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SERVICE OF EMPLOYMENT GOVERNED BY CONTRACT

Dictum

The second class of cases will cover the ordinary master and servant relationship governed by a written contract not subject to any statutory restrictions or limitations. Here the duty of the court will be to construe and apply the terms, conditions and provisions of the contract.

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

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TERMINATION OF SERVICE – MASTER & SERVANT

The law regarding master and servant is not in doubt. There is also no doubt that the contract of master and servant is subject to both statutory and common law rules. By and large, the master can terminate the contract with his servant at any time and for any reason or for no reason at all. But if he does so in a manner not warranted by the particular contract under review, he must pay damages for breach.

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

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TWO INGREDIENTS TO ESTABLISH STATUTORY FLAVOUR CONTRACT

However, it should not be mistaken that once a company, corporation or government agency is set up by statute, all the employees thereof ipso facto became children of statute to the extent that their individual agreement of service with the employer automatically becomes contract with statutory flavour. Two of the vital ingredients that must coexist before a contract of employment may be said to import statutory flavour includes the following:- 1. The employer must be a body set up by statute. 2. The stabilizing statute must make express provision regulating the employment of the staff of the category of the employee concerned especially in matters of discipline. See in this regard Idoniboye-Obu v NNPC (2003) FWLR (Pt.146) 959 at 992; Salami v New Nigerian Newspaper Ltd (1999) 13 NWLR (Pt. 634) pg 315; CBN v Archibong (2001) FWLR (Pt.58) 1032 at 1056; Udemah v Nigerian Civil Corporation (1991) 13 NWLR (Pt.180) 477; Fakuade v O.A.U Complex Management Board (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt.291) 47.

— M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. Kwara Judicial Commission v Tolani (2019) – SC.63/2010

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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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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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EMPLOYMENT NOT GOVERNED BY STATUTE – EMPLOYEE CAN ONLY CLAIM DAMAGES

In BENIN ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANY PLC. v. ESEALUKA (2013) LPELR-20159 (CA) held that: “…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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WRONGFUL TERMINATION VS UNLAWFUL TERMINATION

In wrongful termination or dismissal, the termination/dismissal is complete and the defendant is only liable in damages, while in unlawful termination/dismissal, there is no such termination or dismissal at all as it would be pronounced null, void. See Imoloame v WAEC (supra) at 305; Kabelmetal (Nig.) Ltd v Ativie (2001) FWLR (Pt.65) 662 at 674- ,675.

— M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. Kwara Judicial Commission v Tolani (2019) – SC.63/2010

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