⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Okomu Oil Palm Limited v. Mr. O. J. Okpame (2006) – CA
by NSA PaulPipAr
Okomu Oil Palm Limited
Mr. O. J. Okpame
Court of Appeal
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Chief Charles Adogah.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Mr. Clement Dike.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The Respondent was appointed by the Okomu-Udo Federal Oil Project in 1982 at that time the project was owned by Federal Government, State Government and Local Government. His appointment was originated by a letter which was tendered as Exhibit A and A1 without any objection. By a letter dated 18/1/86 exhibit E termination letter was handed to the respondent, while he was at the police cell as a suspect in an armed robbery incident which happened at his office.
Dissatisfied with his termination, the respondent commenced an action in the then Bendel State High court claiming that is termination was wrong and compensation as damages.
The learned trial judge on 6/4/90 awarded to the plaintiff the sum of N63,050.00 out of N91,562.00 claimed by the Respondent. The appellant being dissatisfied with the said decision appealed to this court.
Note: before the delivery of judgement at the trial court, the plaintiff had died – he was substituted.
1. Whether the judgment of the learned trial Judge is a nullity.
2. Whether the respondent’s employment was governed by the Civil Service Regulation.
3. Whether the Respondent was entitled to damages.
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
[APPEAL: ALLOWED, IN PART]
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT BUT AGAINST THE APPELLANT.
i. The general rule at Common Law as it relates to the maxim ACTIO PERSONALIS MORITUR CUM PERSONA as raised by the appellant was that if an injury were done either to the person or to the property of another for which unliquidated damage only could be recovered in satisfaction, the action died with the person to whom or by whom the wrong was done. Be that as it may from the above consideration of the Statute and decided cases, I hold that the maxim is not applicable to the case under consideration. The substitution of the present respondent is in order and the 1st Issue is resolved in favour of the Respondent.
2. ISSUE 2 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANT BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENT.
i. For the respondent to claim the benefit of this section he has to prove that the conditions of service with the appellant are governed by the Civil Service Regulations. He has the duty to show that he was employed by the Federal Civil Service Commission. Here the terms of his service was not tendered, it was therefore difficult to know the entitlement of the respondent.
3. ISSUE 3 WAS REMITTED TO THE TRIAL COURT.
i. ISSUE 3 has been taken care of in my consideration of Issue No.2. Since it is difficult to determine what the entitlement of the plaintiff/respondent should be, I believe justice of the case demands that the case be remitted to the Chief Judge of Edo State for assignment to a Judge to determine the entitlement. This appeal therefore succeeds in part. The case shall be remitted to the court below for the determination of the entitlements of the plaintiff/respondent in line with his conditions of service. I make no order as to cost.
Section 15 of the Administration of Estate Law Cap 2 of Bendel State;
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
Section 277(1) of the 1979 Constitution provides as follows: “Public Service of the Federation” means the service of the Federation in any capacity in respect of the Government of the Federation; and include service as … (f) staff of any company or enterprise in which the Government of a State or its agents holds controlling shares or interest.”
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
OKOMU OIL PALM CO. LTD VS. ISERHIENRHIEN (2001) 6 NWLR (PT.710) 660 cited by both parties, the Supreme Court per the judgment of ONU J.S.C. said at page 686 thus:- “Besides, having a controlling numbers of shares in a company is not synonymous with its ownership once it is incorporated as an entity of its own and having it own separate legal existence.”
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
The action of the counsel to the deceased in concealing the death of the deceased is condemnable. – Shoremi, J.C.A. Okomu v. Okpame (2006)
There is no doubt that it is good law when the Supreme Court said that having a controlling number of share in a company is not synonymous with its ownership once it is incorporated as an entity of its own and having its own separate legal existence. – Shoremi, J.C.A. Okomu v. Okpame (2006)
The general rule of common law, as it relates to this maxim – ACTIO PERSONALIS MORITUR CUM PERSONA, was that if an injury were done either to the person or to the property of another for which unliquidated damages only could be recovered in satisfaction, the action died with the person to whom, or by whom the wrong was done. This rule of common law has been encroached upon by various statutes but it still applies to such action as for libel, slander, false imprisonment, or other personal injury. It has been said that the maxim does not have its original traced to any Nigerian or English statute rather that it is of English common law origin. In Nigeria, the rule has been variously encroached upon by many statutes applicable to various states of the Country. – Aderemi, J.C.A. Okomu v. Okpame (2006)
I think really justice is a three-way traffic; justice for the Plaintiff who is crying for a redress of the wrong done to him; justice for the defendant who is crying that he should be heard and his defence considered before being ordered to pay any sum claimed against him and also before being mulcted in cost; and finally but very important, justice for the society at large whose social norms and psyche are certainly going to be adversely affected if it cannot be seen by the common but reasonable man that upon the facts as laid down, justice in the real and true sense of that word, has been seen to have been done by the arbiter. – Aderemi, J.C.A. Okomu v. Okpame (2006)