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WRONGFUL TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT – WHAT WOULD HAVE EARNED IN THE PERIOD

Dictum

In NITEL Plc. v. Akwa (2006) 2 NWLR (Pt.964)391 held that: “The law is settled, that where an employee’s appointment is terminated wrongfully or otherwise all he is entitled to is what he would have earned over the period of notice required to lawfully terminate this employment. The amount he is entitled to in his case is one month salary in lieu of notice and no more. See International Drilling Co. (Nig.) Ltd. v. Ajijala (1976) 2 SC 115; Akunforile v. Mobil (1969) NCLR 253; WNDC v. Abimbola (1966) 1 All NLR 159; Nigerian Produce Marketing Board v. Adewunmi (supra).” Per SANUSI, J.C.A (P. 42, paras. A-D).

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EQUAL SALARY FOR EQUAL WORK CANNOT BE APPLIED WHERE PAYMENT SOURCES ARE DIFFERENT

Para. 30: “Indeed, the principle of equality of salary, which implies the elimination of salary discrimination based on whatever criteria that may relate to the person of the salaried worker, does not apply to the diversity of the sources of remuneration. Here, the salaries proposed by the Defendants are to be paid, not from the funds of the Commonwealth, but from the budget of the Defendants themselves. This was what was established as a principle, by Court of Justice of the European Union, in the 17th September 2002 Judgment on Lawrence and Regent Office Care Ltd. & Others (Report 1-07325-C.C.E.E.) when it stated that “the principle of equal work, equal salary, does not apply when the observed disparities in remuneration cannot be attributed to a single source’.”

— Essien v. The Gambia (2007) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/05/07

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DAMAGES WILL BE GRANTED WHERE REINSTATEMENT IS NOT APPROPRIATE

Igbe v. Govenor Bendel State (1983) 1 SCLR page 73, where, as in this case, the chairman and members of the civil service commission of Bendel State were removed from their offices without compliance with the relevant statutory provisions, the Supreme Court awarded damages in lieu of reinstatement because reinstatement was not appropriate in the circumstances. Again, in contracts of employment with statutory flavour, the court would however grant damages as relief where there is evidence of situation and circumstances which makes it impossible to order reinstatement.

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SERVICE OF EMPLOYMENT GOVERNED BY CONTRACT

The second class of cases will cover the ordinary master and servant relationship governed by a written contract not subject to any statutory restrictions or limitations. Here the duty of the court will be to construe and apply the terms, conditions and provisions of the contract.

— A. Oputa, JSC. Olaniyan & Ors. v. University of Lagos (1985) – SC.53/1985

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NOT ALL EMPLOYMENT BY STATUTORY BODY HAS STATUTORY FLAVOUR

The fact that an organisation or authority which is an employer is a statutory body does not mean that the conditions of service of its employees must be of a special character, ruling out the incidence of a mere master and servant relationship. Where the contract between the parties is clear and unequivocal, the court must, in construing the relationship of the parties, confine itself to the terms and contract of service between the parties.

– Muhammad JCA. Osumah v. EBS (2004)

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ESTOPPED WHEN SALARY PAYMENT IS IN CONTINUANCE

Ondo State University v. Folayan (1994) 7 NWLR (Pt. 667) page 34 at page 61, the university had appointed Dr. Folayan for a probationary period of three years. Without extending the tenure of Dr. Folayan, they continued to use his services and pay him his salaries for three years. The Supreme Court held that the university was estopped from contending that the employment had come to an end at the end of the three years probationary period.

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AN EMPLOYEE IS ENTITLED TO KNOW THE REASON FOR HIS DISMISSAL

The ILO Termination of Employment Convention 1982 (No 158) is yet to be ratified by Nigeria. It is however evidence of international labour standards, and international best practice in termination of employment which this Court is obligated to apply; and its recommendations that an employee is entitled to be informed of the reason for the termination of his employment. Section 7 (6) of the National Industrial Court Act 2006 empowers the Court to have due regard to good or international best practices in labour or industrial relations, and what amounts to good or international best practices in labour is a question of fact. Section 254C of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) has empowered this Court to determine whether the Claimant was terminated for a valid reason or for no reason. It is not globally acceptable in industrial relations and practice to terminate the employee’s employment without adducing any reason for doing so, see Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria v Schlumberger Anadrill Nig Ltd [2008] 11 NLLR (Pt 29) 164, Aloysius v Diamond Bank Plc [2015] 58 NLLR 52, Uzo Ejekwumadu v Blue Arrow TSW Ltd (unreported) Suit No: NICN/LA/242/2016 judgement delivered March 18, 2021. It is contrary to international labour standards and international best practices for an employer to terminate the employment of its employee without any reason or justifiable reason that is connected with the performance of the employee’s work. This is also contrary to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) decent work agenda with the four strategic objectives of the promotion of rights at work, employment, social protection, and social dialogue.

— O.A. Obaseki-Osaghae, J. Ejiro Peter Amratefa v. Access Bank (NICN/ABJ/106/2022, November 2, 2023)

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