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AN EMPLOYEE IS ENTITLED TO KNOW THE REASON FOR HIS DISMISSAL

Dictum

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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WORKER AND EMPLOYEE UNDER THE LABOUR ACT

As can be seen, the definition of worker under section 91(1) is restrictive given the persons exempted in terms of paragraphs (a) to (f) of the definition. The point is that section 91(1) defines a worker only for the purposes of the Labour Act; as such, not all employees are workers for purposes of the Labour Act. The category of persons under paragraphs (a) to (f) of the definition of a worker may thus be employees but not workers for purposes of the Labour Act. Section 91(1) of the Labour Act defines a worker by reference to an employer i.e. as one who entered into or works under a contract with an employer. So, who is an employer? The same section 91(1) defines an “employer” to mean “any person who has entered into a contract of employment to employ any other person as a worker either for himself or for the service of any other person, and includes the agent, manager or factor of the first-mentioned person and the personal representatives of a deceased employer”. The common denominator in the definition of a worker and an employer is the contract of employment. A “contract of employment” is thus defined by same section 91(1) to mean “any agreement, whether oral or written, express or implied, whereby one person agrees to employ another as a worker and that other personagrees to serve the employer as a worker”.

— B.B. Kanyip, J. Olatunji v UBER (2018) – NICN/LA/546/2017

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EMPLOYMENT NOT GOVERNED BY STATUTE – EMPLOYEE CAN ONLY CLAIM DAMAGES

In BENIN ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANY PLC. v. ESEALUKA (2013) LPELR-20159 (CA) held that: “…where the relationship is not governed by statute and there is infraction of the terms of employment and dismissal by the employer, such infraction is merely wrongful and not null and void. The employee can only claim damages for breach of contract...

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NOTICE FOR DISMISSAL MUST BE READ INTO CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT

The common law enjoins that even where the contract of employment does not stipulate a notice period, one that is reasonable must be read into the contract of employment. See Akumechiel v. BCC Ltd[1997] (Pt.484) 695 at 703 and Emuwa v. Consolidated Discounts Ltd [2000] LPELR-6871(CA);[2001] 2 NWLR (Pt.697)424. The Supreme Court in Olayinka Kusamotu v. Wemabod Estate Ltd [1976] LPELR-1720(SC); [1976] 9-10 SC (Reprint) 254 stated the law thus: The law is that, generally, the length of notice required for termination of contracts of employment depends on the intention of the parties as can or may be gathered from their contract and in the absence of any express provision, the courts will always imply a term that the employment may be terminated by a reasonable notice (from either of the parties); and even where (as clearly provided in clause 21(c) of “Exhibit “B” for persons still under probation) the employer has power to terminate the contract in his absolute discretion, the law enjoins the employer to give reasonable notice to the employee (see Re-African Association and Allen (1910) 1 KB 396).

— B.B. Kanyip, J. Awogu v TFG Real Estate (2018) – NICN/LA/262/2013 para. 60.

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WRONGFUL TERMINATION VS UNLAWFUL TERMINATION

In wrongful termination or dismissal, the termination/dismissal is complete and the defendant is only liable in damages, while in unlawful termination/dismissal, there is no such termination or dismissal at all as it would be pronounced null, void. See Imoloame v WAEC (supra) at 305; Kabelmetal (Nig.) Ltd v Ativie (2001) FWLR (Pt.65) 662 at 674-...

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CONCEPT OF EQUAL SALARY FOR EQUAL WORK

Para. 27: “In labour law, the concept of equal work for equal salary implies that two or several persons who carry out the same job occupy the same position in an organisation must earn the same remuneration and have the same prospects for promotion, except where the employer justifies a difference in treatment by objective factors not related to any form of discrimination. We hold that the objective of the principle of equal work for equal salary is to prohibit every form of discrimination between individuals who find themselves under the same condition.”

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

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WHEN IS AN EMPLOYMENT CLOTHED WITH STATUTORY FLAVOUR

In the case of Imoloame v West African Examination Council (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt.265) 303 at 317, Karibi- Whyte JSC dealing with when an employment is said to be clothed with statutory flavour said:- “…there is an employment with statutory flavour when the appointment and termination is governed by statutory provision. It is accepted that...

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