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DECLARATORY RELIEF CANNOT BE GRANTED WITHOUT EVIDENCE

Dictum

A declaratory relief implies a declaration by the Court of the action, cause or right of the parties before the Court. It is the law that declaratory reliefs are not granted as a matter of course and on a platter of gold. They are only granted when credible evidence has been led by a person seeking the declaratory relief. See Anyanru v. Mandilas Ltd (2007) 4 SCNJ and Chukwumah v. S.P.D.C (Nigeria) Ltd., (1993) LPELR – 864 SC. It invariably therefore means that a declaratory relief cannot be granted in the absence of any evidence or where the evidence led is unsatisfactory. A declaratory relief such as what was sought by the plaintiff is discretionary. If a substantial question exists to which one person has a real interest to raise, and the other to oppose, then the Court has a discretion to resolve it by a declaration which it will exercise if there is a good reason for so doing. It is the form of judgment which should be granted only when the Court is of the opinion that the party seeking it is, when all facts are taken into consideration, fully entitled to the exercise of the Court’s discretion. The power of the Court to make a declaration where it is a question of defining rights of two parties is only limited by its own discretion. The discretion should of course be exercised judicially, but it seems to me that the discretion is very wide. See Ibeneweka v. Egbuna and Ors., (1964) 1 WLR 210.

— S.J. Adah, JCA. Luck Guard v. Adariku (2022) – CA/A/1061/2020

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A RELIEF DOES NOT STAND IN ISOLATION TO AVERMENTS IN THE PLEADINGS

I find this contention as highly misconceived and this is because a relief does not in law stand in isolation from the averments of the party seeking the reliefs and in my view relief no. 6 is rather clearly in tandem with the averment in paragraph 39 of the 1st – 4th Respondent Statement of Claim to the effect that the transaction between the 2nd-4th Respondents and the 1st Respondent in respect of their shares in the 5th Respondent was one of consolidation of their shares for effective management by the 1st Respondent.

— B.A. Georgewill JCA. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc V. Longterm Global Capital Limited & Ors. (CA/L/427/2016, 9 Mar 2018)

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A COURT SHOULD NOT GRANT TO A PARTY RELIEF NOT ASKED FOR

He could not, rightly have raised it himself in his judgment and without hearing the parties proceeded to strike out the case on that ground. It is of material significance that counsel for the defence never asked for such a remedy. I cannot over-emphasize the fact that on no account should a court give to a party a remedy he has not asked for. If it does so, it cannot escape the accusation of playing “father Christmas” to one party visa-vis the other. See: Nigerian Housing Development Society Ltd. v. Mumuni (1977) 2 S.C. 57, at p. 81; Ekpenyong & Ors. v. Nyong & Ors. (1975) 2 S.C. 71, at p. 80.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ugo v Obiekwe (1989) – SC.207/1985

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DECLARATORY RELIEFS ARE MADE ONLY ON EVIDENCE AND NOT BY ADMISSION OF THE OTHER PARTY

The Law on the requirement to plead and prove his claim for declaratory reliefs on the evidence called by him without relying on the evidence called by the Defendant is well settled. The burden of proof on the Plaintiff in establishing declaratory reliefs to the satisfaction of the Court is quite heavy in the sense that such declaratory reliefs are not granted even on admission by the Defendants, where Plaintiff fails to establish his entitlement to the declaration by his own evidence … it has always been my experience and I believe it to be a long standing that the Court does not make declarations of rights either on admissions or in default of pleadings but only if the Court is satisfied by evidence.

— B.B. Kanyip, J. Olatunji v UBER (2018) – NICN/LA/546/2017

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DECLARATORY RELIEF IS AN EQUITABLE RELIEF

Declaratory relief is an equitable relief and whenever a court is asked to grant declaratory relief, the court is bound to apply equity in granting the same.

– Musdapher, JSC. Atta v. Ezeanah (2000)

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DECLARATORY RELIEFS ARE NOT GRANTED WITHOUT PROOF

✓ In IKUMA v. CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION BENUE STATE & ORS (2012) LPELR-8621(CA) held that: “Declaratory reliefs are not granted as a matter of course but on credible evidence lead. This is so even where the other partly admits the claims. See David Fabunmi Vs Agbe (1985) 1NWLR (pt.2) 316.” Per TSAMIYA, J.C.A. (P. 22, para. A.
✓ For want of emphasis, the court in OYETUNJI v. AWOYEMI & ORS (2013) LPELR-20226(CA) also held that: “In line with the general burden of proof as stated above, it is equally trite that in a claim for a declaratory relief a claimant must succeed on the strength of his own case and not on the weakness of the defence unless there is an aspect of the defendant’s case that supports his case. See: Mogaji v. Cadbury Nig. Ltd. (1985) 2 NWLR (7) 393 @ 429 D – E; Kodilinye v. Odu (1936) 2 WACA 336 @ 337; Onwugbufor v. Okoye (1996) 1 NWLR (424) 252; Shittu v. Fashawe (2005) 14 NWLR (946) 671.” Per KEKERE-EKUN, J.C.A. (as she then was) (P. 34, paras. C-E).

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