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GENERAL TRAVERSE – NOT IN POSITION TO DENY

Dictum

In law, an issue of fact on which the parties are ad idem or on which the adverse party did not effectively traverse are deemed to have been admitted and would thus require no further proof as they are taken as having been duly established. A general traverse or averment that a party is not in position to either admit or deny an allegation made by the other party does not amount to effective denial as to put such a fact in issue to be proved by the party so alleging. See paragraph 34 of the Statement of claim of the 1st 4th Respondents. See also paragraph 3 of the Statement of defence of the Appellant.

— 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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PLEADING IS NO EVIDENCE

Pleading, of course, is no evidence and a case is decided on the admissible evidence adduced before the court-see: Dumbo V Idugboe (1983) 1 SCNLR 29; (1983) 14 NSCC 22. A.S.H.D.C. v Emekwue (1996) – SC. 282/1989

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PARTIES ARE BOUND BY THEIR PLEADINGS

As the parties are adversaries, each one is bound by his case as framed in his pleadings. That being so, the Defendant/Appellant will not be allowed to set up (at the hearing as he did) an entirely different case without any prior amendment to his pleadings: African Continental Seaways Ltd. v. Nigerian Dredging Roads General Works Ltd. (1977) 5 S.C. 235 at p.249.

— Oputa, JSC. Salawu Ajide V. Kadiri Kelani (SC.76/1984, 29 Nov 1985)

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PARTY MUST TRAVERSE EACH ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

The law is that each party must traverse specifically each allegation of fact which he does not intend to admit. The party pleading must make it clear how much of his opponent’s case he disputes. The law is notorious that a traverse must not be evasive, but must answer the point of substance. The basic rule of pleading is that a traverse whether by denial or refusal to admit, must not be evasive but must answer the point of substance. The pleader must deal specifically with every allegation of fact made by his opponent: he must either admit it frankly or deny it boldly. Any half-admission or half-denial is evasive.”

— O. Oyebiola, J. Yakubu v. FRCN (2016) – NIC/LA/673/2013

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WHERE PLEADINGS RAISE NO TRIABLE ISSUE OR DEFENSE

Akinola & Anor. v. Solano (1986) 4 SC 106, where the Supreme Court per Oputa JSC, (God bless his soul) had stated inter alia thus: “It is time Courts…begin looking critically at the pleadings and where appropriate giving judgement on the pleadings, if no triable issue of fact, Plaintiff’s case should be considered on his pleading and the applicable law. Where the Plaintiffs statement of claim does not disclose a cause of action … instead of filing a Statement of Defense, the Defendant should move the Court to have the case dismissed. Alternatively, where the Statement of Defense does not answer, deny …. the essential facts on which the Plaintiff’s case rests, the Plaintiff should be courageous enough to ask for judgement on his Statement of Claim.”

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MATTERS NOT DENIED IN THE PLEADINGS ARE DEEMED ADMITTED

The principle of pleadings has time and again been explained in law books and decided cases in this country that I shall be on the superfluous side to cite them. But suffice to restate that pleadings are meant primarily to let parties know each other’s case. They can even settle issues so as to save the Court’s time, by agreeing on those facts not in contest and leaving the Court to decide from received evidence based on those facts in pleadings contested, the justice of the case. Therefore all matters not denied in the pleadings whether raised in the statement of claim or statement of defence are taken as admitted. Facts emerging from any pleading, raising new matters and throwing new light on the adversary’s averment must be denied. If not denied, they are taken as admitted because there is no element of surprise or embarrassment. There are those occasions when Court suo motu can amend pleadings so as to bring the issues being fought by the parties into proper focus, but this is possible only when such amendment will not raise new issue or give the dispute of the parties entirely new colouration. The Judge who will suo motu amend of course must invite the parties to address him. Amusa Yesufu Oba v. Hunmuani Ajoke (see Olisa Chukura’s Privy Council judgments 1841-1943) at page 1018; Ambrosini v. Tinko (1929) IX N.L.R.8.

— Belgore, JSC. Ogunleye v Oni (1990) – S.C. 193/1987

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PLEADING IS THE LIFE WIRE OF PROCEEDING IN ADVERSARIAL SYSTEM

Pleading is the life wire of the proceeding in our adversorial system of civil jurisprudence – the main function of which is to focus with much certainty as far as possible the various matters actually in dispute amongst the parties and those in which there is agreement between the parties by avoiding element of surprise being sprung on the opposite party. George v. U.B.A. Ltd. (1972) 8-9 SC 264; Oduka v. Kasumu (1968) NMLR 28; George v. Dominion Flour Mills Ltd. (1963) 1 SCNLR 117.

— O.O. Adekeye, JCA. Omotunde v. Omotunde (2000) – CA/I/M.57/2000

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