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DECLARATORY RELIEFS MUST BE PROVED

Dictum

It must be emphasized that declaratory reliefs are not given just for the asking. A party seeking declaratory relief must satisfy the court by cogent and proven evidence that he is entitled to such declaration. It cannot be proved half way. Where parties, as in this case, are in agreement that the land in dispute is a family land or originally founded by a family, any party who claims exclusive ownership of the land or part thereof must fail unless he is able to plead and prove by evidence how that exclusive ownership or title devolves on him.

– Denton West JCA. Salaja v. Salaja (2013)

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IT IS THE PLAINTIFF THAT DICTATES TO THE COURT WHAT RELIEF HE WANTS, AND THE COURT DETERMINES

I have always believed that it is the prerogative of a Plaintiff to dictate the reliefs he or she is seeking from the Court. It is the Court that also has the power to award to a Plaintiff what he believed is justifiable based on the evidence before it and the law. Why I am saying this is based on the submission of the learned counsel representing the Appellant where in he seriously argued that the claim of the Respondent should come under special damages. This I believe does not lie in his mouth. The Court and the Court alone has the vires to determine what a litigant is entitle to. All the litigant need do is to ask. In this case the Respondent asked for general damages and adduced evidence on the pleaded facts in that direction. The Court in his wisdom awarded the relief sought.

— M.N. Oniyangi JCA. Presentation National High School & Ors. v. Ogbebor (CA/B/105/2012, 17 MAY 2018)

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DECLARATORY RELIEF IS A DISCRETIONARY REMEDY

Besides, a declaratory claim, as in the present case, is a discretionary remedy which shall be refused where the plaintiff fails to establish his alleged entitlement to the satisfaction of the court.

– Iguh, JSC. Clay v. Aina (1997)

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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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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 RELIEF CANNOT BE GRANTED WITHOUT EVIDENCE

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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OMNIBUS RELIEF IS WORTHLESS

In Oye v. Gov. of Oyo State (1993) NWLR Pt. 306, 437 at 452, the Court held thus: “The omnibus relief ‘such further or other orders as this honorable Court may deem necessary to make in the circumstances’ does not constitute a specific or known prayer and is therefore worthless as it is not the business of the Court to tell an applicant what relief he may contemplate but not seek.”

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