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MEANING OF THE TERM ‘CONTRACT’

Dictum

A contract may be defined as a legally binding agreement between two or more persons by which rights are acquired by one party in return for acts or forbearances on the part of the other. In effect a contract is a bilateral affair which needs the ad idem of the parties, therefore where the parties are not ad idem, the court will find as a matter of law that an agreement or contract was not duly made between the parties. Odutola v. Papersack (Nigeria) Limited (2006) 18 NWLR Pt. 1012 pg.470. Olowofoyeku v. A-G. Oyo State (1990) 2 NWLR Pt. 132 pg. 369 Oreint Bank (Nigeria) Plc. v. Bilante International Limited (1997) 8 NWLR Pt. 515 pg. 37 Societe General Bank (Nigeria) v. Safa Steel and Chemical Manufacturing Limited (1998) 5 NWLR Pt. 548 pg. 168.

— Adekeye, JSC. Best Ltd. v. Blackwood Hodge (2011) – SC

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FORMING A CONTRACT – MUTUAL ASSENT

The nature of the plaintiffs/appellants’ claim, as averred in their amended Statement of Claim, which of course they failed to prove, was that there was a subsisting contract between the parties. Whether or not there is a semblance of a legally binding agreement between the parties, that is, a situation where the parties to the contract confer rights and impose liabilities on themselves, will largely depend on whether there exists a mutual assent between them. Where there is doubt on whether the parties have concluded a legally binding agreement, the court has the responsibility to analyse the circumstances surrounding the alleged agreement and determine whether the traditional notion of ‘offer’ and “acceptance” can be distilled from the purported agreement. The mutual assent must be outwardly manifested. The test of the existence of such mutuality is objective. See Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society v Price (1943) AC 455 at 463. When there is mutual assent, the parties are said to be ad idem. Now the two items, “offer” and “acceptance”, earlier referred to, call for some explanation in order to recognise whether or not the parties are ad idem. An ‘offer’ is an expression of readiness to contract on the terms specified by the offeror (i.e. the person making the offer) which if accepted by the offeree (i.e. the person to whom the offer is made) will give rise to a binding contract. In other words, it is by acceptance that the offer is converted into a contract.

— Achike, JSC. Sparkling Breweries v Union Bank (SC 113/1996, 13 July 2001)

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WHEN AGREEMENT IS MADE

An agreement is made where there exists an offer, acceptance, consideration, capacity to contract and intention to create legal relationship. – Niki Tobi JSC. Yaro v. Arewa CL (2007)

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WHERE CONTRACTUAL NEW TERM CAN BE INTRODUCED

Where parties enter into an agreement and subsequently decide to introduce new terms, they can only do so by specific reference to the earlier agreement to the effect that the later agreement has introduced new terms thereof.

– Niki Tobi JSC. Yaro v. Arewa CL (2007)

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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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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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PARTIES BOUND BY AGREEMENT

It is trite law that persons of full age and sound mind are bound by any agreement lawfully entered into by them. – Kutigi JSC. Okonkwo v. Cooperative Bank (2003)

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