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WHERE OFFICER HOLDS HIS OFFICE “AT PLEASURE”

Dictum

Where an officer holds his office “at pleasure,” like was the case in Brown v. Dagenham Urban District Council (1929) 1 K.B. 737 at p.742 he can be dismissed at will in complete disregard of any purported contract whether verbal, or written or even under seal, because such contract will be incompatible with his status and therefore destitute of legal value. Thus Servants of the Crown, civil as well as military, except in special cases, where it is otherwise provided by law, hold their office only during the pleasure of the Crown and can be dismissed at any time in spite of a contract for a period of Service:- Dunn v. Reginam (1896)1 Q.B. 116. In fact the employing authority will lack the power, the vires to “enter into a contract” inconsistent with the wording of the Statute which gave it power in the public interest to remove the Servant at its pleasure:- Nicholson v. Whitstable Urban District Council (1925) 89 J. P. Newsp 480 at p.508. An officer holding his office at pleasure has also no right to be heard before he is removed because there need not be anything against him to warrant his removal. If there is nothing against him, no reason need be given for there is nothing to defend since he held his office durante bene placito: See Reg v. Dartington School Governors (1844) 6 Q.B.682.

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

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NO STATUTORY FLAVOUR; WHERE CONTRACT DETERMINED BY AGREEMENT BETWEEN PARTIES

Fakuade v. O.A.U.T.H.C.M.B. (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt. 291) 47 where Karibi-Whyte JSC stated at page 63: “The character of an appointment and status of the employer in respect thereof is determined by the legal character and the contract of the employee. Hence where the contract of appointment is determinable by the agreement of the parties, simpliciter, there is no question of the contract having a statutory flavour. The fact that the other contracting party is the creation of a statute did not make any difference.”

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DUTY OF CLAIMANT TO PROVE CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT

It is the well settled position of law that a contract of employment is the bedrock upon which all employment relationships are formed and an aggrieved employee bears the evidential burden to place before the court his contract of employment and show in what way the terms and conditions were breached by the defendant. See F.M.C. Ido-Ekiti & Ors. v Alabi (2011) LPELR 4148 (CA).

— Adewemimo J. Afariogun v FUTA (2020) – NICN/AK/41/2017

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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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REPUDIATION BY ONE PARTY DOES NOT TERMINATE THE CONTRACT EXCEPT WHERE ACCEPTED

In Heyman v. Darwins Ltd. (1949) AC. 356, 361 Viscount Simon L.C. said, “But repudiation by one party standing alone does not terminate the contract. It takes two to end it, by repudiation on the one side, and acceptance of the repudiation on the other.” The proposition is founded on the elementary principles of the formation and discharge of contractual obligations. Where there is a unilateral repudiation of a contract, this is treated as an officer by the guilty part to the innocent party of the termination of the contract. It is the acceptance of the officer by the innocent party which acts as a discharge of the contract. – See Hochster H v. De La Tour (1853) 2 F& B. 678; Johnstone v. Milling (1886) 16 QBD 460. It is then open to the innocent party to sue only for damages since by his acceptance of the repudiation the contract comes to an end. Hence where the innocent party refuses to accept the repudiation the contract remains in existence.

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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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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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