Appellate court decisions

There is no doubt that the recent decisions of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) on several employment cases are novel and innovative and, arguably, in line with current socio-economic realities. However, it is uncertain whether the Court of Appeal would uphold the NICN's ground-breaking decisions on appeal.(1)

Appellate court decisions

In Oak Pensions Limited v Olayinka,(2) the Court of Appeal was invited to determine the validity of the amount awarded to the respondent, as the damages for wrongful termination of employment comprised two years' worth of salaries as well as salaries for February 2013 and three months in lieu of notice. In making its decision, the Court of Appeal reiterated most of the common law principles upheld by Nigerian courts in past decisions, including the sanctity of contract, the right to terminate in accordance with the contract and that the only remedy available for wrongful termination is damages calculated at the amount due at the time of the termination and nothing more. The Court of Appeal further cautioned that the constitutional jurisdiction and the statutory discretion vested in the NICN by sections 254(c)(1)(a), (f), (g) and (h) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and under section 19(d) of the National Industrial Court Act, are not unlimited, nor are they to be exercised in the name of unfair labour practices or international best practice. Moreover, the NICN's jurisdiction and discretion cannot be exercised without regard to the established facts of a case and the relevant principles of law applicable to them.

Similarly, in Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited v Titilayo Akisanya,(3) the Court of Appeal reduced the damages that the NICN had awarded to the respondent from 17,368,468 naira (approximately £30,800), which was her annual salary, to 1,447,373.33 naira (approximately £2,600), representing one month of the respondent's salary in lieu of notice. The grounds for this decision were that the sum awarded had no basis in law as it was contrary to the settled position regarding the award of damages to an employee whose employment was wrongfully terminated. Moreover, in Batelitwin Global Services Limited v John Muir,(4) the Lagos division of the Court of Appeal adopted the same reasoning when it reduced the damages that the NICN had awarded to the respondent from $193,050 to $24,750, which was equal to that of one month of the respondent's salary in lieu of notice of employment termination.

Prior to the Third Alteration Act, the Court of Appeal determined in Promasidor (Nig) Ltd v Asikhia(5) (a case that emanated from the High Court of Lagos State) that damages can be awarded for malicious falsehood. However, in Emana I Edet v Fidelity Bank Plc,(6) the NICN, relying on previous cases, declined to reinstate the claimant (as in Oak Pension), award exemplary damages (as in Coca-Cola), award damages in excess of amount due at termination (as in Batelitwin) but would have been inclined to award damages for alleged malpractice such as injurious or malicious falsehood if it had been proved (as in Promasidor).

In Skye Bank v Iwu,(8) it was determined that all decisions of the NICN are appealable to the Court of Appeal. The implication is that any "innovative" NICN decision that deviates from established common law principles may still be overturned by the Court of Appeal. With regard to the cases above, the Court of Appeal certainly seems to be wary of applying the novel principles embodied in some judgments of the NICN.

For further information on this topic please contact Tonye Krukrubo or Duunebari Seth-Nzor at Aluko & Oyebode by telephone (+234 1 462 8360 71) or email (t[email protected] or [email protected]). The Aluko & Oyebode website can be accessed at


(1) This article is the second in a three-part series on how decisions of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria could potentially rewrite national labour law jurisprudence. For the first article in the series, please see "Innovative NICN judgments could rewrite labour law jurisprudence".

(2) (2017) LPELR-43207 (CA).

(3) (2017) 17 NWLR (PART 1593) 74

(4) Unreported appeal no. CA/L/566/2013 delivered on 3 November 2016.

(5) [2019] LPELR-46443(CA).

(6) Unreported suit no. NICN/LA/276/2014 delivered on 17 December 2019

(7) Suit No. NICN/OW/60/2015 (unreported) judgment delivered on 3 May 2019.

(8) (2017) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1590) 24.