From the CourtPilot Law

LANDMARK JUDGEMENT

NA’ALLAH v. KOFAR KADE (NIG) LTD (2020)LCN/13979(CA)

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (SOKOTO JUDICIAL DIVISION)

On Friday, March 20, 2020

CA/S/30/2019

Before Our Lordships:

Ahmad Olarewaju Belgore – Justice of the Court of Appeal

Amina Audi Wambai   –  Justice of the Court of Appeal

Frederick Oziakpono Oho – Justice of the Court of Appeal

Between

ALH. ABUBAKAR NA’ALLAH  – Appelant(s)

And

KOFAR KADE NIGERIA LIMITED – Respondent(s)

Appearances:

Sanusi Garba, Esq.     – For Appellant(s)

B.M. Jodi, Esq.              – For Respondent(s)

It is now a common verse and a legal truism that the evaluation of evidence and the ascription of probative value to such evidence is primarily within the precinct or domain of the trial Court which heard, saw and observed the demeanor of the witnesses as they testified in the witness box. See Okoye & Anr vs. Obiaso & Ors (2010) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1195) 145; Lasisi vs. The State (2013) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1358) 74, Yadis Ltd vs. Ginic Ltd (2007) 30 INSCQR 495 at 518 – 519, and where this is evidently done by the trial Court, the Appellate Court which only deals with the cold record will be loath to interfere with the findings or disturb same even where it would have reached a different conclusion, if the decision of the trial Court is supported by evidence on record and is not perverse. See Nguma vs. A. G. Imo State (2014) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1405) 119, Gbileve vs. Addingi(2014) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1433) 394, Hassan vs. Aliyu (2010) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1223) 547.

​The Appeal is in respect of a business transaction initially between Alhaji Mu`azu Jodi as an individual and the Appellant, and upon incorporation as a private limited liability company, between the Respondent (Alhaji Mu’azu Jodi being its alter ego), and the Appellant. The transaction was for the sale of assorted goods, essentially building materials, which lasted for about 42 years before it broke down in 2016. The dispute is over the shortfall, in 2016, of the stocks under the care and management of the Appellant which prompted the Respondent, upon the Appellant`s failure to account for the said goods or their monetary value, to approach the lower Court where it claimed the sum of ₦37,006,722.00 (thirty seven million, six thousand, seven hundred and twenty-two naira) only being the balance of the value of goods entrusted to the defendants (Appellant) for sale in the normal course of trading which proceeds the Appellants failed, refused or neglected to hand over or account for to the plaintiff (Respondent). It also claimed 10% interest of the said sum.

It was further submitted that even on the merit of the counterclaim, the Appellant adduced no direct, clear, positive and cogent evidence to sustain the assertion to entitle him to judgment, just as the amount of ₦42M claimed stands against reason, urging us to resolve the issue against the Appellant and in favour of the Respondent to dismiss the Appeal.

Resolution of appeal

The Appellant’s main complaint in this appeal is that of improper evaluation of evidence by the learned trial Judge resulting in his perverse finding and conclusion adjudging the Appellant to pay the sum of ₦37,000,000.00 to the Respondent while dismissing the Appellant’s counter-claim of ₦42,000,000.00 against the Respondent. The Appellant has thus sought our interference with the said finding and conclusion and the setting aside of the judgment.

On his part, the Respondent in defence of the judgment, applauded the evaluation of the evidence by the lower Court and beseeched us not to intervene but to allow the judgment stand.

The other aspect of the grouse worth considering next is that of the enforceability of exhibit A being an undertaking purportedly made to the police with respect to a contractual transaction between the parties. Exhibit A reads:-

The undisputed facts are that the Respondent lodged a complaint at the office of Assistant Inspector General of Police (A.I.G.) Zone 10 Sokoto. Pursuant to the said report, the Appellant and his two sons, the 2nd and 3rd defendants, were arrested, detained and exhibit A was made. Exhibit A though signed by the Appellant was written by the police in English language which the Appellant maintains he does not understand.

At paragraph 14 of the Appellant’s amended statement on oath at page 205 of the record, the Appellant averred:-

“14. That instead of rewarding me for long years of service, the Plaintiff and Alh. Muazu Jodi reported me and my children to the police at AIG Zone 10 office Sokoto, where we were detained for days despite the fact that the transaction between me and the said Alh. Muazu Jodi is civil in nature.”

​This evidence was not challenged in cross-examination. In fact, the entire record and argument of both counsel support the fact that the transaction between the parties is civil in nature yet the Appellant and his two sons were detained and exhibit A made on 5/10/2016 after his extra-judicial statement, exhibit F, was made on 26/9/2016. There has been no criminal proceedings against the Appellant in respect of the complaint.

The question whether the police have the power to act as debt collectors or to settle civil disputes has severally been pronounced upon and settled. The police have no business and indeed no legal right to get involved in the settlement of civil disputes between parties or to act as debt recovery agents or collectors. The settlement of civil disputes or arrangement between two or more persons is not a matter for the police. Authorities in support of this statement, both of this Court and of the Supreme Court abound. We at this Court and indeed the apex Court have consistently and severally pronounced that the police are not and should not be used as debt collectors or agents, or in the resolution of civil disputes between private citizens.

The effect of this decision that the lower Court breached the Appellant’s right to fair hearing is that the entire proceedings before it howsoever meritorious it would otherwise have been, is null and void. It is trite that any decision reached in breach of the right to fair hearing will not be allowed to stand on appeal irrespective of the merit of the case. See F.B.N. Plc vs. T.S.A. Industries Ltd (2010) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1216) 247.

I agree entirely with his reasoning and conclusion which I adopt as mine. I also adopt the consequential orders contained in the lead judgment including the orders as to cost.

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