Appeal Court upholds Actec’s claim to construction equipment
CONVINCED that Messrs ACTEC International Limited, an incorporated company based in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, is the rightful owner of a construction equipment, a Court of Appeal, Owerri Judicial Division, has upheld the claims of the firm to the heavy duty machinery, caterpillar.
The judgment read by Justice Frederick Oho alongside with Peter Olabisi and Raphael Agbo, agreed with the lower court’s verdict on the matter.
With the latest judgment, AMICO Construction Company Limited, which lost at the trial court, also did not succeed before the Appeal Court.
As at the time of this report, The Guardian could not ascertain if AMICO had also rejected the judgment and appealed to the Supreme Court or not.
The heavy-duty equipment, property of ACTEC, which was missing, but was later found in the custody of AMICO while undertaking a road construction project in the east, led to the litigation. On appeal, while ACTEC was the respondent, AMICO was the appellant.
According to the court document, the respondent’s caterpillar grader was stolen from its premises in Port-Harcourt, and it lodged a report of the incident with the Nigerian Police, Rivers State Command.
Subsequently, the respondent’s attorney found the caterpillar grader in use by an employee of the appellant at Aba/Owerri Road, Umungasi, and the respondent caused the Police to impound the caterpillar grader.
After a thorough investigation, the police handed over the caterpillar grader to the respondent.
The respondent then sued the appellant for conversion of the caterpillar grader, claimed special damages for loss of earnings for the period of 267 days the caterpillar grader was taken away from its premises, and general damages. It also pleaded that the caterpillar grader was stolen from its premises.
In its response, the appellant filed a statement of defence and a counter-claim.
The appellant sought a declaration that it was the owner of the caterpillar grader, an order of release of the caterpillar grader to it, damages and an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the respondent from interfering on its proprietary interest in the caterpillar grader.
AMICO’s case was that it bought the caterpillar grader from a company known as Gogo and Sons Nigeria Limited.
The respondent, filed a reply and answer to the appellant’s statement of defence and counterclaim. The respondent averred that Gogo and Sons Nigeria Limited had no valid title to the caterpillar grader and that it was a bogus company.
At the trial, the respondent’s witness presented evidence that they had photocopies of the invoice and bill of lading by which it imported the caterpillar grader from the United States of America.
The witness testified that the original copies of the documents were stolen by robbers, but he then tendered the photocopies in evidence as exhibits ‘‘C’’ and CI.’’
The respondent also presented evidence that before it sued the appellant, the latter had sued Gogo & Sons Nigeria Ltd. to repudiate the contract of sale of the caterpillar grader because the appellant was then aware Gogo & Sons Nigeria Ltd. did not have genuine title to the caterpillar grader.
The appellant, on the other hand, did not present any evidence through Gogo & Sons. Nigeria Ltd. at the trial to prove its case.
In its judgment, the trial court found that the respondent made out a better case of ownership of the caterpillar grader but proved only a part of its monetary claims.
The trial court also found that the appellant was not an innocent purchaser without notice of the caterpillar grader.