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EMPLOYMENT REGULATED BY STATUTE

Dictum

There may be cases where the body employing the servant is under some statutory or other restrictions as to the kind of contract or the grounds on which it can remove or dismiss him. In such contracts, if the servant is removed on grounds other than those specified in the contract or allowed by Statute, his removal will be held to be unjustified or ultra vires, null and void as the case may be:- see McChelland v. Northern Ireland General Health Service Board (1957) 1 W.L.R. 549.

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

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STATUTORY FLAVOUR EMPLOYMENT

An employment with statutory flavour is one governed by statute wherein the procedures for employment and dismissal of an employee are clearly spelt out. In such a situation, the employment cannot be terminated other than in the way and manner prescribed by that statute and any other manner of termination inconsistent with the statute is null and void and of no effect. The contract is determinable not by the parties, but only by statutory preconditions governing its determination.

– Muhammad JCA. Osumah v. EBS (2004)

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REMOVING SERVANT REGULATED BY STATUTE, MUST GIVE ETERNAL JUSTICE

When the employing authority wants to remove its servant on grounds permitted by Statute, then as Lord Campbell, C. J., observed in Exparte Ramshay (1852) 18 Q.B. 173 at p.190 “the principles of eternal justice” will dictate that the servant cannot be lawfully dismissed without first telling him what is alleged against him and hearing his defence or explanation. Even where the servant had, aliunde, personal knowledge of the offence or reason for his removal that was held to be no substitute for hearing the officer’s explanation:- Reg v. Smith (1844) 5 Q.B. 614.

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

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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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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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EMPLOYMENT OF STATUTORY FLAVOUR – CREATION OF STATUTE

It is settled law that the character of an appointment is determined by the legal character of the contract of employment. Where the contract of appointment is determinable by the agreement of the parties, there is no question of the contract having a statutory flavour. It is immaterial that the other contracting party is a creation of a statute.

– Muhammad JCA. Osumah v. EBS (2004)

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SCOPE OF EMPLOYER’S DUTY TO EMPLOYEE INCLUDES TAKING REASONABLE CARE

The law is of common that the scope of an employer’s duty to its employee to take reasonable care for the safety of his workman and other employee in the course of their employment, this duty extends in particular to the safety of place of work, the plant and machinery and the method and conduct of work. Duty of care as an act or omission, has its origin on the concept of foreseeability as decided in the old case of Heaven v. Pencher (1983) 11 QBD 503 at 509 where Bret M.R. said “Whenever one person is by circumstance placed in such a position with regard to another, that everyone of ordinary sense who did think would at once recognise that if he did not use ordinary care and skill in his own conduct with regard to the circumstances he would cause danger, injury to the person or property of the other, a duty arises to use ordinary care skill and avoid such danger.”

— O. Oyewumi, J. Aseidu v Japaul (2019) – NICN/AK/01/2016

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