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LITIGATION IS FOUGHT ON PLEADINGS

Dictum

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

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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PLEADING, IS PLEADING FACTS UPON WHICH A LAW CAN STAND ON

While I come to the conclusion that the appellants did not plead co-ownership, I should not be taken as making the point that they should have included in their pleadings, the legal word of co-ownership or its synonym joint-ownership. That is not what I mean. As a matter of law, a party cannot plead law in his pleadings. Although there are exceptions here and there to this general principle of law, particularly as it relates to the plea of some specific defences to certain actions, the matter before me, does not extend to that. All that the appellants were expected to do was to plead enough facts upon which the law of co-ownership can stand and keep its shoulders high, awaiting the lawyer to replenish it with either statutory authorities or decided case. But that was not done here, and the trial Judge, could not have supplied it. .

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

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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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EVIDENCE ON MATTER NOT PLEADED

It is settled that evidence led on any matter not pleaded goes to no issue and ought to be disregarded when giving judgment. – Kutigi JSC. Amadi v. Nwosu (1992)

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SOME PRINCIPLES OF PLEADINGS

It is for the above position of the law that I bear in mind that issue of facts on which the parties are ad idem would require no further proof and are taken as having been duly established. It is also the law that facts admitted by either party of the averments of the other party also need no further proof. It is equally well accepted that facts in a pleading of one party which are not specifically traversed but are generally or evasively traversed are also deemed as having been admitted by the other party. It is basic but a fundamental principle of law that parties are bound by their pleadings. See also Hashidu v. Goje 2 EPR P. 790 @ p. 836. See also Oversea Construction Company Nig. Ltd. v. Creek Enterprises Nig. Ltd(1985) 3 NWLR (Pt. 407) 40; Adesoji Aderemi v. Adedire (1966) NMLR 398; Nnameka Emegokwue v. James Okadigbo (1973) 4 SC 113; Woluchem v. Gudi (1981) 5 SC 291; Iwuoha v. NIPOST (2003) 8 NWLR (Pt. 822) 308; Akpapuna and Ors v. Obi Nzeka and Ors (1983) 2 SCNLR 1, (1983) 7 SC 1; Omoboriowo v. Ajasin EPR (Vol 3) 488 @ 511; Iniama v. Akpabio (2008) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1116) 225 @ p. 309.

— 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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