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CONSTITUTING A BINDING CONTRACT: OFFER, ACCEPTANCE, CONSENSUS AD IDEM

Dictum

In law, to constitute a binding contract between parties, there must be a meeting of the mind often referred to as consensus ad idem. The mutual consent relates to offer and acceptance. While an offer is the expression by a party of readiness to contract on the terms specified by him by which if accepted by the offeree gives rise to a binding contract, the offer only matures into a contract where the offeree signifies a clear and unequivocal intention to accept the offer. An offer can be accepted in such a manner as may be implied, such as doing an act which the person expecting acceptance wants done. On the other hand, an invitation to treat is simply the first step in negotiations between the parties to a contract. It may or may not lead to a definite offer being made by one of the parties to the other in the negotiation. In law therefore, an invitation to treat is thus not an agreement or contract. See Meka BAB Manufacturing Co. Ltd v. ACB Ltd (2004) 2 NWLR (PT. 858) 521. See also Unitab Nigeria Ltd v. Engr. Oyelola and Anor (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 286) 824 @ pp. 829-830; Okugbule and Anor v. Oyegbola and Ors (1990) 4 NWLR (pt. 147) 723; See also Afolabi v. Polymera Industries Ltd (1967) 1 All NLR 144; Nneji v. Zakhem Construction Nig. Ltd (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt. 994) 297; BFI Group Corporation v. Bureau of Public Enterprises (2012) LPELR-9339 (SC).

— B.A. Georgewill JCA. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc V. Longterm Global Capital Limited & Ors. (CA/L/427/2016, 9 Mar 2018)

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OFFER & A COUNTEROFFER

An offer must be unconditionally and unqualified by accepted. Any addition to or subtraction from the terms of the offer is an alteration to the terms and amounts to a total rejection of the offer by the offeree. The terms embedded in the rejection may form the basis for the formation of a new agreement. This is what amounts to a counter-offer. An offer is impliedly rejected if the offeree instead of accepting the original offer makes a counter-offer which varies the terms proposed by the offeror. Hyde v. Wrench (1840) 3 Kear. 334.

— Adekeye, JSC. Best Ltd. v. Blackwood Hodge (2011) – SC

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TO DETERMINE RIGHTS IN A CONTRACT, COURT MUST RESPECT CONTRACT MADE BY PARTIES

The position of the law is that in determining the rights and obligations of parties to a contract, the court must respect the sanctity of the contract made by them. They are bound by the terms thereof and the court will not allow any extraneous term to be read into it. See Adams O. Idufueko v Pfizer Products Limited & Anor. (2014) LPELR-22999 (SC).

— Adewemimo J. Afariogun v FUTA (2020) – NICN/AK/41/2017

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CONTRACT CREATES RECIPROCAL OBLIGATIONS

A contract is an agreement between two or more parties which creates reciprocal obligations to do or not to do a particular thing. Thus, for a valid contract to be formed, there must be mutuality of purpose and intention. In other words, the two or more minds must meet at the same point, event, or incident. They must not meet at different points, events or incidents. They must be saying the same thing at the same time. See ORIENT BANK (NIG) PLC V BILANTE INTERNATIONAL LTD (1997) 8 NWLR (pt. 515) 37.

— M.L. Shuaibu, JCA. Ekpo v GTB (2018) – CA/C/324/2013

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THE ILLEGAL PART OF A CONTRACT CAN BE SEVERED FROM THE OTHER LEGAL PART

This is because it is a recognized principle of law that a contract will rarely be totally illegal or void: certain parts may be entirely lawful in themselves, while others are valid. Where the illegal or void parts can be “severed” from the rest of the contract on the well-known principles of severance such will be done and the rest of the contract enforced without the void part. It is permissible for courts to adopt this course where the objectionable part of the contract involves merely a void step or promise and is not fundamental, and it is possible to simply strike down the offending part without re-writing or remaking the contract for the parties and without altering the scope and intention of the agreement; and lastly, the contract, shorn of the offending parts, retains the characteristics of a valid contract. See on these Vol. 9 Hals. Laws of England (4th Edn.) p.297 in paragraph 430. See also Commercial Plastics Ltd. v. Vincent (1964) 3 All E.R. 546, C.A.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Adesanya v Otuewu (1993) – SC.217/1989

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WHERE CONTRACTUAL NEW TERM CAN BE INTRODUCED

Where parties enter into an agreement and subsequently decide to introduce new terms, they can only do so by specific reference to the earlier agreement to the effect that the later agreement has introduced new terms thereof.

– Niki Tobi JSC. Yaro v. Arewa CL (2007)

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WHEN INTERPRETING A CONTRACTUAL DOCUMENT THE WHOLE DOCUMENT SHOULD BE TAKEN CONSIDERATION OF

I am in full support of the submission of appellant’s counsel that it was a misdirection for the lower court in consideration of whether the land, the subject matter in controversy, was bare land or included the structures thereon to have relied on only clauses 3 and 6 in the entire lease agreement to arrive at its conclusion. The learned Justices of the lower court were clearly in error because it is a fundamental rule of construction of instruments that its several clauses, must be interpreted harmoniously so that the various parts of the instrument are not brought in conflict to their natural meaning. Emphasising the same point, the learned authors of Halsbury’s Laws of England. Vo1.12, (4th ed.) para. 1469) stated tersely but pointedly: “The best construction of deeds is to make one part of the deed expound the other, and so make all the parts agree. Effect must, so far as possible, be given to every word and every clause.” The same principle was approved by this Court in Lamikoro Ojokolobo & Ors. v. Lapade Alamu & Anor. (1987) 7 SCNJ 98, (1987) 3 NWLR (pt.61) 339. Surely, a fragmentary interpretation of the various clause of the lease agreement without recourse to the entire Lease Agreement would do violence to the content in which the controversial terms “premises” and “land” were employed and therefore the ascertainment of the parties’ intention in relation to these two terms was bound to be distorted and erroneous and consequently unacceptable.

— Achike, JSC. Unilife v. Adeshigbin (2001) 4 NWLR (Pt.704) 609

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