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FUNDAMENTAL AIM OF PLEADINGS

Dictum

One fundamental aim of pleadings is to give notice to the adverse party of what he is going to meet at the trial. He should not be kept in the limbo. He should not be in dark. He should not be kept in abeyance. He is entitled to know the case of the opponent well before trial commences. And so when a part;, states his case in his pleadings, he cannot depart from it, unless the court allows him to do so. And the court can allow him to so depart by allowing an amendment to the original pleadings. And this must be based on an application. If parties are allowed to move in and out of their pleadings at will, the litigation will be more of a game of speculation, particularly as it relates to the facts relied upon by parties. If parties are allowed to move in and out of their pleadings, then there will be no end to litigation as they can freely introduce mid-stream any issue not pleaded to the disadvantage and surprise of the adverse party. That will be over-reaching the adverse party. That is not right. No, not at all.

— Tobi, JCA. Abraham v Olorunfunmi (1990) – CA/L/83/89

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MATERIAL FACTS ARE WHAT ARE PLEADED NOT EVIDENCE

It is a trite and a resonated principle of our legal jurisprudence, that you plead material facts and not the evidence to be relied upon and the evidence to be relied upon can be tendered in support of those facts.

— A. Osadebay, J. APC v INEC & Ors. (EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023, 20th Day of September, 2023)

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PARAGRAPHS IN PLEADINGS READ TOGETHER

Paragraphs in pleadings are not read in isolation but read together to obtain the total story of the parties. – Niki Tobi JSC. Okonkwo v. Cooperative Bank (2003)

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ESSENCE OF PLEADINGS

Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC, in ATANDA V. AJANI (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt. 111) 511 @ 546 put that point across most forcefully when he said that: “It appears to me that the rule which required every fact upon which a party intends to rely at the hearing to be pleaded goes to the fundamentals ofjustice. For no one can defend the unknown. If one has to defend or counter a fact made by his adversary, the one must have due notice ofthat fact to enable him prepare for his defence. That is the very essence of pleading. As it goes to the very root of the rule of audi alteram partem one of the twin pillars of justice — it would be a misconception to describe it as mere technicality or irregularity. It is a matter which cannot, therefore, be waived. Indeed, by a long line of decided cases, it has been long settled that any evidence on a fact that ought to have been pleaded, but is not, goes to no issue at all at the trial and ought to be disregarded.”

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PLEADINGS: LEGAL RESULT OF THE DOCUMENT NEED NOT BE STATED

On issue of whether the respondent should have pleaded the legal effect of the notice of the breach as a fact before it is tendered. This is a clear misconception of the modern rule on pleadings. The strict rigid old legal terminology of pleading have since changed in line with new procedures. The pleader is not bound to state the legal result of a document pleaded or fact pleaded.

– Agim JSC. Pillars v. William (2021)

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PLEADINGS SHOULD NOT CONTAIN LAW OR MIXED LAW & FACT

It is well settled that every pleading must state facts and not law. A party is not expected to plead conclusions of law or mixed fact and law. However, conclusions of law can be drawn from material facts pleaded. It is also unnecessary to set out in a pleading content of a public statute.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Finnih v. Imade (1992)

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ALLEGATIONS RAISED MUST BE SPECIFICALLY DENIED TO NOT CONSTITUTE ADMITTANCE

On the manner of denial that would be sufficient to raise an issue of dispute, this Court held, in the case of Nickok Best Intl Ltd v UBA (2018) LPELR – 45239 (CA) per Mohammed Lawal Garba JCA (as he then was) at Page 9 Para B-E: “Where vital and material fact/s in a party’s case are not so specifically, frontally and categorically denied and disputed, they are deemed admitted by the other party. Dosunmu v. Dada (2002) 13 NWLR (783), NNPC v. Sele (2004) 5 NWLR (866) 379, Jadcom Limited v. OgunsElectrs (2004) 3 NWLR (859) 153. In that regard, general, obtuse, indistinct, unspecific and evasive averments in respect of specific, crucial, positive and distinct facts are considered not enough and not effective controversion or traverse to raise an issue of dispute that would warrant proof in a case”.

— O. Adefope-Okojie, JCA. Kanu v FRN (2022) – CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022

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