Limitation Laws Do Not Apply to Debts Owed to A Failing or Failed Financial Institution – Court of Appeal

POATSON GRAPHIC ARTS TRADE LIMITED & ANOR v. NIGERIA DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION

COURT OF APPEAL LAGOS DIVISION

(IKYEGH; ABUBAKAR; OGAKWU, JJ.CA)

The 1st appellant was a customer of the defunct Trade Bank Plc. which gave certain facilities to the 1st appellant secured by a deed of legal mortgage. The 1st appellant alleged that Trade Bank failed to administer the facilities properly; and consequently initiated an action against it at the High Court of Lagos State seeking inter alia, a declaration that the defunct Trade Bank Plc. was not entitled to enforce its rights of sale under the legal mortgage after the 1st appellant defaulted in repayment of the facilities. The matter was still pending in court when the respondent was appointed as the liquidator of the defunct bank which was already in distress. Thus, the respondent was substituted in the action against the 1st appellant. With the leave of court, the respondent amended the existing statement of defence and incorporated a counterclaim which for the first time brought the 2nd appellant into the matter. The appellants responded to the counterclaim of the respondent by filing a defence and a counter claim. After being served with the defence of the appellants and the counterclaim, the respondent filed an application urging the court to dismiss the counterclaim of the appellants for being statute barred on the ground that the cause of action upon which the counterclaim of the appellants was predicated arose in 1997 and 1998 and therefore could not be litigated in 2009. On the 30th of September, 2014 the lower court delivered its ruling on the application of the respondent and dismissed the counterclaim of the appellants. The appellants were dissatisfied with the court’s ruling and filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division. One of the issues raised in the appeal is whether the learned trial judge was correct in his decision that the appellants’ counterclaims were statute barred.

Arguing the issue, learned counsel for the appellant contended that the lower court ought to have applied the provisions of Section 3 of the Limitation Law, Cap L67, Volume 5, Laws of Lagos State, 2003 to hold that the appellants’ counterclaims were not statute barred rather than resorting to Section 8 of the Limitation Law. Learned counsel contended that Section 3 is a special provision while Section 8 is a general provision and that a general clause does not extend to those things which are specially provided for. Learned counsel cited the cases of FMBN v. Olloh and Schroder v. Major in support of the maxim generalis clausula non porrigitur ad ea quae ante specialiter sunt compretiensa; (a general clause does not extend to those things which are before specially provided for). It was stated that the lower court was in error, which occasioned a miscarriage of justice, by rejecting Section 3 of the Limitation Law which deals specifically with counterclaims and applying Section 8 which generally deals with fresh actions. Furthermore, Learned Counsel submitted that by Section 3 of the Limitation Law, a counterclaim is deemed to have been commenced on the same date as when the action was commenced. It was suggested that the respondent’s counterclaim though filed in 2009, is by virtue of its being a counterclaim, and in accordance with Section 3 of the Limitation Law, deemed to have been commenced in 1998 when the suit was commenced. Therefore, the appellants’ counterclaims to the respondent’s counterclaim though filed in 2014 and 2012 respectively is deemed in the eyes of the law by virtue of the said section 3 to have been commenced in 1998. It was therefore posited that since the 1st appellant’s cause of action in the amended counterclaim accrued in 1998 and the 2nd appellant’s cause of action accrued at the latest in 1996, their counterclaims, deemed commenced in 1998, are therefore not statute barred. Learned Counsel urged the court to resolve the issue in favour of the appellants.

Responding to the argument of the appellants, Learned Counsel for the respondent contended that section 3 of the Limitation Law is inapplicable to the appellants’ counterclaims that were already statute barred and that for purposes of the limitation of action, a cause of action arises where there is a person who can sue and another who can be sued. Learned Counsel stated that the 2nd appellant only became a party in the suit in 2012 and could not have been deemed to have commenced a counterclaim in 1998, when it was not yet a party in the suit.

The respondent’s Counsel submitted that Section 3 of the Limitation Law is inapplicable to save the appellants’ counterclaims that were already statute barred. It was stated that for purposes of limitation, a cause of action arises where there is a person who can sue and another who can be sued. It was stated that the 2nd appellant only became a party in the suit in 2012 and could not have been deemed to have commenced a counterclaim in 1998, when it was not yet a party in the suit. It was also submitted that the 1st appellant’s counterclaim was for libel, which cause of action accrued in 1998 with a limitation period of three years; while the 2nd appellant’s counterclaim was in contract, which cause of action accrued between 1993 and 1996 with a limitation period of six years and therefore there was no way the cause of action which arose at different times and were filed at different times could be deemed to have been commenced together. Learned Counsel further contended that even though the respondent’s counterclaim may have been statute barred, it was rescued by the provisions of section 44 of the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation Act (NDIC Act), a provision which does not apply in favour of the appellants. Learned Counsel cited UBA Plc v. Abdullahi to support his argument that by virtue of section 44 of the NDIC Act, its counterclaim is not statute barred, even though the limitation period had long expired. Learned Counsel urged the court to discountenance the argument and authorities cited by the appellants as being inapplicable and resolve the issue in favour of the respondent.

In resolving the issue, the court held thus:

The crux of the appellants contention is hinged on the legal principle generalis specialia derogant (special things derogate from general things). The appellants posit that the special provision of limitation period as it relates to a counterclaim in Section 3 of the Limitation Law overrides the general provision as it relates to a fresh action as set out in Section 8 of the Limitation Law. In Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes (11th Ed.) page 164, it is stated that where a general intention is expressed and also a particular intention which is incompatible with the general one, the particular intention is considered an exception to the general one. See Aqua Ltd v. Ondo State Sports Council (1988) 4 NWLR (Pt 91) 622, Schroder v. Major (supra) and FMBN v. Olloh (supra). It is on this premise that the appellants maintain that Section 3 of the Limitation Law was applicable and that their counterclaims to the counterclaim of the respondents consequently dates back to 1998 when the action was commenced since the counterclaim of the respondent though filed in 2009 also dated back to 1998. The basis of this contention is the appellants’ presumption that the provisions of the Limitation Law apply to the respondent’s counterclaim, such that it can be said to have been filed in 1998 in order for the counterclaims to counterclaim to also take benefit of Section 3 of the Limitation Law and be deemed to have been filed in 1998. The provision of Section 3 of the Limitation Law is relevant. It provides:

            “3.       Set-off and Counterclaim

For the purposes of this Law, any claim by way of set-off or counter-claim shall be deemed to be a separate action and to have been commenced on the same date as the action in which the set-off or counter-claim is pleaded.”

The above provision is explicit and admits of no ambiguity in its stipulation that a counterclaim for purposes of the Limitation Law is deemed to have been commenced on the same date as the action in which the counter-claim is raised. So on the face of it, it would appear that Section 3 would apply to the appellants’ counterclaims for it to be deemed as having been commenced on the same date as the respondent’s counterclaim, which by the said provision would relate back to 1998 when the action was filed. But there is a caveat, and a big one at that. This shall only be so if the respondent’s counterclaim was filed pursuant to the provisions of Section 3 of the Limitation Law, or put differently, if the Limitation Law applied to the respondent’s counterclaim as to give it its validity. Where it does not, then totally different considerations would apply.

It is in this wise, that the provisions of Section 44 of the NDIC Act come into play. It reads:

“44.     The provisions of the Limitation Law of a State or the Limitation Act of the Federal Capital Territory shall not apply to a debt owed to a failing or a failed insured institution.”

The above provision-is clear that the Limitation Law does not apply to the respondent’s counterclaim. The effect of this therefore is that by the provision, the respondent’s counterclaim to recover the debt owed Trade Bank Plc by the appellants cannot become statute barred, the effective commencement date for the counterclaim is when it was filed as it cannot be deemed to have been commenced when the main action was commenced because the provision of Section 3 of the Limitation Law which provides for that does not apply to the respondent’s Counterclaim.

Issue resolved in favour of the respondent.

Andrew Igboekwe, Esq., SAN with Miss Ogochukwu OfiIi & Mrs. Damilola Ajayi for the Appellants.
Layi Babatunde, Esq., SAN with J. O. Akolade, Esq., Opeoluwa Akinosi, Esq., Miss Tomike Layi-Babatunde & David Owoeye, Esq., for the Respondent.

This summary is fully reported at (2017) 11 CLRN
www.clrndirect.com
info@clrndirect.com

Advertisements

How to Compensate for Mental Stress at Our Workplaces

workplace-stress

By Michael Dugeri

Work-related mental stress has been described as the adverse reaction experienced by workers when workplace demands and responsibilities are greater than the worker can reasonably manage or are beyond the workers’ capabilities. Therefore, it has been advocated that employers need to balance both demands and resources in the workplace in order to manage work-related mental stress.  This is because high levels of job demand and low levels of job resources could easily result in mental stress for the workers.

Mental health is an integral component of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), which is a primary concern of labour and employment law. A safe workplace is not only about physical safety – it’s about the worker’s psychological safety too.  This means that employers have a duty of protecting the safety, health and welfare of their workers. The enjoyment of these standards at the highest levels is a basic human right that should be accessible by each and every worker. Regardless of the nature of their work, workers should be able to carry out their responsibilities in a safe and secure working environment, free from all forms of hazards.

The law provides for compensation to workers who have experienced mental stress in the course of their employment. The Employee’s Compensation Act, 2010 (“ECA”) provides that compensation is available to an employee who suffers mental stress, where the mental stress is an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event arising out of or in the course of the employee’s employment; or if the employee has been diagnosed by a medical practitioner as suffering from mental stress arising out of the nature of work or the occurrence of any event in the course of the employee’s employment. See section 8 ECA.

Section 8 (2) of the ECA provides that where the mental stress is caused by the decision of the employer to change the work or the working condition in such a way as to unfairly exceed the work ability and capacity of the worker (thereby leading to mental stress), such situation shall be liable to compensation to the degree as may be determined under any regulation made by the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). The NSITF is the statutory body charged with the responsibility of administering the Employee’s Compensation Scheme (ECS) established under the ECA.

It is pertinent to note that the ECS is a social security/welfare scheme that provides comprehensive compensation to employees who suffer from occupational diseases or sustain injuries arising from accidents at the workplace or in the course of employment. The basis for ‘compensation’ is the employer’s duty of care. The idea of compensation suggests that someone has suffered a wrong for which he has to be compensated monetarily. This implies that another person has a duty to prevent the occurrence of the wrong suffered. Payment of compensation by the employer to the worker is rooted in the accepted common law principle that the employer has a duty of care, a duty to protect the health, welfare and safety of the workers. Where the worker sustains injuries, gets ill or dies under work-related circumstances, the employer is liable to pay compensation to the worker or to his dependents, in the event of death. The ECS is funded by monthly contributions from employers for the purpose of this compensation, as may be required from time to time by deserving workers.

The system of compensation for occupational mental stress established under the ECA is laudable, even though it also poses certain challenges for affected workers. First, having to prove that the worker’s mental stress actually relates to his/her work is tough, especially in an environment like Nigeria that is plagued with many other intervening factors. Second, it is doubtful if monetary compensation is adequate for victims of occupational mental stress or if full rehabilitation of the victim is possible in all cases. It is against the foregoing that it is argued that a better system of compensation is the type that mirrors contemporary frameworks for OSH, which are designed to be proactive rather than reactive to the physical, social and mental aspects of the workers’ health. Just like physical infirmities, mental health problems in the workplace are a global phenomenon. In Nigeria, the typical work environment is full of precipitating factors such as:

  1. High quantitative and qualitative workload,
  2. Inconsiderate work schedules,
  3. Poor remuneration, deficient welfare package, delayed/unpaid salaries.
  4. Neglect of safety measures, etc.

All these translate to an increase in the risk of mental health problems in the workplace. Unlike the ‘loud’ nature of physical health problems, mental health problems in employees is a ‘silent’ phenomenon, which goes unnoticed and may be confused with lack of commitment to the job. Unrecognized mental health problems in the workplace can affect performance and productivity, hence the need for organizations to be proactively pre-occupied with promoting and ensuring both the physical and mental health of its employees. Beyond the issue of high quantitative and qualitative workload, closer attention should also be paid to physical features of the workplace like lighting, ventilation, work space, sanitation and noise levels.

Organisations can manage and prevent stress by improving conditions at work. While the common treatment for mental health problems is prescriptive medication, employers have a role in making adjustments and helping the affected individual to manage the problem at work. Some of the suggestions that have been advanced by experts in the field of OSH include the following:

  1. Having senior management committed to  reduce  workplace stress;
  2. Consulting with workers to create and promote a mentally healthy workplace culture;
  3. Use validated risk assessment processes;
  4. Ensuring the organisation has appropriate policies and procedures in place and workers are aware of these;
  5. Managing workplace psychosocial risk factors and stressors;
  6. Providing regular and respectful performance feedback;
  7. Having a ‘Harassment Contact Officer’ in place for workers to speak to;
  8. Provide training around managing workplace and individual stress levels;

Mental health is an intricate but pressing workplace issue with multiple consequences. Occupational demands can be highly stressful and many jobs make severe demands in terms of responsibility, time, and performance. Rather than continuing with a culture of indifference, denial and evasion, there is need for Nigerian workplaces to recognize mental health as a realistic and legitimate concern, as well as display total commitment to the implementation of policies and practices that will ensure a supportive framework for workers.

Safeguards against Breach of the Lawyer’s Duty of Confidentiality

By Michael Dugeri

900f9449b2370fe500fd62e37bc61b17

It is commonly understood by lawyers that they are under a duty to protect confidential information relating to their relationship with clients. The law imposes on lawyers a strict obligation to safeguard client’s confidential information.

Section 19 (1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 (“the Rules”) is explicit that “all oral or written communications made by a client to his lawyer in the normal course of professional employment are privileged”. Sub-section (2) goes on to provide that a lawyer shall not knowingly:

  1. reveal a confidence or secret of his client;
  2. use a confidence or secret of his client to the disadvantage of the client; or
  3. Use a confidence or secret of his client for the advantage of himself or of a third person unless the client consents after full disclosure.

 It is to be noted that, like all rules of law, there are also exceptions to this rule. For instance, disclosure is permissible when required by law or a court order, or with the client’s consent. See section 19 (3) of the Rules.

The lawyer’s duty of confidentiality has broad application. It continues after the representation ends and applies to information received about prospective clients as well. The duty not only forbids revealing information, but also proscribes a lawyer’s use of confidential information about a client to the disadvantage of that client. With regard to former or prospective clients, a lawyer may not use confidential information to the disadvantage of a former or prospective client unless that information has become “generally known.”

Generally, both the duty of confidentiality and the lawyer-client privilege encourage clients to trust their lawyers. The lawyer-client privilege, especially, encourages clients to tell his or her lawyers everything, though the duty of confidentiality does this as well. With complete information, lawyers can provide the best and most appropriate advice.

Notwithstanding its importance, few lawyers and law firms have put in place safeguards against the breach of this fundamental duty. It is often taken for granted by most lawyers and law firms that this duty would enforce itself, which is hardly the case.

As a lawyer or law firm, it is necessary to do a self-appraisal of the systems you have in place for managing clients’ confidential information and consider how you might improve them to create greater confidence from your clients and insulate yourself against potential liability for breach of the duty of confidentiality.

The following are some pointers to remember about client confidentiality:

  1. Don’t discuss business outside the office.
  2. Never discuss one client’s business with another client.
  3. Beware of water cooler conversations. Can your chatter with the client at court premises be overheard by other clients or lawyers?
  4. Don’t talk to the press about your client’s business. Decline to answer if a reporter or blogger calls to ask if your firm is representing a particular person. Decisions about what to say to the press should be made by the client.
  5. Remember the law is a profession, not merely a business. Clients pay good money for help with their problems. They deserve respect for their privacy.
  6. Be especially cautious in office sharing arrangements. Beware “gossip” with employees of other firms. Keep case files segregated.
  7. Remember that your duty of confidentiality continues even after the case is closed. It also continues after you leave the law firm.
  8. Be wary when non-staff members want to use your office for ‘short meetings’ or ‘quick research’. Make sure no client files or documents are lying about carelessly or visible.
  9. Never release information to callers such as a client’s accountant or business associates or partners without authorization.
  10. Be careful when disposing of confidential papers, including rough drafts or duplicates. Use shredders or other secure disposal methods for sensitive materials.
  11. Never forget that the attorney-client relationship is built on mutual trust and confidence. Clients come to you expecting a form of sanctuary. You must honour that.
  12. Put in place secured means of storage of clients’ files and communication with clients.

The law office is an exciting place. The lawyers and support staff are privy to information others don’t have. You learn interesting things about prominent people. Resist the temptation to share this information with outsiders, including friends and family. The duties of client confidentiality are broad. It is not limited to merely what the clients tell you. It also precludes unauthorized discussions of case strategy or evidence.

Loose lips sink ships – and might well lead to ethical and malpractice problems. Every member of a law firm, from senior partner to the litigation clerk, is under a strict obligation to protect the privacy and secrets of clients. Rule 19 (4) provides that:

“A lawyer shall exercise reasonable care to prevent his employees, associates and others whose services are utilized by him from disclosing or using confidences or secrets of a client, but a lawyer may reveal the information allowed by sub-rule (3) through his employee.

A good idea is for firms to require all employees to sign confidentiality forms, which are placed in their personnel files. A blank copy of the form should be included in the office manual. It should be very clear to every member of staff that disclosure of a client confidence is a serious offence punishable with termination/dismissal. Breach of client’s confidentiality may prove very costly to the lawyer’s business and reputable, and leave him open to liability from the client and other third parties. It is better to be safe than sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

No-Work-No-Pay Policy V. Right Of Workers To Industrial Action

To begin with, is it reasonable to refuse a worker his pay simply because of the decision of a union of his class of employees, who never sought his individual opinion? But then, seeing that this said decision invariably affects the business of his employer, does it also make sense for an employer to pay his employee unearned wages for simply sitting at home? Admittedly, it is very tasking to strike a balance between these two conflicting rights.

The Federal Government of Nigeria on October 11, 2017 announced its resolution to enforce a “No Work No Pay Policy”. This resolution, though couched in the shape of a government policy, is in fact already contained in an existing law as encapsulated in Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act, which empowers an employer to withhold the employee’s wages for the said duration.

Internationally, strikes are in fact recognised as almost sacred, inalienable rights of workers. Part 111, Paragraph 7 of the International Labour Organisation Convention (No 151) of 1957 provides that “No provision of this convention may be interpreted as limiting in any way whatsoever, the right to strike”. Article 3 and 10 of ILO Freedom of Association and Protection of Right to Organised Convention 1948 (No 87) recognise the rights of workers to organize activities for the furtherance and defence of the interests of the workers. Thankfully, Nigeria is a signatory to the ILO.

In Nigeria though, strike action is highly restricted. For instance, Section 30 of the TDA outlaws strike actions except as in the manner provided for under sub-section 6. Again, a union is required to first comply with the requirement of arbitration under the TDA before embarking on a strike. In what appears to be a stringent clog on the right to industrial action, Section 1 of Trade Disputes (Essential Services) Act Cap 433, LFN 1990 empowers the President to proscribe any Trade Union or Association that embarks on a strike action. Continuous disobedience to the said proscription is an offence punishable by a N10,000 fine or six years imprisonment.

What then is the fate of a Nigerian worker in the event that the Federal Government decides to implement section 43 of TDA? The judicial authorities at the disposal of the writer do not seem to be on the side of the workers. In Adams Oshiomhole and National Labour Congress v Federal Government of Nigeria and Attorney General of the Federation (2007) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1035) at page 58, the Court of Appeal held that the Labour Union as well as other civil society organisations had no right to call out strikes in response to general economic and political decisions of the Federal government as it had nothing to do with the individual contracts of employment these workers had with their various employers as envisaged in the TDA.

On the construction of section 43 of TDA, Justice B.B Kanyip while delivering his judgement in Oyo state Government v Alhaji Bashir Apapa (Chairman Nigeria Labour Congress Oyo state chapter) & Ors in Suit No: NIC/36/2007, held that “section 42(1)(a) of the TDA is self-executory. Its implementation, without more, does not depend on a further enquiry…. A strike, whether legal or not, falls squarely within the ambit of the said section and for which the strikers are disentitled from wages and other benefits envisaged by the section…..” 

From all indications, it appears that implementation of No Work No Pay Policy will be justified by law. Whether same is reasonably justifiable in a democratic state, will be a question for another day.

 

Source: Greymile

Occupational Injury: The NIC Awards N10.3m Against Employer

The National Industrial Court, Lagos Division has ordered Lagos Travel Inn to pay N10.3m to one Mr. Emmanuel Abah, who sustained an ankle injury after being trapped by the hotel’s elevator sometime in 2013.

The court, in a judgment by Justice J.D. Peters, said the order must be complied with within 30 days of the judgment.

Abah had, in the suit filed through his lawyer, Mr. Daniel Onwe, in 2014, explained that he was trapped by the hotel’s faulty elevator in the course of his duty as a cleaner in the employment of the hotel.

He claimed that the management of the hotel had been aware of the faulty state of the elevator, which was noisy and had on several occasions trapped people, but refused to fix it.

He claimed that rather than fix the elevator, the management urged the employees to continue to use it so as not to attract the attention of visitors to the hotel.

He claimed that on November 13, 2013, while trying to take the elevator from the ground floor to clean the rooms upstairs, one of his legs was caught in the doors.

He said that as he stepped his left foot onto the floor of the elevator while lifting his cleaning materials, the elevator swiftly took off in the upward direction with the doors trapping his left leg, pulling and dangling him headlong.

He said his ankle bone was crushed in the process, which eventually caused him a permanent injury.

He claimed that after receiving treatment in a hospital with no improvement, he was advised to seek the intervention of a trado-medical bone centre at Otukpa in Benue State, where he incurred extra expenses of N286,000, and a medical balance of N40,000.

He claimed that upon being discharged from the trado-medical centre, he resumed work on July 1, 2014, and was reluctantly admitted and redeployed to the laundry section.

Abah said he subsequently applied to the hotel for a loan of N40,000 to enable him to defray the outstanding medical bill, but his application was ignored.

He said two weeks after his resumption he was eventually served with a letter terminating his appointment without any reason.

He contended in his suit that his sacking was unjustifiable and urged the court to order the hotel to pay him N30m as compensation for the injury he sustained in the course of duty and another N10m for unfair dismissal.

In his judgment, Justice Peters held that with the permanent damage done to the leg of the claimant, there was no market where he could purchase a new leg.

The court accordingly, awarded the sum of N10.3m against Lagos Travel Inn, as damages for the permanent injury suffered by Abah.

Source: Jimi Disu Blog

Confirmation of employment after probation can be implied by the conduct of the employer.

tumblr_onkbqiRgvE1vdur62o1_1280The Court of Appeal in the recent case of Reliance Telecommunications Limited v. Mr. Olaore Olufemi Adegboyega (reported at (2017) 8 CLRN) held that the employer is deemed to have waived its rights in insisting on issuance of a formal letter of confirmation to its employee if the said employee is allowed to continue in his employment beyond the stipulated probationary period and he is regarded and treated as an ‘several months after the end of the probationary period’. The employment is deemed confirmed by conduct.

This decision is important to check the habit of some employers who, out of negligence or malice, fail or refuse to confirm some deserving employees, only to later turn around and rely on the employee’s probationary status in claiming certain obligations from the employee or denying him some benefits.

Facts of the Case 

In 2004, the respondent entered into a contract of employment with the appellant. The terms of contract indicated that the respondent would be on probation for a period of three months and either party could immediately terminate the employment during the period of probation. Furthermore, the contract of employment stipulated that after three months, the employment of the respondent would be confirmed and that three months’ notice will be required to be given by each party in case of termination of the employment. After the expiration of the three months probationary period, the appellant failed to confirm the employment of the respondent but continued to retain his services, paying him his entitlements and making representations to third parties suggesting that the respondent was in its employment. The relationship between the parties continued until sometime in 2005 when the appellant terminated the employment of the respondent without giving him any notice. The respondent was aggrieved and filed a suit against the appellant at the High Court of Lagos State alleging wrongful dismissal and claiming damages. After the conclusion of trial, the judge gave judgment in favour of the respondent and held that the appellant was liable in damages to the respondent. The trial court however, failed to consider and make pronouncement on the counter-claim incorporated into the statement of defence of the appellant.

The appellant was dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial court and filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division urging the court to reverse the decision of the trial court. One of the issues formulated for determination was whether the trial court was right in holding that the respondent’s employment was deemed confirmed immediately after the probation period without meeting the other conditions precedent and in the absence of a formal confirmation letter.

Arguing the issue, learned counsel for the appellant submitted that it is trite that parties are bound by the terms of contract freely entered into. Reference was made to a term of the contract of employment stating that the offer of employment is subject to a satisfactory medical examination, satisfactory completion of a three months’ probation period to take effect from date of assumption of duty and that the offer is subject to other terms as set out in the letter of employment and conditions of service as may be determined by the board from time to time. Learned counsel posited that since the employment of the respondent was not confirmed by the appellant before the termination, a condition precedent was not fulfilled and as such the respondent was not entitled to the three months’ notice. Counsel urged the court to resolve the issue in favour of the appellant.

Responding to the argument of the appellant, learned counsel for the respondent relied on the decision in Kablemetal Nigeria Limited v. Gabriel Ativie to submit that in an action for wrongful termination of employment, the claimant is under obligation to plead and prove not only the appointment but also the terms and conditions for it to constitute the foundation of the action. Counsel submitted further that even though the contract of employment stipulated that the employment of the respondent must be confirmed after three months, the fact of non-confirmation was inconsequential and that the trial court was right in holding that the employment of the respondent was deemed confirmed since the appellant allowed the respondent to continue to work beyond the three months’ probationary period stipulated in the contract. Learned counsel relied on Obafemi Awolowo University v. Dr. A.K. Onabanjo and urged the court to discountenance the argument of the appellant and resolve the issue in favour of the respondent.

In resolving the issue, the court held thus:

The Appellant having allowed the Respondent to continue in his employment beyond the three months’ probationary period, paying him all his entitlements and further making representation via Exhibit C5 to third parties affirming that the Respondent is its employee several months after the end of the probationary period must be deemed to have waived its rights in insisting on issuance of a formal letter of confirmation to the Respondent. In such circumstances as obtained in the instant case Estoppel by conduct/representation can readily be invoked.

See: Military Government of Lagos State & Ors v. Adeyiga & Ors (2012) LEPLR 7836 (SC)

Issue is resolved in favour of the respondent.

M.T Odechima with V. I. Okafor for Appellant
TS. Adewuyi with T. O. Shittu Miss for Respondent

This summary is fully reported at (2017) 8 CLRN

Nigeria’s criminal justice system in need of overhaul, lawyers say

For an effective criminal justice system in the country, some eminent constitutional lawyers on Monday canvassed the revision and harmonisation of the various criminal laws.

The lawyers, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, said a review of the criminal laws would give fillip to effective prosecution of cases and also add value to the nation’s administration of criminal justice system.

Mr Michael Dugeri, a human rights campaigner, urged that attention should be paid to issues bordering on speedy disposal of cases in a bid to decongest the nation’s prisons.

“There must be close attention to issues of decongesting the prisons which I think is fast becoming a national embarrassment.

“This should begin with a thorough reformation of the manner of administration of criminal justice in our courts.

“There are provisions under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 on speedy criminal trials; however, the impact of the provisions of that law is yet to be felt as our prisons are still overflowing with inmates.

“More work needs to be done in ensuring compliance with laws that encourage speedy trials; there should also be partnership with the various state governments on initiatives that are necessary to bring about these desired reforms,” he told NAN.

Also, a crusader for indigent prisoners, Mr Anthony Makolo, harped on an effective application of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act to promote speedy trials and rid the prisons of overcrowding filled with thousands of awaiting trials and underage.

He urged judicial officers to shun frivolous applications aimed at delaying trial of criminal cases and strictly comply with the provisions of the Act for speedy disposal of cases.

According to Makolo, judges must be inclined to giving meaning to criminal laws by granting favourable bail conditions to accused particularly where the law allows them to do so.

In the same vein, Mr Justine Eliagwu, called for a comprehensive review of the criminal laws.

According to him, the doctrine of plea bargain should be discarded from the criminal justice system to make accused persons to face trial.

“There is need to promote and enhance the laws as they relate to the criminal justice system in the country.

“For instance, the issue of plea bargain, in my view, should be discarded. From a lay man’s view point, it means to plead guilty to a lesser charge and one pertinent question here is why?

“This is simply because the sentence of a full trial is far more severe than the lesser one he opted for. This again, in my view, does not serve the purpose of justice.

“It is my submission that the doctrine be discarded as it encourages corruption; it is an escapist machinery to dodge the sledge hammer of the law put in place to punish such an offender.

“Hence, Section 179 of the Criminal Procedure Act lends its support,” he said.

On his part, another lawyer and social critic, Mr Aondonenge Akaa, also wants a total overhauling of the criminal justice system.

Akaa said: “A total overhaul of the criminal justice system is required for the anti-corruption drive of the present administration to succeed.“The doctrine of presumption of innocence should be made inapplicable in all corruption cases, especially high profile cases involving public funds.

“With the congestion of our regular courts and the strict constitutional rule of trial within a reasonable time coupled with the presumption of innocence principle, the ACJA is merely fanciful.’’

He said constitutional amendment would also ensure a more proactive legal framework in the country.

Source: The Guardian