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GENERAL TRAVERSE WILL BE THE APPOSITE WHERE PETITIONER/CLAIMANT PLEADINGS WHERE GENERAL IN NATURE ITSELF

Dictum

per Ogunwumiju, JCA (as he then was, now JSC), held in UDEAGHA & ANOR v OMEGARA & ORS (2010) LPELR-3856(CA), as follows: “The argument of Appellants’ counsel that the Respondents did not adequately traverse the petition is unfounded. The petition itself contained general complaints. There was no effort to pinpoint in the pleadings the various places where corrupt practices, non voting, use of violence, thuggery, rigging in polling units, massive thumb-print of ballot papers, fictitious entry of election results took place. Therefore, there was a general corresponding reply denying the allegations in general terms from the Respondents. If the Petitioners did not plead particulars, how could the respondents traverse non-existent particulars? The averments in the Appellants’ pleadings should have contained details of the allegations and complaints to which the Respondents could reply in detail in their own pleadings. The Appellants expected the Respondents to reply to the various specific allegations contained in the witness statements filed along with the petition. That is not the correct procedure. Those specific allegations should have been in the pleadings. The pleadings must show the facts disputed while the witnesses would give evidence of these facts. In election petitions, it has been held that there is need for particulars where required in order to prevent taking adverse party by surprise. See Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 7 SCNJ 1. It is not the function of particulars to take the place of necessary averments in pleadings. See Nwobodo v Onoh (1984) 1 SC 201…”

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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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THERE MUST BE A SPECIFIC DENIAL PLEADINGS BY THE OTHER PARTY

In the case of Messrs. Lewis & Peat (N.R.I.) Ltd. v. Akhimien ( 1976) 7 S.C. 157 at page 163-4 where he stated: “We must observe, however, that in order to raise an issue of fact in these circumstances there must be a proper traverse: and traverse must be made either by a denial or non-admission either expressly or by necessary implication. So that if a defendant refuses to admit a particular allegation in the statement of claim, he must state so specifically; and he does not do this satisfactorily by pleading thus: ‘defendant is trot in a position to admit or deny (the particular allegation on the statement of claim) and will at the trial put plaintiff to proof.” … We are, of course, not unmindful of the first paragraph of the statement of defence. Nowadays almost every statement of defence contains such a general denial. (See Warner v. Sampson (1959) 1 Q.B. 287 at 310-311. However, in respect of essential and material allegations such a general denial ought not be adopted; essential allegations should be specifically traversed. (See Wallersteins v. Moir (1974) 1 W.L.R. 991 at 1002 per Lord Denning, M.R.; also Bullen & Leake & Jacobs, Precedents of Pleadings 12th Edition 83).

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MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS OF PLEADINGS IN ELECTION PETITION

The requirements of pleadings in election petitions are primarily provided in Paragraph 4 of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022. Specifically, Paragraph 4(1)(d) mandates that “an election petition shall state clearly the facts of the election petition and the ground or grounds on which the petition is based and the reliefs sought by the Petitioner.” Subparagraph (2) of the same paragraph further provides that “the election petition shall be divided into paragraphs each of which shall be confined to a distinct issue or major facts of the election petition, and every paragraph shall be numbered consecutively.” In addition to the provision of Paragraph 4 of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, Paragraph 54 of the same Schedule to the Act has made applicable to Election Petitions the Rules of Civil Procedure in the Federal High Court of 2019, subject to such modifications as would bring same in conformity with the provisions of the Act. By Order 13 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019, every party to an election petition shall ensure that averments in their pleadings “contain in a summary form the material facts on which the party pleading relies for his claim or defence, as the case may be, but not the evidence by which they are to be proved, and shall, when necessary, be divided into paragraphs, and numbered consecutively.” By subparagraph (4) of that Rule, such facts contained in the pleading must “be alleged positively, precisely and distinctly, and as briefly as is consistent with a clear statement.” The aforementioned provisions contained in the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022, as well as the Federal High Court Rules, 2019 state the mandatory requirements of pleadings in election petitions.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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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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PURPOSE OF PLEADINGS IN CIVIL CASES

I have carefully considered the submissions of the parties and the judicial authorities cited. It is trite that adversarial civil litigation is basically fought on pleadings. It is the foundation of the parties’ respective cases. The general principle of law is that such pleadings must sufficiently and comprehensively set out material facts, so as to ascertain with certainty and clarity the matters or issues in dispute between the parties. This is because the purpose of pleadings is to give adequate notice to the adversary of the case he is to meet and to afford him the opportunity to properly respond to such case. Its aim is to bring to the knowledge of the opposite side and the court, all the essential facts. It is therefore a safeguard against the element of surprise. See: SODIPO V LEMMINKAINEN OY & ANOR (1985) LPELR-3088(SC) at page 56, para. F, per Oputa, JSC; ODOM & ORS v PDP & ORS (2015) LPELR-24351(SC); ALHASSAN & ANOR v ISHAKU & ORS (2016) LPELR-40083(SC); and PDP v INEC & 3 ORS (supra).

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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AMENDMENT OF PLEADINGS – PARTY WILL NOT BE DISALLOWED

Let me pause here to say one or two words on amendment of pleadings. Amendment of pleadings is part of the judicial process and we cannot run away from it. We cannot even avoid it. The courts are mostly receptive to applications for amendment. They accommodate applications for amendment most of the time. Apart from the understandably relaxed and accommodating nature of our adjectival Law on the issue, courts of law, by their nature and institutional upbringing are reluctant and loath to shut their gates against willing litigants midstream in the presentation of their claims and rights in terms of available facts. Since that is not consistent with the basic rules of fair hearing and natural justice, the courts, in most cases, grant applications for amendment of pleadings.

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

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