His Lordship, Hon. Justice Nelson Ogbuanya of the National Industrial Court, Portharcourt Judicial division has granted an order correcting the misnomer of ‘OAS HELICOPTER LEASING & CHARTER SERVICES’ to read ‘ODENGENE AIR SHUTTLE SERVICES LIMITED’, ordered Engr. Benjamin Okafor to re-serve the amended processes and the matter to proceed for trial, awarded the cost of N100, 000.00 (one hundred thousand naira) against the firm.
The Court held that the learned Defendant’s counsel argument that a non-juristic person cannot be substituted for a juristic person, seems to have misconceived the concept of a misnomer and blurred the power of the court to correct such error by way of amendment of the court’s processes.
In a glance, the Claimant- Benjamin Okafor had approached the court, vide General Form of Complaint challenging his employment termination and claims for recovery of his outstanding unpaid salaries and entitlements against his former employer.
Counsel to the claimant, E.N Efiom, Esq drew the court’s attention to the Motion on Notice filed on for an Amendment of the originating processes, to reflect the correct name of the firm, which was indicated in the Defendant’s Notice of Preliminary Objection.
Counsel further submitted that firm itself used the name ‘OAS Helicopter Leasing and Charter Services’ in all its correspondence with him, including his employment and termination letters, and also that the signpost of the firm bears the said wrong name.
Counsel finally submitted that the purpose of the amendment is to amend the name of the Defendant anchor his submissions that what happened was a misnomer that can be corrected by an amendment to reflect the correct corporate name.
Learned counsel for the Defendant, E.C Obasi, Esq, in opposing the Application submitted that the proposed amendment is not valid as it would amount to substituting a non-juristic party in a suit, which is not allowed, that an action against a non-juristic person is irredeemable contended that the issue borders on jurisdiction and called upon the court to respect judicial precedent.
In his ruling, the presiding Judge, Justice Ogbuanya after careful evaluation of the submissions of both counsel held that a corporate entity sued in the wrong name can be corrected, as such falls within the confines of the concept of a misnomer that allows correction by way of amendment of the court process, as in the instant case.
“Going by the provisions of Section 548(1)(c) CAMA, the publication of corporate name in a business letterhead and affixing signpost indicating the corporate name of a Nigerian company is a mandatory requirement, yet I find that letter of termination issued by the Defendant in its purported official letter headed paper fall short of this mandatory legal requirement.
“However, in the instant case, I find that by the Defendant’s own admission, both names belong to the Defendant, and there are no two or more entities, and the Claimant was not mistaken as to the actual Defendant he intends to sue, which in the instant case, is one and the same entity, but merely wrongly described in this suit.
“On that note, I find that the instant case is a clear case of giving ‘the right person a wrong name’ and seeking to correct the ‘wrong name to its rightful name’, which is a legal entity imbued with juristic personality.
Lastly, the Court restrained the defendant from using any such corporate document in relation to employment-related, contracts/transactions and on any workplace office, not in full compliance with S.548 (1) (c) CAMA, with respect to the publication of its corporate name as stipulated therein, and to file evidence of compliance at the Court’s registry.