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The basis of modern employment is the contract of employment. Parties are bound by the terms embodied in the contract which they freely enter. Thus, in an action for wrongful dismissal, contract of employment is the foundation for the action.
No doubt, at a time of economic recession and desperation for job and greener pasture, job seekers are at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. As was observed by Lord Nothington, ‘Necessitous men are not, truly speaking, free men but to answer to present exigency will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose on them’.
Mrs Victoria Omotayo Akinsanya compelled by economic duress, signed an employment contract which bound her to pay N5m (Five million naira) compensation to her employer if she resign or be dismissed within three years of her employment. Mrs Akinsanya with a salary of N540,000. (Five hundred and forty thousand naira) pa was dismissed within three years. Her employer, Iscare Nigeria Limited, Lagos demanded N5m (Five million naira) compensation as per her contract of employment, and sued her at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) Lagos when she refused to pay.
Justice Obaseki-Osaghae in her well-considered ruling on 19th May 2017 found the term of employment morally despicable, unconscionable, against public policy and International Organisation (ILO) Decent Work Agenda. ‘Where would the defendant get the N5m compensation from,’ she queried.
By virtue of NICN equitable jurisdiction, the rule of law in this matter follows equity, said her Lordship. She dismissed the claimant’s prayers with cost.

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