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EMPLOYMENT: THERE WILL BE AN ACTION FOR REINSTATEMENT WHERE THERE IS UNILATERAL REPUDIATION

Dictum

In Vitarelli v. Seaton 359 US. 335, the Supreme Court of the United States of America granted a declaration in the case of a civil servant even in a case involving State Security, because the proper procedure was not adopted. An analysis of the decided cases leads to the conclusions that an action for reinstatement is only possible where there is a unilateral repudiation of the contract of service by the Master (the Employer) which has not been accepted by the (employee) Servant. See Denmark Productions Ltd. v. Bascobol Productions Ltd. (1961) 3 All E.R. 583. In that situation the contract is still in existence having not been discharged by the acceptance of the repudiation. It is therefore not the same as where the contract has been discharged and the dismissed employee is entitled only to damages.

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

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EMPLOYMENT REGULATED BY STATUTE

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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SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE CANNOT BE AWARDED FOR WRONGFUL DISMISSAL

The common law principle is that no specific performance could be awarded for wrongful dismissal: accordingly, where a contract is purported to have been determined, even if wrongfully, it ceases to exist.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Chukwumah v. SPDC (1993)

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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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CONTRACT OF SERVICE COMES TO AN END WHERE EMPLOYEE ACCEPTS REPUDIATION

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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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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EMPLOYMENT GOVERNED BY STATUTE & THAT NOT GOVERNED BY STATUTE

In the case of BENIN ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANY PLC. v. ESEALUKA (2013) LPELR-20159(CA) where the court held that: “There is no doubt that there is a vast difference between an employment with statutory flavor in which case the terms of employment of that staff is governed by the statute creating that organization and any infraction of the terms of employment and discipline as guaranteed by the statute is bound to be declared null and void. That is illegal dismissal, where it occurs. In such situations the employee is restored to the position as if no disciplinary measures had been taken at all. See Dr. Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju & Ors. v. Prof. Shuaib O. Abdul-Raheem & Ors. (2009) 13 NWLR Pt.1157 Pg.83; Bamgboye v. University of Ilorin (1999) 10 NWLR Pt.622 Pg.290. However, 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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