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COURTS DO NOT MAKE CONTRACT FOR THE PARTIES

Dictum

It is not the function of the court to make contracts between the parties. The courts duty is to construe the surrounding circumstances including written or oral statements so as attest the intention of the parties. Where the correspondence exchanged between the parties are read together, it can be assumed that the parties have come to an agreement.

– Adekeye JSC. Nwaolisah v. Nwabufoh (2011)

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WHAT IS A FUNDAMENTAL TERM OF A CONTRACT

Niger Insurance Company Ltd v Abed Brothers Ltd & Anor (1976) LPELR-1995 (SC), thus:- “A fundamental term of a contract is a stipulation which the parties have agreed either expressly or by necessary implication or which the general law regards as a condition which goes to the root of the contract so that any breach of that term may at once and without further reference to the fact and circumstances be regarded by the innocent party as a fundamental breach and thus is conferred on him the alternative remedies at his option”.

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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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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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DRAFTING MAJOR COMMERCIAL CONTRACTS INVOLVING A STATE

585. It was a complete imbalance in the contributions of the parties that enabled the GSPA to be in the form it was. Many reading this judgment will recognise that, although in the present case bribery and corruption were behind that imbalance, it happens in other cases without bribery and corruption but simply where experience, expertise or resources are grossly unequal. This underlines the importance of professional standards and ethics in the work of contract drafting, including in the approach to other parties to the proposed contract. It is why some contributions of pro bono work by leading law firms to support some states challenged for resources (this is not to say, one way or the other, that Nigeria is one of those) is so valuable, in the interests of their, often vulnerable, people. In the present case there were other contracts too, with different counterparties. Their terms and circumstances are not identical, but the overall risk could have been a multiple of the US$11 billion now involved in the present case.

— R. Knowles CBE. FRN v. Process & Industrial Developments Limited [2023] EWHC 2638 (Comm)

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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 OF SERVICE AT COMMON LAW VS IN STATUTORY FLAVOUR

It is important to recognise the distinction between a contract of personal service and a contract of service. There is also the distinction between a contract of service at common law, and a contract with statutory favour. Whereas at common law a contract of personal service is determinable by the master at will without cause a contract of service is determinable by the master on reasonable notice or on the notice stipulated in the contract of the parties. A strict compliance with the statutory requirements for determination is required in contracts re-enforced by Statute or created by statute.

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

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