Courts must consider current value of naira

The courts must consider the current value of the Naira in awarding damages.

 

Onagoruwa v. IGP [1991] 5 NWLR (Pt. 193) 593 at 650-651, per Tobi, JCA (as he then was, and now of blessed memory):

“In these days of racing inflation where the buying and purchasing power of the Naira falls drastically (and painfully so) every day and therefore not commensurate to the quality and quantity of goods bought, a Judge should in the assessment of damages consider the current market situation. It will be most unrealistic to ignore this fundamental aspect and merely theorise with principles of law and facts and figures presented to him in court by counsel and witnesses. While the Judge is not expected to play the role of a housewife of Sangross Market, Lagos, Kasuwa Kurimi Market of Kano or the Ogbete Market of Enugu by sampling prices of goods randomly,  he must always remind himself that market prices escalate by leaps and bounds and they affect the purchasing power of the Naira.”

Blogger’s Note:

This is a good observation and represents good and forward thinking. The Court is commended.

Relying on the above pronouncement, the Court of Appeal, per Salami, JCA, in Usman v. Abubakar [2001] 12 NWLR (Pt. 728) at 710, paras. D-E, remarked: “The economic reality of today is that the Naira is a ghost or shadow of its old self. The value of the Naira in 1993 when the property was destroyed was about N5.00 to a Dollar. Today the Naira has so badly shrunk or slumped to one Dollar changing for about N110.00. Its purchasing power should constitute relevant factor in the appropriate cases especially so when evidence is led as to the deplorable decline in the exchange rate or purchasing power of the Naira.” The Court also relied on the Supreme Court case of Allied Bank v. Akubueze [1997] 6 NWLR (Pt. 509) 374.

Sadly, the Naira has known nothing but consistent drop in value. Tobi, JCA (of blessed memory) in Onagoruwa’s case described the condition of the Naira as far back as the early 90s thus: “The Naira is no longer a stable and enduring currency.  It floats in the money market adversely. It also floats in the Nigerian wind not because of its physical lightness but because of its loss of monetary value. After all, the Naira is now one heavy coin.”

Our courts should of necessity always be mindful of the value of the Naira in awarding damages. This however does not imply that a successful party in a suit should be awarded a windfall. See Emirate Airline v. Ngonadi (No. 2) [2014] 9 NWLR (Pt. 1413) 506 also cited in our previous post.

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