Nigerian Coat of Arms
GABRIEL ATIVIE V. KABELMETAL NIG. LIMITED
 
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ISSUE
 
MASTER AND SERVANT RELATIONSHIP: Remedy for wrongful termination of employment in ordinary master and servant relationship
   
PRINCIPLE
 
"In cases of ordinary contract of employment where the terms provides for a specific period of notice before termination or salary in lieu thereof, the only remedy awardable to an employee whose employment was wrongfully terminated is the award of salary for the period of the notice, and other legitimate entitlements due to the employee at the time the employment was brought to an end. In other words, such an employee is neither entitled to an award of general damages nor a decree of reinstatement. The rationale being that an employee cannot be imposed by the court on an unwilling employer. Thus, such cases of ordinary contracts of service are distinguishable from contracts of service, which are statutorily protected where reinstatement can properly be ordered. In the instant case, the appellant's employment was an ordinary contract of employment, and as stipulated in exhibits C and D, he was entitled to two months notice of termination or two months salary in lieu of notice. In the circumstance, the Court of Appeal was right when it held that the appellant was entitled to only two months salary as damages on the basis of the finding of the trial court, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeal, that the appellant's employment was wrongfully terminated. Katto v. C.B.N. (1999) 6 NWLR (Pt.607) 390; Western Nigeria Development Corporation v.Abimbola (1966)2SCNLR 21; Nigerian Produce Marketing Board v. Adewunmi (1972) 11 SC 111; Union Beverages Ltd. v. Owolabi (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt.68) 128; Union Bank of Nigeria Ltd. v. Ogboh (1995) 2 NWLR (Pt.380) 647; Onalaja v. African Petroleum Ltd. (1991) 7 NWLR (pt. 206) 691; Olaniyan v. Unilag (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.9) 599." Per Tabai JSC, Per Akintan JSC "The finding by the trial court and affirmed by the lower court is that the termination of the appointment of the appellant by the respondent through exhibit 'C' dated 5th July 1990 is wrongful and that the appellant is by reason thereof entitled to damages. But going by the principle in the authorities above, some of which I have reviewed above, entitlement in damages is as stipulated in exhibits 'C' and 'D'. He gets no more than the two months salary covering the period of notice. This was the principle invoked by the court below in setting aside the damages awarded and the reinstatement ordered by the trial court. The trial court was clearly wrong to order the reinstatement of the appellant in the respondent's company. It had no jurisdiction to decree the appellant's reinstatement and thus impose him on the unwilling respondent company. On this point, see further the cases of Onalaja v. African Petroleum Ltd. (1991) 7 NWLR (Pt. 206) 691; Union Bank of Nigeria v. Ogboh (1995) 2 NWLR (Pt.380) 647. Similarly the trial court had no justification to award the N2m damages. For the foregoing reasoning, fully endorse the decision of the court below."Per Tabai JSC
   
OTHER CITATIONS
 
  1. Ativie v. Kabel Metal (Nig) Ltd (2008) 10 NWLR (Pt.1095) 399 at 415, paras. C-F; 416, paras. B-E; 419, para. F (SC)
 
CASES CITED ON ISSUE
 
  1. Katto v. C.B.N. (1999) 6 NWLR (Pt.607) 390;

  2. Western Nigeria Development Corporation v.Abimbola (1966)2SCNLR 21;

  3.  Nigerian Produce Marketing Board v. Adewunmi (1972) 11 SC 111;

  4. Union Beverages Ltd. v. Owolabi (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt.68) 128;

  5.  Union Bank of Nigeria Ltd. v. Ogboh (1995) 2 NWLR (Pt.380) 647.