The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The case related to a petroleum agreement between the Ghanaian government and a Norwegian company. The agreement was ratified by Parliament, but the Minister of Energy thereafter refused the company’s assignment of their Petroleum Agreement to its wholly owned local subsidiary. The question was whether Parliament’s permission is required to terminate a resource exploitation transaction, as they ratify it. The rationale for ratification is for transparency, openness and participation in matters involving natural resources but the exercise of checks and balances does not extend to approving termination of agreements that the executive has jurisdiction over. The court held that whereas Parliament ratified these agreements, the act remains an act of the executive and Parliament’s approval is not needed to terminate the agreement.
The matter involved a dispute concerning the nature and validity of the transaction between the defendant, a government-owned limited liability company, and Karpower. The matter revolved around the interpretation given to the phrase ‘international transaction’ in article 181 of the Constitution, a phrase whose effect is that the transaction required parliamentary approval.
The first question that faced the court concerned jurisdiction. The court relied on ample case law to arrive at the position that the Supreme Court is not a clearing house to assume jurisdiction which otherwise belongs to other lower courts. It noted that jurisdiction would only be exercised where it is manifestly clear and obvious that the cases are deserving.
Substantively, the court then had to consider the legal nature of the defendants in order to ascertain whether they were the alter ego of the government. After scrutinising the relevant transactions, the court reasoned that it was clear that the defendants, as juristic persons, had the capacity to enter into the transactions they entered into with the relevant institutions without seeking parliamentary approval as stipulated in article 181 (5) of the Constitution.
The court concluded that given the established interpretation of ‘international transaction’ and the legal nature of the defendants, the nature of transaction between the first defendants and Karpowership does not constitute an international business transaction with a government. It therefore did not require compliance with article 181 (5) of the Constitution.
The court dismissed the application.