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CONTRACT OF SERVICE COMES TO AN END WHERE EMPLOYEE ACCEPTS REPUDIATION

Dictum

The contract of service comes to an end after the unilateral repudiation only if the employee accepts the repudiation expressly or by implication. – See Gunton v. Richmond-upon-Thames London Borough Council (1981) AC. at p. 464 and Decro-Wall International S.A. v. Practitioners in Marketing Ltd. (1971) 1 WLR. at pp. 369-370 per Salmon L. J.

— A.G. Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Olaniyan & Ors. v. University of Lagos (1985) – SC.53/1985

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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 and cannot claim arrears of salary and reinstatement. See Eze v. Spring Bank (2011) 12 SC Pt.1 Pg.173; Joseph Ifeta v. SPDC Nig. Ltd. (2006) 8 NWLR Pt.983 Pg.585.” Per OGUNWUMIJU, J.C.A. (Pp.32-33, Paras.B-F).

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NATURE OF EMPLOYMENT BY STATUTE – WRONGFUL DISMISSAL – DAMAGES

In this respect the observation of the Supreme Court per Belgore JSC (as he then was) in Union Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Ogboh (1995) 2 NWLR (Pt.380) 467 at 664 is apt. It merits my respective quotation in extenso. Said the learned justice of the Supreme Court:- “Except in employment governed by statute wherein the procedure for employment and discipline (including dismissal) of an employee are clearly spelt out, any other employment outside the statute is governed by the terms under which the parties agreed to be master and servant. Employment with statutory backing must be terminated in the way and manner prescribed by the statute and any other termination inconsistent with the relevant statute is null and void and of no effect examples are many especially with modern constitutional and statutory trends. (University of Lagos Act, 1962; Section 13 (2), 18 (e) and 61 under cases governed only by agreement of parties and not by statute, removal by way of termination of appointment or dismissal will be in the form agreed to; any other form connotes only wrongful termination or dismissal but not to declare such dismissal null and void. The only remedy is a claim for wrongful dismissal. This is based on the notion that no servant can be imposed by Court on an unwilling master even where the mater’s behaviour is wrong. For his wrongful act, he is only liable in damages and nothing more. Union Beverages Ltd v Owolabi (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt.68) 128.”

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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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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 where the contract of service is governed by provision of statute or where the conditions of service are contained in regulations, derived from statutory provisions, they invest the employee with a legal status higher than the ordinary one of master and servant. They accordingly enjoy statutory flavour”. (See also Idoniboye-Obu v NNPC (2003) FWLR (Pt.146) 959 at 1004; Shitta-Bey v Federal Civil Service Commission (1981) 1 SC 40; Olaniyan v University of Lagos (2001) FWLR (Pt.56) 808; (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.9) 599; Eperokun v University of Lagos (1986) 4 NWLR (Pt.24) 162; Professor Dupe Olatunbosun v Niser (supra); Dr. Bamgboye v University of Ilorin (1999) 10 NWLR (Pt.622) 290)

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THE EMPLOYEE HAS BURDEN TO PLACE TERMS AND CONDITIONS THAT WAS BREACHED BY EMPLOYER

The law is settled that in the determination of employment rights, it is the employee who complains that his employment contract has been breached that has the burden to place before the Court the terms and conditions of his employment that provide for his rights and obligations, see Okoebor v Police Council [2003] 12 NWLR (Pt 834) 444, Okomu Oil Palm Co v Iserhienrhien [2001] 6 NWLR (Pt. 710) 660 at 673, Idoniboye-Obe v. NNPC [2003] 2 NWLR (Pt. 805) 589 at 630. In furtherance of this the Claimant has placed before the Court his offer of employment (exhibit C1), staff handbook (exhibit C2), letter of promotion (exhibit C3), suspension letter (exhibit C7) letter of invitation to disciplinary committee (exhibit C8), letter of termination (exhibit C9), statement of account (exhibit C10), CBN operational guidelines for delisting (exhibit C11), and other service documents.

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

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WHERE TERMINATION IS WRONGFUL; ONLY REMEDY AVAILABLE IS SALARY IN LIEU

While I have earlier reckoned that the termination of the Claimant’s employment was not in itself wrongful, I must add for the sake of the said relief 7 that even where a termination is wrongful in a master servant employment, the remedy available is to the extent of what the employee would have earned as salary in lieu of notice.

— Z.M. Bashir, J. Gbaraka v Zenith Securities & Anor. (2020) – NICN/PHC/45/2018

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