It is trite that litigation, particularly election dispute litigation, is fought on pleadings. Parties swim or sink with their pleadings. In the case of ANYAFULU & ORS V. MEKA & ORS (2014) LPELR 22336 (SC), the Supreme Court Per Kekere Ekun, JSC held that: “Litigation is fought on pleadings. They are the pillars upon which a party’s case is founded. Not only do they give the other side notice of the case they are to meet at the trial, they also define the parameters of the case. In other words, parties are bound by their pleadings. Any evidence led on facts not pleaded goes to no issue while any pleadings in respect of which no evidence is led are deemed abandoned. In effect, where the pleadings are deficient no matter how cogent the evidence led, the case would fail. See: Nwokorobia Vs Nwogu (2009) 10 NWLR (1150) 553; Shell B. P. Vs. Abedi (1974) 1 SC 23; Ebosie Vs. Phil Ebosie (1976) 7 SC 119; George Vs Dominion Flour Mill Ltd. (1963) 1 ALL NLR 71.” See also IFEANYICHUKWU OSONDU CO. LTD & ANOR V. AKHIGBE (1999) LPELR (SC). Those pleadings in Paragraphs 41-42 of the Petition having been abandoned are discountenanced.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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How now should the respondent have pleaded the invalidity of the transaction? In considering whether the invalidity of the transaction was pleaded, I must bear in mind the fact that pleadings are no longer required to be technical in formulation. Subject to the requirement that parties must not offend against any of the known rules of pleadings as laid down by law, such as that they should not plead evidence or omit to plead facts which, when proved, may result in surprise to the other side, or facts which are frivolous or vexatious, or which may tend to prejudice, embarrass or delay the trial of the action, all that a pleader is now required to do in such a case is, where necessary, to allege illegality or invalidity and plead facts from which inferences of law thereof could be drawn: see on this Knowles v. Roberts (1888) 38 Ch.D. 263, at p.270 to 271; Willis v. Lovick (1901) 2 K.B. 195. That is the proper rule. But the court will itself take notice of the illegality or invalidity of a contract on which a party is relying if it appears on the face of the contract or from the facts pleaded, although the party has not expressly averred that it is illegal or invalid: see Windhill Local Board v. Vint (1890) 45 Ch.D 357; Gedge v. Royal Exchange Assurance (1900) 2 Q.B. 214.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Adesanya v Otuewu (1993) – SC.217/1989

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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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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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As rightly submitted by the Petitioners, the reliefs in this Petition, which I have reproduced at the beginning of this judgment, are undoubtedly sought in the alternative. The settled law is that reliefs can be sought in the alternative and where so sought by a party, he is at liberty to plead conflicting facts in line with the alternative reliefs he has sought. In ADIGHIJE V NWAOGU & ORS (2010) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1209) 419 at 545, paras. E G; (2010) LPELR-4941(CA) at pages 14 – 16, paras. E G, this Court, per Ogunwumiju, JCA (as he then was, now JSC), held that: “…in civil litigation and indeed in election matters, a party can make two seemingly contradictory pleadings leading to two different heads of claim. That is why a petitioner can claim that the election be annulled for reason of substantial non-compliance and in the same breath claim that he won the election by a majority of lawful notes. A petitioner may plead the same set of facts to ground alternative reliefs. Those pleadings are not ipso facto held to be self-contradictory. The Court can only grant one relief as the party must decide which relief is best supported by the evidence on record.” See also: METAL CONSTRUCTION (W.A.) LTD v ABODERIN (1998) LPELR 1868(SC) at pages 26, paras. C E.

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

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Anah v. Nnacho (1965) NMLR 28 at 31 the Supreme Court in considering a general traverse stated thus: “Now it seems clear that the cumulative effect of these two paragraphs is that the appellants joined issue with respondents in respect of all the lands described in the pink area of Exhibit 2. By common practice a general traverse in the form of paragraph 15 of the statement of defence has always been accepted and when employed it puts the opponent to proof of the facts stated or alleged.”

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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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