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  • Nigerian Gas Company Ltd. vs. Unuavwodo
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  • 2003-08-25
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Nigerian Gas Company Ltd. vs. Unuavwodo

NIGERIAN GAS COMPANY LTD.

V

JONATHAN UNUAVWODO

COURT OF APPEAL

( BENIN DIVISION )

R. DANLAMI MUHAMMAD, JCA ( Presided and Read the Lead Judgment )

MUHAMMAD, SAIFULLAHI MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JCA

KUMAI BAYANG AKAAHS, JCA

CA/B/44/99

THURSDAY, 21ST NOVEMBER, 2002

CONTRACT - Employment contract - Character thereof - Determinant factor

CONTRACT - Employment contract - Statutory flavour as an attribute of When not applicable

COURT - Contract duely entered by parties - Duty on trial court to limit itself to terms therein

DAMAGES - Wrongful termination of employment - Quantum of damages available therefore

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Declaratory order as to subsistence of employment contract - Circumstances that can warrant making of

MASTER AND SERVANT - Contract of employment - Character thereof Determinant factor

MASTER AND SERVANT - Contract of employment - Termination thereof  -  Where violates principles of natural justice - Effect


MASTER AND SERVANT - Employees conditions of service - Where employer a statutory body - Whether automatically confers special character thereon

MASTER AND SERVANT -  Right of summary dismissal - Employer exercising same - Whether bound to give tenable reasons for

MASTER AND SERVANT - Specific performance of employment contract Application therefor - When cannot be granted

MASTER AND SERVANT - Wrongful termination of employment - Remedy available to employee

Issues:

1.            Whether the plaintiff’s appointment with the defendant company is one that has statutory flavour, putting it beyond the ordinary master servant relationship.

2.            Whether the defendant complied with the disciplinary procedure contained in the conditions of service as well as the principle of fair hearing.

3.            If the answer to issue one is in the affirmative and that of issue 2  in the negative, whether the learned trial Judge was right in declaring the purported termination null and void and of no effect and reinstating the plaintiff to his post.

Facts:

The respondent was an employee of the appellant company. Employed in 1985, he was confirmed to the post of security guard in 1986. On the 23rd July, 1991, he was suspended from duty but the company gave no reason for the suspension. Later, on 18th December, 1991, he received two letters, one being a query asking him to explain about a fire incident and the other letter terminating his appointment. Though the letters were dated differently, they were served on him on the same day and at the same time.

Aggrieved by this termination, the respondent sued the appellant at the Ugheli Judicial Division of the Delta State High Court claiming the following reliefs:-

“(1) An order declaring the purported termination of the plaintiff’s employment with the defendant company as null and void.

(2) An order reinstating the plaintiff in the employment of the defendant company.

(3a) Unpaid salary and allowances of plaintiff from July 1991 to December, 1991 as stated in 3C(i) to (iv) below.

(3b)        Salary and allowances of plaintiff from January 1991 till plaintiff is reinstated by the defendant company.”

In the alternative, the sum of N200,000.00 as special and general damages for unlawful termination of appointment.

In a reserved judgment, the learned trial Judge entered judgment in favour of the plaintiff, holding that;

(1)          The purported termination of plaintiff’s employment with the defendant company dated 18/12/91 is null and void.

(2)          Plaintiff is hereby ordered to be reinstated in the employment of the defendant company.

(3)          Accrued salaries and allowances since the commencement of the case to date to be paid to the plaintiff.”

Dissatisfied with the foregoing, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.