⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Sylvester D.E. Egbase v. Augustine O. Oriareghan (1985) – SC
by PipAr Chima
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Sylvester D.E. Egbase
Augustine O. Oriareghan
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ CASE HISTORY
The trial judge on the evidence before him found that the defendant due to pressing financial constraint consciously entered into a written agreement, Exhibit B, with the Plaintiff, ‘that warranted his selling his house situate at No. 5 Okoduwa Street, Idumu-Okojie, Uromi for a sum of N500.00 on the condition that he could repurchase it within 6 months after which period that the sale would become absolute.’ He found that defendant was unable to repurchase the house within the stipulated period. Thereafter, the parties agreed that the defendant could and continued to occupy the premises as Plaintiffs tenant at the rent of N15 monthly. The defendant paid the rent for three months and then ceased to pay, alleging that the transaction between him and the Plaintiff was a pledge of the house for the loan and not the sale of his house.
The Trial Court gave judgement in favour of the Plaintiff. The Defendant appealed which appeal the Court of Appeal allowed. The Plaintiff herein has appealed to the Supreme Court.
⦿ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
A. THAT THE RESPONDENT KNEW WHAT HE WAS SIGNING.
The relevant point to consider is the time when the defendant signed the document (exhibit B) whether he understood the contents, not the time when the parties proceeded to the office of the Solicitor, Okpere. The defendant himself under cross-examination admitted when he said, after denying same:- ‘It was also read that if I am unable to repay or refund the loan at the expiration of the given time, that the house would become the property of the plaintiff’. To my mind, Exhibit B is incapable of no other reasonable meaning. His own witness 1st D.W. Ambrose Okosu Okpere, whose evidence the trial judge believed, testified that he prepared the agreement according to the terms agreed to by the parties; they spoke both in Ishan and English during the transaction and that he read and interpreted the contents of the document to the defendant before he signed it after agreeing that the contents were correct. The witness further explained that the transaction was a conditional sale of the house and land which sale was to become absolute at the expiration of the six months period. The above evidence of this witness substantially supported not only the case and evidence of the plaintiff but also the agreement itself, the relevant portion of which I have earlier reproduced.
B. NON EST FACTUM CANNOT AVAIL THE RESPONDENT
It appears to me from the analysis I have made of the judgment of the learned trial judge that he rejected the plea of non est factum put up by the defendant because (1) Exhibit ‘E’ was not fundamentally different in character from that which the defendant contemplated; for the defendant in any event intended; to raise money on the strength of his house, either by way of security for a loan which will entail the loss of the house if defendant defaults in repaying the loan or by way of out-right sale of the house to begin with together with a condition to repurchase at a future specified time; (2) that there was no corroborative evidence of the defendant that all he bargained for with the plaintiff was a loan of N500.00 for a period of 6 months, his house only being used as a security to secure repayment of the loan and (3) that Exhibit B was correctly interpreted to the defendant by his witness Mr, Okpere, the lawyer who prepared it before the defendant executed it.
⦿ ENDING NOTE BY LEAD JUSTICE – Per Coker JSC
✓ NON EST FACTUM MUST BE INTERPRETED NARROWLY
In conclusion, I wish to draw attention to the warning given by Lord Pearson in Saunders v. Anglia Building Society (1970) 3 A.E.R. 961 at p.978 where he said: “The danger of giving undue extension to the plea of non est factum. has been pointed out in a number of cases. For instance in Muskham Finance Ltd v. Howard (1963)1 All E.R. 81, at p.83 Donovan, LJ. delivering the judgment of the court said: ‘The plea of non est factum is a plea which must necessarily be kept within narrow limits. Much confusion and uncertainty would result in the field of contract and elsewhere if a man were permitted to try to disown his signature simply by asserting that he did not understand that which he had signed.”
✓ APPEAL IS ALLOWED; COURT OF APPEAL DECISION SET ASIDE
The evidence of the defendant fell short, very far short, of making a clear and, satisfactory defence of non est factum and the trial judge was therefore right in rejecting his plea; For the above reasons, I allowed the Appeal of the plaintiff, set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and restored the judgment of the trial Court.
⦿ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
⦿ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ REFERENCED (OTHERS)