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COURT SHOULD TREAT AS SACROSANCT TERMS OF AGREEMENT BY PARTIES

Dictum

It must be reiterated here that the court must treat as sacrosanct the terms of an agreement freely entered into by the parties. This is because parties to a contract enjoy their freedom to contact on their own terms so long as same is lawful. The terms of a contract between parties are clothed with some degree of sanctity and if any question should arise with regard to the contract, the terms in any document which constitute the contract are invariably the guide to its interpretation when parties enter into a contract, they are bound by the terms of the contract as set out by them. It is not the business of the court to rewrite a contract for the parties. See Afrotech Services Nig Ltd. v. M.A. & Sons Ltd. (2002) 15 NWLR (pt. 692) 730 at 788.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. BFI v. Bureau PE (2012) – SC.12/2008

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COURT CANNOT IMPOSE CONTRACT ON A PARTIES

The relationship between the parties in this case is well-scripted, known and appreciated by them. The Court cannot write or rewrite any agreement for the parties. The parties to any transaction usually have their positions which they bring to their table of negotiation. When they are done with their negotiations, they now have their terms well-crafted to govern the transaction they enter into. The parties and no other are responsible for their terms of engagement. No Court has the power to script or foist on the parties terms which are strange to their agreement. Parties are bound by the terms of their contract.

— S.J. Adah, JCA. Luck Guard v. Adariku (2022) – CA/A/1061/2020

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ONLY WHERE THERE IS A CONSENSUS AD IDEM THERE IS A CONTRACT

It is trite that a valid contract can exist only when there is a “consensus ad idem” i.e., when there is a meeting of mind of the parties showing that the parties are bound by a specific term. This meeting of mind is, expressed in the form of “an offer” and “an acceptance” of that offer. It is only where they exist that there is a valid contract.

– Amaizu, J.C.A. Adeniran v. Olagunju (2001)

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TERMINATION OF CONTRACT OF SERVICE BRINGS TO AN END MASTER-SERVANT RELATIONSHIP

Chukuma v. Shell Petroleum Development Company (1993) 4 NWLR (Pt. 289) 512 at 560 where Karibi-Whyte JSC said: “In the ordinary case and following the common law principle,termination of a contract of service even if unlawful brings to an end the relationship of master and servant, employer and employee. This rule is based on the principle of the confidential relationship between master and servant which cannot continue in the absence of mutuality.”

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WRONGFULLY TERMINATED CONTRACT

Where an employee’s appointment is wrongfully terminated, his remedy lies in an action for damages, because the court cannot force an employer to keep an employee in his services if the employee’s services are no longer required. The normal measure of damages the employee would be entitled to, is what he would have earned over the period of notice required to lawfully terminate his employment. This is consistent with the contract between the parties which has stipulated the measure of damages. See: Onalaja v. African Petroleum Ltd. (1991) 7 NWLR (Pt. 206) 691 ; Taiwo v. Kingsway Stores Ltd. (1950) 19 NLR 122 and Union Bank of Nigeria Ltd. v. Ogboh (1995) 2 NWLR (Pt. 380) 647.

– Muhammad JCA. Osumah v. EBS (2004)

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REPUDIATION OF CONTRACT CANNOT BE DONE BY ONE PARTY ALONE

Contracts are made by parties and the Court interprets same. Repudiation of contract cannot be done by one party, see ADENIYI VS GOVERNING COUNCIL OF YABA TECH (1993) LPELR-128(SC) held thus; “But repudiation by one party standing alone does not terminate the contract. It takes two to end it, by repudiation on the one side, and acceptance of the repudiation on the other.”

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

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ILLEGALITY OF A CONTRACT VIS-À-VIS PLEADINGS

In Northern Salt Co. v. Electroytic Alkaki Co. (1914) A.C. 461, Viscount Haldane, L.C., stated this rule at page 469, thus: “My lords, it is no doubt true that where on the plaintiff’s case it appears to the court that the claim is illegal, and that it would be contrary to public policy to entertain it, the court may and ought to refuse to do so. But this must only be when either the agreement relied on is on the face of it illegal, or where, if facts relating to such an agreement are relied on, the plaintiff’s case has been completely presented. If the point has not been raised on the pleadings so as to warn the plaintiff to produce evidence which he may be able to bring forward rebutting any presumption of illegality which might be based on some isolated fact, then the court ought not to take a course which may easily lead to a miscarriage of justice. On the other hand, if the action really rests on a contract which on the face of it ought not to be enforced, then, as I have already said, the Court ought to dismiss the claim, irrespective of whether the pleadings of the defendant raise the question of illegality.”

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