to work to deduce some unusual meaning might succeed in extracting from them, whereas the law is concerned with only the ordinary and general meaning, including inferences which a reasonable person in all the circumstances would draw.”
The case of Okolo v. Midwest Newspaper Corporation (1977) 1 SC 33 was alluded to.
On the question of publication, it was submitted that to ground an action for libel, publication must be established and the person to whom publication made pleaded and proved vide the case of Nsirim v. Nsirim (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt. 138) 285 at 297. It was pointed out that whereas it was pleaded in paragraphs 10 and 11 of the statement of claim that publication was made to various agencies including one Etinyin Etubom Essien Ita, evidence on record referred to unidentified family members who cannot come under the description of ‘agencies’ as pleaded. The evidence led it was therefore contended was at variance with the pleadings vide the case of George v. Dominion Flour Mills Ltd. (1965) 1 All NLR 71; N.I.P.C. Ltd. v. Thompson Organisation (1969) 1 All NLR 138. Learned counsel submitted in his brief that from the evidence on record, it was the respondent himself who handed over his bills containing the alleged defamatory matter to his agents for payments at the appellant’s office and by so doing, it was the respondent himself who was responsible for the publication. Similarly, it was argued that since it was the respondent’s agent that showed the offensive bills to PW2, the publication to the latter is attributed to the respondent on the principle that he who does something through an agent does it himself; that he being the person responsible for the publication has no sustainable action in libel against the appellant.
Reference was made to the evidence of PW2 to the effect that he saw the alleged defamatory bills in the appellant’s office in January 1995 when the respondent’s agent went there to make some payment. It was then submitted that the said bills which PW2 claimed to have seen were not pleaded nor tendered in evidence.
The case of Katto v. C.B.N. (1999) 5 SCNJ 1 at 15, (1999) 6 NWLR (Pt. 607) 390 was cited as authority for the principle that it is the duty of a Judge trying a libel case to decide whether the words complained of are capable of conveying a defamatory meaning and to terminate the proceedings if he came to the conclusion that they were not. It was pointed out that in the instant case the court below did not discharge that responsibility as all that it did was merely to summarise the evidence on record and without evaluating same, he based his findings on the expression, “I am satisfied………..”. Counsel through his brief referred to the case of Chief Johnson Imah & Anor. v. Okogbe & Anor. (1993) 9 NWLR (Pt. 316) 159 where it was held that mere summary or restating of evidence adduced at the trial of a case was not enough to discharge the primary function expected of the trial court to evaluate evidence adding that it is not sufficient for trial courts to merely say “I believe” or “I do not believe” without stating reasons vide the case of Nwoke v. Okere (1994) 5 NWLR (Pt. 343) 159. Counsel argued that the mere fact that the case was undefended did not entitle the trial court to overlook the need to ascertain whether the facts adduced before it established or proved the claim or not as was decided in the case of Oyewole v. Oyekola (1999) 7 NWLR (Pt. 612) 560. Finally, it was submitted that although evaluation of evidence is the primary function of a trial court, an appellate court can properly embark on that exercise where the trial courts failed to do so on the unchallenged evidence on record vide the case of Ofondu v. Niweigha (1993) 2 NWLR (Pt. 275) 253.
In response to the above submissions, learned counsel to the respondent contended in his brief of argument that the appellant wilfully decided not to defend the suit in the lower court only to turn round at the appeal stage to attempt to remedy the situation with issues that should have been effectively canvassed in the lower court to enable that court hand down a more elucidating judgment and having not defended the action, the court had no choice than to act on the unchallenged evidence before it, vide the case of Ajidahun v. Ajidahun (2000) 4 NWLR (Pt. 654) 605. On the question of publication of the defamatory matter, it was contended that the respondent established publication even though as contended by the appellant it was brought about by the respondent himself. The following authorities were cited :- Duke of Brunswick v. Harmer (1849) 14 QB 185; Pullman v. Bill (1891) 1 QB 524 at page 527; Gatley on Libel and Slander 8th edition paragraphs 246, 224, 103, 114. It was argued that by the testimony of PW2, an independent witness, the respondent had discharged the burden of proving publication and in addition pleaded and established innuendo as required by law. On the question of pleadings being inadequate or inconsistent with evidence, it was submitted that the respondent’s pleadings are quite adequate and consistent with the evidence adduced and that no amount of technicality should be allowed to defeat the ends of justice vide the case of Nwosu v. Imo State Environment Sanitation Authority (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt. 135) 688. It is the further contention of the respondent’s counsel that a party to an action is only expected to plead material facts and not to state in his pleadings the subordinate facts which he intends to use in proving the material facts. The following authorities were cited in support of the proposition:- Obimiami B & S Ltd. v. A.C.B. Ltd (1992) 3 NWLR (Pt. 229) 260;. (1992) 3 SCNJ 1 at p. 4; Adegbite v. Ogunfaolu (1990) 4 NWLR (Pt. 146) 578; Hamni v. Saibu (1977) 2 S.C. 89; Okagbue v. Romaine (1982) 5 S.C. 133 and Nwanji v. Coastal Services (Nig) Ltd. (1999) 11 NWLR (Pt. 628) 641. The refusal of the appellant to defend the action it was argued, was fatal to its case as the law demands that a case of libel must be specifically defended lest it is taken as admitted citing the case of Pennrhyn v. Licensed Victuallers Mirror (1980) 7 TLR 1. Commenting on the contention that the fact that the appellant did not defend the action should not relieve the trial Judge of the duty of evaluating evidence, the respondent’s counsel submitted in his brief that while it is conceded that a plaintiff must succeed on the strength of his case and not on the weakness of the defence, it is also the law that when a defence is weak, it tends to strengthen the case of the plaintiff and this is all the moreso when there is no defence at all as in the instant case vide Akinola & Anor. v. Oluwo & Ors. (1962) 1 All NLR 224.
From the arguments of counsel as copiously set out in their respective briefs reproduced above, the dominant questions raised in the issues under consideration are whether the alleged defamatory statement, that is, the scandalous electricity bills exhibits 7 and 13 were defamatory of the respondent and if so, whether there was publication thereof in law. A defamatory statement is one which has a tendency to injure the reputation of the person to whom it refers which tends to lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally and in particular to cause him to be regarded with feelings of hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear, disdain or disesteem. The onus on the plaintiff in an action for libel is to prove that the defendant published in permanent form a statement, that the statement referred to him, that the statement was defamatory of him in the sense that it lowered him in the estimation of right-thinking members of the society, or it exposed him to hatred, ridicule or contempt or it injured his reputation in his office, trade or profession or his financial credit. In other-words an imputation to be defamatory will have to be proved to have been to the discredit of the plaintiff: see Sketch v. Ajagbemokeferi (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 100) 678 at 704.
In actions involving libel, the position of the law is that the question whether the words complained of are in fact defamatory of the plaintiff is a matter for the jury and it is for the Judge to decide on the evidence adduced in support of the complaint whether they are capable of referring to the plaintiff as well as capable of conveying defamatory meaning in the minds of reasonable persons in the circumstances of the particular case: Knuffer v. London Express Newspaper Ltd. (1944) A.C 116 and Nevill v. Fine Art and General Insurance Co. (1897) A.C 68. Since trial by jury no longer exists in this country, the Judge discharges the two functions. The question as to whether the words complained of are in their natural and ordinary meaning defamatory is one of fact. The test as restated by the Supreme Court per Obaseki JSC in the case of Dumbo v. Idugboe (1983) 1 SCNLR 29 at 48 is as follows:-
“In deciding whether words are capable of conveying defamatory meaning, the court will reject the meaning which can only emerge as the product of some strained or forced or utterly unreasonable interpretation (per Lord Morris in Jones v. Skelton (1963) 1 NLR 1370. The test of reasonableness guides and directs the court in its function of deciding whether it is open to a jury in any particular case to hold that reasonable persons would understand the words complained of in a defamatory sense.
In determining whether the words are capable of a defamatory meaning, the Judge will construe the words according to the fair and natural meaning which would be given them by reasonable persons of ordinary intelligence and will not consider what persons setting themselves to work to deduce some unusual meaning might succeed in extracting from them. The test according to Lord Selborne is “whether under the circumstances in which the writing was published, reasonable men to whom the publication was made would be likely to understand them in a libelous sense”.
The test is not what a man avid of scandal or a jester or an opponent of the man allegedly defamed would read into the words: see Okafor v. Ikeanyi (1979) 3-4 S.C. 99; Okolo v. Midwest Newspaper Corporation (1977) 1 S.C. 33.
In the case in hand, the respondent in paragraphs 9, 10 and 11 of his statement of claim pleaded thus:-
“9 The plaintiff avers that he is at the moment not indebted in any way to the defendant and that the defendant’s assertions and publications that he is indebted to it to the tune of N28,982.54 as per bill for December 1993 – May 1994 and N24,206.04 as per bill for January 1995 to April 1995 is defamatory of the plaintiff’s character as he is highly respected by all and sundry in the society, the said bills are hereby pleaded and shall be founded upon at the trial of this action.
It seems evident from paragraph 10 of the statement of claim (supra), that the defamatory statements complained of are contained in the electricity bills exhibits 7 and 13 issued by the appellant to the respondent for the periods stated. It was not expressly pleaded the precise words in those bills which are defamatory of the respondent. In an action for libel, a plaintiff must of necessity rely on the precise words alleged to be a libel for it is upon the perusal of the actual words complained of that the court may determine whether or not the words convey a defamatory meaning and that being the case, the words complained of are essential for the prosecution of the plaintiff’s case and are therefore material facts which must be pleaded:- see Okafor v. Ikeanyi (supra). This is in accord with the statement at paragraph 28-29 page 512 of Bullen and Leake 14th edition where the learned authors stated thus:-
“Libel: The words must be set out verbatim in the particulars of claim. It is not enough to set out their substance or effect (Harris v. Harre (1879) 4 C.P.D. 125 at 127; Collins v. Jones (1955) 1 Q.B. 564. Where the defamatory words form only part of a longer article or programme, the claimant must set out in his particulars of claim only the particular passages of which he complains as being defamatory of him. DDSA Pharmaceuticals Ltd. v. Times Newspapers Ltd. (1973) 1 Q.B. 21 C.A. Question & Answer must be set out if the libel is contained in both together (Bromage v. Prosser (1825) 4 BLC 247).
In considering whether an article, or any extract from it, is defamatory, the contents of the entire article must be considered (Charleston v. News Group Newspapers Ltd. (1995) 2 A.C. 65). In cases in which the material complained of is so long that it cannot reasonably be pleaded in the body of the particulars of claim, the material may be included as a schedule to the particulars of claim.”
From the respondent’s pleadings in paragraphs 10 and 11 set out earlier, it seems he also relied on an innuendo. Where a statement is prima facie innocent, the plaintiff must expressly and explicitly set forth in his pleadings the defamatory sense which he attributes to it. Such an explanatory statement is called an innuendo. The onus is on the plaintiff to lead evidence of proving that the words complained of conveyed to the mind of reasonable person, the imputation pleaded: see Ziks Enterprises Ltd. v. Awolowo (1955) 14 WACA 696. In the present case, the respondent called PW 2 in an effort to prove the innuendo pleaded part of the evidence of PW 2 at 13 et seq of the record reads as follows:-
“My name is Etubom Essien Ita Essien, clan head in Odukpani Local Government Area ……. I know the plaintiff in this suit. He is my old friend for over 60 years. I find him to be honest and straight forward person, nicknamed ‘Etiowo’ not in riches but in behaviour.
A childhood friend the plaintiff is …………. I have had experience of the NEPA behaviour. I used to report to them to investigate. In January 1995 when I went to settle my bill and made (sic) a report (sic). When I went there, I saw the man in charge of records who opened the books and I saw that my bill was inflated . I saw the man who came to pay the bill for plaintiff in this suit. I noticed that what was on record was N28,000 and what was to be paid in was N200. The debt was over N28,000 against plaintiff’s name. I was surprised that plaintiff could owe such amount. I was annoyed ‘Etiowo’ he ought not to owe that amount to a utility service. I was disappointed in him. I shunned him for approximately one year. As of now, he sent for me and told me that he did not owe defendant that amount and that he had sued defendant to retrieve his integrity”.
It is manifest from the above extract from the evidence of PW2 that he had some grouse against the appellant authority for having inflated his own electrical bills. It seems inconceiveable that such a witness who is well aware of the inefficiency of the appellant in issuing customers inflated electricity bills could have believed that the respondent was indebted to the appellant the colossal amounts reflected in the electricity bills exhibits 7 and 13. Clearly, a reasonable person would equally have believed that the bills exhibits 7 and 13 were inflated and this would not have in any way affected adversely his esteem of the person to whom those bills exhibits 7 and 13 related. However, in his seemingly appraisal of the evidence, the learned trial Judge O. Ita J. as he then was, after summarizing the evidence on record concluded in his judgment of page 23 of the record thus:-
”I am satisfied upon the evidence given in this case in proof of the pleadings and the general law applicable in this type of case and that with no response from the defendants after being duly served and with passage of time to enable them defend if there is defence and there being none, the plaintiff has proved his case and is entitled to the two arms of his claim in paragraph 13 of his statement of claim both of which are hereby awarded”.
With all due deference to the learned Judge of the court below, the mere fact that the appellant did not defend the suit is no reason for him to accept hook-line-and sinker the case of the respondent. In a civil case the plaintiff has the burden to make out a prima facie case before the burden shifts on the defendant to rebut and his failure to do so may lead to the dismissal of his case without the consideration of the defendant’s case for generally a plaintiff must succeed on the strength of his case and not on the weakness of the defence. In the case of Alhaji Oladoje Sanusi v. Ameyogun (1992) 4 NWLR (Pt. 237) 527 at 546 Nnaemeka-Agu JSC adopted the earlier opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of Godwin Egwuh v. Duro Ogumkehin SC 529/1966 of 28/2/69 where it said:-
“We are in no doubt, that on the pleadings the case of the plaintiff postulates that she had a better title to the land than the defendant who admittedly was at the time of the institution of the proceedings rightly or wrongly in possession of the land ………. The learned trial Judge rejected the defendant’s case and passed severe strictures on the defendant’s witnesses and their conduct but with respect a consideration of the defendant’s case and the correctness of it did not arise until the plaintiff had led evidence showing prima facie that she had a title to the land” see also Amobi v. Amobi (1996) 8 NWLR (Pt. 469) 638 at 657.
I take it to be a correct proposition of the law that where the evidence of a witness is not inadmissible in law, uncontradicted and unchallenged, a court of law can act on it and accept it as a true version of the case it supports: Iriri v. Erhurhobara (1991) 2 NWLR (Pt. 173) 252 at 255. However, the acceptance of unchallenged evidence is one thing, the sufficiency of that evidence in establishing the plaintiff’s claim is another matter. It is my view that in the instant case, notwithstanding that the appellant offered no defence, the learned Judge ought to have evaluated the evidence adduced for respondent and applied the relevant laws to determine if the respondent was entitled to judgment. He did nothing of the sort. All he merely did was to summarise the evidence and believing same without justification entered judgment for the respondent in terms of his claim. Where a trial court chooses to believe an impossible story and where there is no basis for the belief or where surrounding circumstances are such as clearly negative the truth, an appellate court would not accept its finding merely because the trial Judge used the words “I believe” Bozin v. State (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 8) 465; Okonji v. State (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 52) 659; Onuoha v. State (1989) 2 NWLR (Pt. 101) 23 at 35. In Tsokwa Motors Nig. Ltd. v. Union Bank of Nig. (1996) 9 NWLR (Pt. 471) 129, the Supreme Court held that where a trial court fails to evaluate the evidence on record or erroneously does so or the conclusion reached is not supported by the evidence on record, then the Court of Appeal in the interest of justice must exercise its own powers of reviewing those facts and drawing the appropriate inference from the proved facts; see Lawal v. Dawodu (1972) 8-9 SC 83 at 114 – 117; Fashanu v. Adekoya (1974) 6 S.C 83 at 91.
I have earlier commented that the respondent did not plead as required by law the precise words in the alleged defamatory electricity bills exhibits 7 and 13 for a determination as to whether they are defamatory of the respondent. The bills, exhibits 7 and 13 are in the form of the type of the uniform electricity bills sent to every consumer. They contain words and figures, printed, typewritten and handwritten with the statement that to avoid disconnection the respondent should pay N28,982.54 as per exhibits 7 and N24,206.04 vide exhibit 13. If these are the alleged defamatory statements complained of, it is my judgment that in their ordinary and natural meaning they are not defamatory of the respondent and from my analysis of the evidence of PW2 the innuendo placed on those statements had not been established.
I will now advert to the question of application. It is settled law that in order to succeed in an action for defamation, the plaintiff must prove that the libel or slander has been published. Publication means the making known of defamatory matter to some person other than the person of whom it is written or spoken: Pullman v. Hill (1891) 1 Q.B. 524 at 527. In Nsirim v. Nsirim (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt. 138) 285 at 297, the Supreme Court per Obaseki JSC restated the position of the law thus;
“An action for libel must fail if publication of the defamatory matter is not proved. This proof must be given by admissible evidence as it is the publication that gives a cause of action. The material part of the cause of action in libel is not the writing but the publication of the libel; see Hebditch v. Macilwaine & Ors. (1894) 2 QB 54 at 61 per Lord Esher M.R, per Davey L.J. at page 64; Bata v. Bata (1948) W.N. 366; Thomson v. Lambert (1938) 2 DLR 545 (SC Canada). The act of publishing the libelous matter constitutes the cause of action: Keefer v. Walsh (1903) 2 I.R. 706.
What then is meant by ‘Publication?” By publication is meant the making known of the defamatory matter to some persons other than the person of whom it was written. The writing of libel to the person or party libelled does not constitute publication for the purposes of a civil action ……………………………………….…………
…………………. It is the reduction of the libelous matter to writing and its delivery to any person other than the person injuriously affected thereby that is publication. The name of the person to whom delivery of the libelous document was made must be pleaded.”
See Esenowo v. Ukpong (1999) 6 NWLR (Pt. 608) 611. In the case in hand, the respondent pleading of publication in paragraph 11 of the statement of claim already reproduced above alleged that “by the publication of the defendant’s said scandalous bills to various agencies including one Etinyin Etubom Essien Ita ………………………….’
As can be seen, publication is made to only one named person Etinyin Etubom Essien Ita and various agencies. In his evidence, the respondent at page 11 et seq of the record testified thus:-
“I do not go out myself to pay the bills and someone else has to do so for me…. my agent has to stay for very long hours ……. When the bill is seen by members of my family, they wonder why I have not been paying bills ………………..”
On his own part, Etinyin Etubom Essien Ita P.W.2 at page 14 et seq had this to say, inter alia:-
In January 1995 when I went to settle my bills and made a report (sic). When I went there, I saw the man in charge of records, who opened the books ……………………… I saw a man who came to pay the bill for plaintiff in this suit. I noticed that what was on record was N28,000 ……………………”
I agree with learned counsel to the appellant that publication to the members of the respondent’s family was not pleaded. It is a fundamental principle of law that parties are bound by their pleadings and that evidence which is at variance with the averments in the pleadings goes to no issue and should be disregarded by the court. See Emegokwue v. Okadigbo (1973) 4 SC 113; Perevilto v. Adecentro (Nig.) Ltd. (1997) 11 NWLR (Pt. 28) 481. The evidence of publication to the members of the respondent’s family is therefore no publication in law more so as no member of the respondent’s family testified to any such publication. The respondent also testified that apparently due to his old age he settled his electricity bills through agents and PW2 claimed that in January 1995 when he went to the appellant’s office he saw the electricity bills in question in the hand of the respondent’s agent and the question that calls for consideration is whether there is in law publication to PW2 in the circumstances. To begin with, exhibit 13 is dated April 1995. It is doubtful if the PW2 could have seen it in January 1995. Granting that he saw it which is denied learned counsel to the appellant had submitted that it was the respondent himself who caused the publication to PW2 through his agents and therefore there was no publication in law. The position of the law as stated in Clerk and Lindsell on Tort 13th edition on page 96 paragraph 1717 is that:-
“If the plaintiff assents expressly or impliedly to the publication of the defamatory matter, no action will lie Chapman v. Ellssmere (1932) 2 K.B.D 431 at 451. If the statement is sent to the person defamed in circumstances where he is under a duty to send it on to other persons, his part in so doing cannot be regarded as an assent to the publication Collerton v. Macleon (1902) WLR 2045.”
In a similar vein, the learned authors of Gatley on Libel and Slander 7th edition page 117 at paragraph 248 opined:-
“248. Effects of assent of publication. But if it can be proved that the plaintiff expressly or impliedly assented to, or acquiesced in the publication of the defamatory matter, no action will lie Monson v. Tussauds (1894) 1 Q.B. 671 at pages 691, 697. Volenti, non fit injuria. Evidence of assent must however, be clear and unequivocal”
In my humble view, the respondent in the circumstances of this case was not under a duty to send the bills in question to other persons. He willingly caused the electricity bills to be published to PW2 through his agent. On the principle qui per alium facet, per seipsum facere videtur (he who does anything by another is deemed to have done it himself), publication was by respondent himself and therefore the publication was not actionable.
It now remains to essay on the 3rd issue for determination relating to the question of damages. In paragraph 13 of the statement of claim, the respondent claimed the sum of N20,000 as damages for libel. The court below in its judgment awarded the entire amount.
In his brief, counsel to the appellant complained about this award and made submissions to the following effect – The trial Judge was duty bound to assess damages, consider same against the law in such cases before proceeding to make the award. The exercise must be reflected in the judgment. It is not proper or enough to simply award damages without giving any reasons on how the court arrived at what amount is reasonable vide Olurotimi v. Ige (1993) 8 NWLR (Pt. 311) 257; (1993) 10 SCNJ 1.
It cannot be appreciated on what law, principle or fact the trial court relied upon in arriving at the award which is arbitrary and excessive considering the entire circumstances of the case. An appeal court will interfer with the award of damages by a trial court if the award is based on wrong principles of law or the amount is so high or so low as to make the award an entirely erroneous estimate: The following cases were cited in Ciroma v. Ali (1999) 2 NWLR (Pt. 590) 317; UBN Ltd. v. Odusote Bookstore Ltd. (1995) 9 NWLR (Pt. 421) 558.
The respondent ought to be awarded nominal damages as the alleged defamatory matter was contained in electric bills which the appellant was entitled to send to the respondent; the amount reflected on these bills was merely a mistake and the publication was limited to a friend of the respondent and did not convey any imputation of a crime or dishonesty.
In response, counsel to the respondent in his brief of argument made submissions as follows:-
The award was neither arbitrary nor excessive. The amount awarded is reasonable having regard to the status of the respondent, the capacity of the appellants to pay and the dwindling value of the naira. The award is in line with the admonition of the Supreme Court not to award damages that are contemptuous vide the case of Odogu v. Attorney-General of the Federation (1996) 6 NWLR (Pt. 456) 508.
The court is invited to interfere with the amount of damages awarded to the respondent. The law is that the award of damages by a trial court can only be upset by an appellate court if it feels that the trial court acted on wrong principles of law or that the amount awarded by the trial court is extremely high or low.
The appellate court ought not to upset the award of damages by a trial court merely because if it had tried the matter it would have awarded a lesser amount: see Flint v. Lovel (1953) 1 K.B. 354,360; James v. Mid Motors (Nig.) Ltd. (1978) 11-12 SC 31; Eboh v. Akpotu (1968) 1 All NLR 220; Zik’s Press Ltd. v. Ikoku (1951) 13 WACA 188 at 189; Williams v. Daily Times (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt. 124) 1. In the instant case, the court below gave no reason whatsoever for awarding the sum of N200,000 to the respondent. In the case of Olurotimi v. Ige (supra) the Supreme Court held that it is not enough for the court to simply award damages in an action for trespass (and I think this applies to the action for libel) without giving any reason as to how it arrived at what amounted to reasonable damages: Umunna v. Okwuraiwe (1978) 6-7 S.C 1. The court below appeared to have made the award on the footing that the action was undefended. That is a wrong approach. The fact that an action is undefended by the defendant does not exclude the need to prove the plaintiffs’ case. The only circumstance in which the need for proof can be dispensed with is if the defendant pleads liable to the total amount claimed by the plaintiff: Omoregie v. Omigie (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt. 130) 29 at 39. Being of the view that in the instant case the court below proceeded on a wrong principle, it is appropriate that the award be reviewed and in doing so account should be taken of the factors taken into consideration in assessing appropriate compensation as distilled in the case of Ejabulor v. Osha (1990) 5 NWLR (Pt. 148) 1 where the Supreme Court per Akpata JSC opined as follows:-
“That court was satisfied that the principle enunciated at paragraph 1358 page 558 of Gatley on Libel and Slander was valid: The learned author made the point that the court or jury in assessing damages should take into consideration “the conduct of the plaintiff, his position and standing, the nature of the libel, the mode and extent of the publication, the absence or refusal of any retraction or apology and the whole conduct of the defendant from the time when the libel was published down to the very moment of their verdict.”
Guided by the above principles and bearing in mind the nature of the offensive statement, the limited publication and the dwindling value of the naira, I think the sum of N50,000 would have been a reasonable award had the respondent proved his case.
On the whole, it is my judgment that the respondent did not prove his case to entitle him to judgment. The appeal succeeds and is accordingly allowed. The judgment of O. Ita J delivered on 16th January, 1997 is hereby set aside and in its place, the respondent’s suit is dismissed. There is no order as to costs.
OKWUCHUKWU OPENE JCA.:
I have the privilege to have read in advance the judgment just delivered by my learned brother, Edozie, JCA. I agree with him that the appeal is meritorious and that it ought to be allowed.
I will first of all observe that this case is not only a very strange one but also very funny and ridiculous. The cause of the respondent’s action is because the appellant sent him electricity bills which he considered to be highly inflated and he felt that he has been libeled by the appellant and quite funny enough the learned trial Judge entered judgment in his favour and thereupon awarded him damages for the libelous publication.
It is settled law that a defamatory publication is a publication calculated to lower the person in the estimation of right thinking men or cause him to be shunned or avoided or to expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule or to convey an imputation on him disparaging or injurious to him in his office, profession, calling, trade or business.
The test in determining whether or not the words complained of are defamatory in their natural or ordinary meaning is whether under the circumstances a reasonable man to whom the publication was made would be likely to understand it in a libelous sense. The test whether the words in question are defamatory is objective. See Sketch v. Ajagbemokeferi (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 100) 678; Benue Printing and Publishing Corporation v. Gwagwada (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 116) 439; Ezekwe v. Otemewo (1958) WNLR 61; Complete Communications Ltd. & Anor. v. Bianca Onoh (1998) 5 NWLR (Pt. 549) 197; and Okafor v. Ikeanyi (1979) 3 – 4 S.C 99.
It is also trite that in action for defamation that the plaintiff must of necessity plead and rely on the precise words alleged to be libelious for it is upon the perusal of the actual words used that the court may determine whether or not the words complained of convey a defamatory meaning; where the words complained of are not prima facie defamatory, the plaintiff must be prepared to plead and prove the necessary gloss or innuendo upon them to succeed in the action. The Registered Trustees of the Resicrucian Order, Amorc (Nigeria) v. Henry O. Awoniyi & Ors. (1994) 7 NWLR (Pt. 355) 154; (1994) 7 – 8 SCNJ 390, B.O.N. Ltd. v. Muri (1998) 2 NWLR (Pt. 536) 153.
In the instant case, the respondent did not plead or rely on any precise words alleged to be libelious in their natural or ordinary meaning or show that the electricity bills – exhibits 7 and 13 are in any way libelious documents. He also did not plead or prove the necessary gloss or innuendo upon them which will enable him to succeed in the action.
Further, there is no publication of the document as publication is one of the ingredients of defamation. The bills were handed to him and it was himself that handed them to his agent and it was his agent that was with the documents when PW2 saw them. It therefore follows that if there is any publication at all that it was himself that made it and not the appellant.
The learned trial Judge entered judgment for the respondent not because the respondent proved his case but because the appellant was duly served and that there was no response from the appellant.
I must observe that in a civil matter that it is not mandatory that a defendant must defend the claim. He may be impecunious that he cannot afford to defend the action or he may feel that the action is frivolous and not worth defending but this does not mean that as he has failed to defend the action that the plaintiff’s claim is unchallenged and that a judgment must be entered for him. It is the duty of the plaintiff to prove his case and the standard is on the balance of probabilities and the fact that the defendant did defend the action does not absolve the plaintiff from discharging that onus that is placed upon him by the law.
In the instant case, the respondent had failed to prove his case and the learned trial Judge ought to have dismissed the respondent’s claim as it is very frivolous and also very highly speculative and this would have ended the matter.
For these reasons and the fuller reasons given in the leading judgment by my learned brother, Edozie, JCA, I am of the view that the appeal is very meritorious and it is accordingly allowed by me. I also make no order as to costs.
SIMEON OSUJI EKPE JCA.:
I had the advantage of reading in advance the leading judgment just delivered by my learned brother, Edozie JCA. I agree with him that the appeal should be allowed.
The libel suit, the subject matter of this appeal is novel in character. The novelty that the suit assumed is that it arose from excessive or inflated and unwarranted electricity bills sent by the appellant to the respondent for settlement, which bills the respondent considered were defamatory of his person. Consequently therefore, the respondent sued the appellant claiming inter alia the sum of N200,000.00 as damages for defamation of his character by reason of the malicious publication of the scandalous electricity bills against him.
The important question on the suit that are of concern to me in this appeal which need to be resolved are:
First, I take the question of publication of the alleged libelious or defamatory matter, that is the alleged scandalous electricity bills exhibits 7 and 13. It is settled that in law publication of the defamatory matter is a cardinal principle in the law of libel. In order to succeed in an action for defamation of character a plaintiff must prove that the libel or slander has been published i.e. communicated to some person or persons other than the plaintiff himself. This is because a person’s reputation is not based upon the good opinion he has of himself but the estimation in which others hold of him. See Nsirim v. Nsirim (supra). Publication to the person libeled does not in law constitute publication for the purpose of civil action. The crucial question therefore is whether there was such publication in this case as would constitute publication in law for the purpose of civil action for defamation. The evidence of publication of the defamatory matter is gathered from PW2 who testified to the effect that in January 1995 when he went to settle his electricity bill and make a report, (apparently at the NEPA office of the appellant) there he saw the man in charge of records, who opened the books, and he saw that his own bill was inflated. He also saw a man who came to pay the bill for the plaintiff (i.e. the respondent) in the suit, and he noticed that what was on record was N28,000.00 and what was to be paid was N200.00. There the debt was over N28,000.00 against the plaintiff’s (respondent’s) name. That he was surprised that the plaintiff (respondent) could owe such amount, From that piece of evidence, it is clear that PW2 took notice of the alleged scandalous electricity bills of the respondent through the respondent’s agent who went to settle the said bills. If, by noticing the said electricity bills by PW2 through the respondent’s agent can be regarded as publication of the bills of PW2, it is my considered view that it was the respondent himself who caused the said publication to PW2 through his own agent. The position of the law as stated in Clerk and Lindsell on Tort, 13th edition at page 96, paragraph 1717 with regard to the issue of publication as in the instant case is as follows:-
“If the plaintiff assents expressly or impliedly to the publication of the defamatory matter, no action will lie, Chapman v. Ellsmere (supra) K.B.D. 431 at 451. If the statement (i.e. the defamatory matter) is sent to the person defamed in circumstances where he is under a duty to send it on to other persons, his part in so doing cannot be regarded as an assent to the publication. Collerton v. Macleon (1902) WLR 2045.”
Echoing the same principle of law, the learned authors of Gatley on libel and Slander, 7th edition at page 117 at paragraph 248 had this to say:
“But if it can be proved that the plaintiff expressly or impliedly assented to or acquiesced in the publication of the defamatory matter no action will lie, Monson v. Tuseauda (1894) 1 Q.B. 671 at 691,697. Volenti non fit injuria.”
Applying the principle of law enunciated above to the facts of this case it is therefore my view that there was no publication in law to warrant any civil action in defamation by the respondent as the publication to PW2 was through the respondent’s agent, the act of the respondent’s agent is in law the act of the respondent himself, being the principal.
On the question whether the said electricity bills exhibits 7 and 13 complained of, were defamatory of the respondent my answer is unequivocally in the negative. It seems to me rather difficult or unreasonable to imagine that an excessive or inflated electricity bill sent to a customer by (N.E.P.A.) the appellant as in the instant case can without more be defamatory of the customer or conjure a defamatory meaning by way of innuendo to warrant an action for defamation. With due respect this action seems to me to be a gold digging action. The electricity bills complained of, are not in their ordinary and natural meaning defamatory of the respondent.
In answer to question or poser No. 3 above, the law is that it is a mandatory requirement in an action for defamation that the words complained of, as constituting the defamation should be stated in the statement of claim. See Okpozo v. Bendel Newspaper Co. Ltd. (1990) 5 NWLR (Pt. 153) 652. In the instant case, the respondent did not plead or state in his statement of claim the precise words in the electricity bills exhibits 7 and 13 which are defamatory of him. Merely pleading in the statement of claim that the bills are defamatory of the respondent is not enough.
For the above views and the more detailed view of my learned brother Edozie JCA in the leading judgment. I therefore allow the appeal and abide by all the orders made therein.
Cases referred to in the judgment
Adegbite v. Ogunfaolu (1990) 4 NWLR (Pt. 146) 578.
Agbetoba v. Lagos State Executive Council (1991) 4 NWLR (Pt. 188) 644.
Aja v. Okoro (1991) 7 NWLR (Pt. 203) 260.
Ajidahun v. Ajidahun (2000) 4 NWLR (Pt. 654) 605.
Akinola v. Oluwo (1962) 1 SCNLR 352;(1962) 1 All NLR 224.
Amobi v. Amobi (1996) 8 NWLR (Pt. 469) 638.
B.O.N. Ltd. v. Muri (1998) 2 NWLR (Pt. 536) 153.
Bakare v. L.S.C.S.C. (1992) 8 NWLR (Pt. 262) 641.
Benue Printing and Publishing Corporation v. Gwagwada (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 116) 439.
Bozin v. State (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 8) 465.
Bromage v. Prosser (1825) 4 BLC 247.
Buhari v. Takuma (1994) 2 NWLR (Pt. 325) 183.
Chapman v. Ellsmere (1932) 2 KBD 431.
Charleston v. News Group Newspapers Ltd. (1995) 2 A.C 65.
Ciroma v. Ali (1999) 2 NWLR (Pt. 590) 317.
Collerton v. Macleon (1902) WLR 2045
Collins v. Jones (1955) 1 Q.B 564.
Complete Communications Ltd. v. Onoh (1998) 5 NWLR (Pt. 549) 197
DDSA Pharmaceuticals Ltd. v. Times Newspapers Ltd. (1973) 1 Q.B. 21.
Duke of Brunswick v. Harmer (1849) 14 Q.B 185.
Dumbo v. Idugboe (1983) 1 SCNLR 29.
Eboh v. Akpotu (1968) 1 All NLR 220.
Egwuh v. Ogunkehin (unreported) suit No. SC 529/1966.
Ejabulor v. Osha (1990) 5 NWLR (Pt. 148) 1.
Emegokwue v. Okadigbo (1973) 4 S.C 113.
Esenewo v. Ukpong (1999) 6 NWLR (Pt. 608) 611.
Ezekwe v. Otemewo (1958) WNLR 61.
Fashanu v. Adekoya (1974) 6 S.C 83.
Flint v. Lovell (1935) 1 K.B. 354.
George v. Dominion Flour Mills Ltd. (1965) 1 All NLR 71.
Hamni v. Saibu (1977) 2 S.C. 89
Harris v. Harre (1879) 4 CPD 125.
Hebditch v. Macilwaine (1894) 2 Q.B 54.
Imah v. Okogbe (1993) 9 NWLR (Pt. 316) 159.
Iriri v. Erhurhobara (1991) 2 NWLR (Pt. 173) 252.
James v. Mid Motors (Nig.) Ltd. (1978) 11-12 S.C 31.
Jones v. Skelton (1963) 1 NLR 1370.
Katto v. C.B.N. (1999) 5 SCNJ 1; (1999) 6 NWLR (Pt. 607) 390.
Keefer v. Walsh (1903) 2 I.R. 706.
Knuffer v. London Express Newspaper Ltd. (1944) A.C 116.
Lawal v. Dawodu (1972) 8 – 9 S.C 83.
Monson v. Tuseauda (1894) 1 Q.B. 671.
N.I.P.C. Ltd. v. Thompson Organisation (1969) 1 All NLR 138.
Nevill v. Fine Art and General Insurance Co. (1897) A.C 68.
Nsirim v. Nsirim (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt. 138) 285.
Nwanji v. Coastal Services (Nig) Ltd. (1999) 11 NWLR (Pt. 628) 641.
Nwoke v. Okere (1994) 5 NWLR (Pt. 343) 159.
Nwosu v. Imo State Environment Sanitation Authority (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt. 135) 688.
Obimiami B & S Nig.Ltd. v. A.C.B. Ltd. (1992) 3 NWLR (Pt. 229) 260; (1992) 3 SCNJ 1.
Odogu v. A.G., Fed. (1996) 6 NWLR (Pt. 456) 508.
Ofondu v. Niweigha (1993) 2 NWLR (Pt. 275) 253.
Ogunlade v. Adeleye (1992) 8 NWLR (Pt. 260) 409.
Okafor v. Ikeanyi (1979) 3 – 4 S.C 99.
Okagbue v. Romaine (1982) 5 S.C. 133.
Okolo v. Midwest Newspaper Corporation (1977) 1 S.C. 33.
Okonji v. State (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 52) 659.
Okpozo v. Bendel Newspaper Co. Ltd. (1990) 5 NWLR (Pt. 153) 652.
Olurotimi v. Ige (1993) 8 NWLR (Pt. 311) 257; (1993) 10 SCNJ 1
Omoregie v. Omigie (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt. 130) 29.
Onuoha v. State (1989) 2 NWLR (Pt. 101) 23.
Osinupebi v. Saibu (1982) 7 S.C. 104
Oyewole v. Oyekola (1999) 7 NWLR (Pt. 612) 560.
Pennrhyn v. Licensed Victuallers Mirror (1980) 7 TLR 1.
Perevilto v. Adecantro (Nig.) Ltd. (1997) 11 NWLR (Pt. 28) 481.
Pullman v. Hill (1891) 1 Q.B 524.
Registered Trustees of the Rosicrucian Order, Amorc (Nigeria) v. Awoniyi (1994) 7 NWLR (Pt. 355) 154; (1994) 7 – 8 SCNJ 390.
Sanusi v. Ameyogun (1992) 4 NWLR (Pt. 237) 527.
Sketch v. Ajagbemokeferi (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 100) 678.
Thomson v. Lambert (1938) 2 DLR 545.
Tsokwa Motors Nig. Ltd. v. Union Bank of Nig. (1996) 9 NWLR (Pt. 471) 129.
UBN Ltd. v. Odusote Bookstore Ltd. (1995) 9 NWLR (Pt. 421) 558.
Ugo v. Obiekwe (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 99) 566.
Umunna v. Okwuraiwe (1978) 6-7 S.C 1.
Western Steel Works Ltd v. Iron and Steel Workers Union of Nigeria (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 49) 284.
Williams v. Daily Times (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt. 124) 1.
Zik’s Press Ltd. v. Ikoku (1951) 13 WACA 188.
Ziks Enterprises Ltd. v. Awolowo (1955) 14 WACA 696.