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A REPLY TO STATEMENT OF DEFENCE MUST NOT CONTAIN ANY NEW CLAIM

Dictum

Adeniji v. Fetuga (1990) 5 WLR (Pt. 150) 375 this Court per Akanbi J.C.A. (as he then was) held thus:- “A reply is the Plaintiff’s answer or response to any issue raised by the Defendant in his defence and which the Plaintiff seeks to challenge, deny or admit or object to either or ground of law or a mis-statement of the cause of action and it is not permissible in a reply to the defence to raise a new cause of action not set out in the writ of summons, for a Plaintiff must not in his reply make any allegation of fact or raise any new ground of claim different from what is contained in his statement of claim.”

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IT IS FROM THE WRIT AND STATEMENT OF CLAIM THAT THE CLAIMANT’S CASE IS KNOWN

The cause of action is donated by the writ of summons and statement of claim and it is in those originating processes and any such similar process that a court of law will decipher what the complaint of a litigant before it is. See the decision of this court in Nduka v. Ogbonna (2011) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1227) 153 at 175, paragraphs B – C, Ariwoola JCA succinctly stated the position thus: “In the instant case, the cause of action as clearly shown on the statement of claim is for special and general damages for defamation and malicious prosecution.” The apex court has also reaffirmed this position of the law which has become trite: Hassan v. Aliyu (2010) All FWLR (Pt. 539) 1007, (2010) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1223) 547, wherein Adekeye JSC had this to say at 619, paragraphs G – 4 of the report: “… It is sufficient if prima facie the date of taking the cause of action is disclosed in the writ of summons and statement of claim … The trial court has a duty to confine itself to the pleadings filed by the parties.”

— Danjuma, JCA. Tony Anthony Nig. Ltd & Ors. v. NDIC (CA/L/630/2009 • 25 January 2011)

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STATEMENT OF CLAIM IS NOT EVIDENCE; PARTY MUST LEAD EVIDENCE

The Statement of Claim of the plaintiff and co-plaintiffs was not evidence before the court of trial. Failure to lead evidence in line with their pleadings means simply this:- that the claim must fail.

— Katsina-Alu JSC. Chime v Chime (2001) – SC 179/1991

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GENERAL TRAVERSE IS NOT ADMISSIBLE AS EFFECTIVE DENIAL OF ALLEGATIONS

It has long been settled that the general traverse or general denial usually contained in the first paragraph of every statement of defence as in the instant case, which has earlier been quoted above, is not admissible as effective denial of essential and material allegations in the statement of claim. Such essential materials, as averments concerning the root of title of the claimant should be specifically traversed. See Akintola v. Solano (1986) 2 NWLR (Pt.24) 598, Balogun v. UBA (1992) 7 SCNJ 61, Ajibulu v. Ajayi (2013) 56 NSCQR 471, UBN v. Chimaeze (2014) 58 NSCQR 155 at 188 … The general denial in paragraph 2 of the statement of defence also does not amount to a positive denial in law. It is devoid of joining issue on the material important pleading, upon which the respondent lays claim to the property in dispute. By the established rules of pleadings, the respondent is therefore deemed to have admitted the averments. One of the functions of pleadings is to afford parties in the case adequate notice of the nature of their respective cases to each other; thereby circumscribing and fixing issues in respect of which they are in agreement and those in which they are contesting. In as much as the appellant failed to controvert the relevant pleadings of the respondent on the issue of custom of inheritance, it is deemed that there is no controversy between them on the issue of inheritance under Ebira Native Law and Custom. It is taken as having been established and needs no further proof. See Section 123 of the Evidence Act, 2011 as amended; National Investment v. Thompson Organizations and Ors (1969) 1 NMLR 99 at 103, Uredi v. Dada (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt.69) 237 S.C Jacobson Eng. Ltd. v. UBA Ltd. (1993) 3 NWLR (Pt.283) 586.

— T. Akomolafe-Wilson, JCA. Alabi v Audu (2017) – CA/A/494/2014

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COUNTER CLAIM – BE RELATED TO THE PRINCIPAL CLAIM

A counter claim to quote from Bairamien, JSC in Oyegbola v. Esso WA (1966) 1 All NLR 170 is a weapon of offence which enables a defendant to enforce a claim against the plaintiff as effectively as in an independent action. The counter-claim must be directly related to the principal claim but not outside of and independent of the subject matter of the claim. – Niki Tobi JSC. Okonkwo v. Cooperative Bank (2003)

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PARTY CANNOT BE GRANTED WHAT HE DID NOT CLAIM

In this regard, the law is long and well settled that where a plaintiff claims, say, a declaration of title to land or whatever, and his claim is dismissed, it will be wrong to grant the declaration to the defendant if he did not ask for it by way of counter-claim. See: Ntiaro v. Akpam 3 N.L.R. 10; Abisi v. Ekwealor (1993) 6 NWLR (Pt. 302) 643 etc. As has been pointed out repeatedly by this and other courts, courts of law are no father Christmas and they must not grant to a party a relief which he has not sought or claimed or which is more than he has claimed. see: Ekpenyong v. Nyong (1975) 2 S.C. 71 at 81-82.

– Iguh JSC. Awoniyi v. AMORC (2000)

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CLAIM NOT ASKED FOR

It is trite law that the Court should not grant what was not asked for or claimed by a party to an action. – Uwaifo JSC. Ekpanya v. Akpan (1988)

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