Cases are won and lost on proof. The position of evidence cannot be underestimated, particularly in claims for declarations. This same proposition works with labour disputes and where a court is called upon to pronounce on the employer / employee relationship, the scope has to be defined by the terms of employment as contained in the contract of employment. In SUIT NO: NICN/LA/52/2015 MR. OBINNA NKWONTA V. MULTICHEM INDUSTRIES LTD the National Industrial Court found as follows:

In any employment relationship especially where there is a written contract, the contract document defines the terms and conditions of the relationship. The same written contract outlines the rights, obligations and liabilities of the parties under and in relation to same. In event of dispute arising between the parties therefore and judicial intervention is sought, the duty of the Court is limited simply to the construction of the contract document existing between the parties. See Okogie & Ors. Epoyun (2010) LPELR-9145 (CA).It is not for the Court to re-write contract for the parties, see Nwaolisa v. Nwabufo (2011) LPELR-2115 (CA)’ and neither is it within the power of the Court to give to a party rights or benefits not available to it under the contractual terms and conditions applicable to the parties.

In that case, the claimant (employee) had sought to prove his entitlement to bonuses but which the court found unsuccessful. The court further held thus regarding the claims:


 In the instant case, Exh. D1 is the evidence of contract entered into by the parties in this case. I examined the 4-page document. There is nothing in that exhibit either directly or indirectly touching on the entitlement of the Claimant to Bonus in whatever form of guise. I so find and so hold. Now, the Claimant had urged the Court to hold that there exists an implied term of his entitlement to Bonus in the contract between him and  the Defendant. Usually the need to resort to any implied terms of contract will arise where there is a lacunae in the contract document and the terms and conditions contained in it. In much the same vein, the facts of the case and the surrounding circumstances will be of immense assistance in finding what any implied term may be. The facts of this case and its surrounding circumstances do not convey any intention on the part of the parties for any implied terms to be imputed into their contract. Exh. D1 – letter of Contract contains detailed provisions respecting commencement and validity of contract, Place of work, Remuneration as well as Responsibilities. If Bonus were to be an issue it would no doubt have been contained in the contract. Interestingly, aside from assertions of the Claimant and the diverse e-mail messages sent by him to the Defendant’s officers, there is no other evidence in support of the existence of oral promise respecting Bonus to be paid to the Claimant. Indeed, the Claimant attested to this in the course of cross examination. 

Lastly, it is always important to place the right pieces of evidence before the court. Although the National Industrial Court would seem to have a bit of room to avoid strict principles of the rules of Evidence as contained under the Evidence Act, 2011, the court still has the inherent jurisdiction to refuse inadmissible evidence. In the same case under review, the court held as follows regarding inadmissible piece of evidence:

Now, as part of the evidence in proof of his claim for bonus, the Claimant tendered Exh. C8. That exhibit is headed ”Overall Outstanding To: Obinna Nkwonta Micheal By Multichem Industries Limited (Nigeria)”, it states the entitlement of the Claimant to =N=40,000.00 as salary for August 2014 and ”overall total sales bonuses being owned to me is =N=2,305,227.1”. That exhibit has no name as the author. It carries no date. It also has no signature. It is apparent from the content that it was prepared by the Claimant. Although the Court already admitted this exhibit, the Court is in no way precluded from expunging it if the need arises or refuse to place any reliance on it. See Bayode Afolabi v. Chief Samuel Fehintola Alaremu (2011) LPELR-8894 (CA). The law is settled that an unsigned and undated document has no probative value. See  Udo v. Essien & Ors. (2014) LPELR-22684 (CA). I therefore hold that  Exh. C8 is of no probative value and is thus expunged from record. I note that Exh. C1 is the foundation upon which the success or failure of Relief 1 rests. Thus, having found and held that there nothing in that exhibit supporting the Relief 1, I refuse the claim for the alleged Claimant’s bonus entitlement from 2012 to 2014 as claimed.

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