Commercial Law

TATA Africa, Jasper Biochemicals in legal battle over disputed debt

The cordial international trade relationship between two Limited Liability Companies, Tata Africa Services limited and Jasper Biochemicals and Allied Products Limited over the years has degenerated into legal hostility over a disputed debt.

While TATA claims that Jasper Biochemicals owe him a sum of N39.1 million in unpaid monies for supplied industrial and food chemicals, Jasper Biochemicals on the other hand claims N60.3 million for breach  of sale of expired, inferior and substandard chemicals; N20 million for breach of contract and N23,286,048 as outstanding rent of its warehouse and cost of repairing the warehouse.

The two parties are currently before a Lagos High Court sitting at Ikeja seeking the adjudication of the matter.

In a statement of claim filed before the court by Metrocrest Legal practitioners, the Claimant, Tata Africa   alleged that by a local purchase order dated 3rd September, 2018, the defendant, Jasper Biochemicals purchased some industrial and food chemicals from the Claimant worth N44,352,357.59, but only paid marginal part of the purchased sum leaving an outstanding balance of N39,088,877.
The Claimant demanded for payment of the outstanding debt from the defendant but the defendant remain adamant and have refused to pay up the outstanding debt.
Whereupon the Claimant asks the court to order the defendant to pay the Claimant the total sum of N39,088,877 being the outstanding sum owed the Claimant for the purchase of Industrial and food chemicals from the Claimant.
The claimant further asked for Interest on the said sum at the agreed rate of 2% per month from the 3rd of September 2018 until Judgement is delivered and thereafter at the rate of 10% until final liquidation.
However, in a statement of defence and counter claim accompanied by witness statement on oath of the Managing Director/Chief Executive officer of Jasper Biochemicals and Allied Products Ltd, Dr  Emmanuel Okworigho and filed before the court by a Lagos Lawyer, Barrister Frank Eke, the defendant Company while denying almost all the claims of Tata Africa averred that, on the 20th of August 2018, Tata Africa in the process of closing down its chemical division  and planning to give up its rented warehouse  was desperately looking for outlets to dispose off the industrial and food chemicals,  knowing fully well that majority of its products had expired, while the remaining few orders were near expiration dates of less than 2 to 3 months. TATA according to the defendant, was trying to avoid heavy punitive sanctions from NAFDAC  for selling expired industrial food to the public
The company requested Jasper Biochemicals as a trusted and reliable Company for help to evacuate the last batch of unsold expired and nearly expired chemicals, and to enable the Claimant invoice the expired goods for the purpose of evacuation into the defendant warehouse to enable the defendant dispose them on behalf of the Claimant and also due to the fact that the Claimant was paying heavily for rented warehouses.
At the instant of the Claimant, chemicals were kept in the defendant’s warehouse, therefore at no time did he acceded to the indebtedness of N39,088,877.00, or any amount whatsoever because as at the time the Claimant was closing its chemical business, the transaction  the Claimant allegedly had with the defendant’s credit line had also expired.
The local purchase order for the goods was not addressed to the defendant and no contract was envisaged with the Claiman.
Dr Okworigho averred further that, N10. 6million was paid into the claimant’s account by his company on account of chemicals the defendant was able to dispose off, and in the course of chemical business,in situation where goods were found to be substandard or expired,such goods would be returned to the Claimant as a rule of chemical business.
When the claimant was invited to come and take stock of the balance of their chemicals, the Claimant refused but opted for payment. By that time there was no known warehouse to return the chemicals which are highly hazardous to human consumption having closed and given up her warehouse.
Consequently, by way of counter-claim,  Jasper Biochemicals claims against Tata Africa Services (Nigeria) Limited as follows:
  •  A declaration that Tata Africa is in breach of sale of chemical Products of merchantable quality in the sum of N60,371,110 being the cost of chemical purchased in cash from the company which are expired, inferior and substandard.
  • The sum of 17,286,000 being the cost to repair Jasper Biochemicals warehouse which damage was caused as a result of expired chemicals stored in the warehouse. N6,000,048 being the outstanding unpaid rent of the warehouse. Damages in the sum of N20million for breach of contract arising from the loss in cured as a result of sale of unfit and unsellable bad stock of food and industrial chemical Products which were returned by costumers as unsold.
Meanwhile,the Presiding Judge, Justice Lateefat Folami has adjourned till April15, 2021 for hearing to commence.

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