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MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS OF PLEADINGS IN ELECTION PETITION

Dictum

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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FOREIGN LAW IS A QUESTION OF FACT TO BE PLEADED

In the case of PEENOK INVESTMENTS LTD. v. HOTEL PRESIDENTIAL (1982) 12 SC (REPRINT) the Supreme Court per A.G. IRIKEFE JSC stated that as a general proposition of law, foreign law is a question of fact which should be pleaded and proved in a trial Court.

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PLEADINGS ARE CLOSED WHEN PARTIES JOIN ISSUES – REPLY MAY BE UNNECESSARY

Pleadings are closed when parties join issues in a case. Where both the statement of claim and the statement of defence do not bring the parties to issue on all the claims, the plaintiff shall file a reply. However, where no counter-claim is filed, further pleadings by way of reply to a statement of defence is unnecessary if the sole purpose is to deny the averments in the statement of defence. SeeIshola v. S.G.B. (Nig.) Ltd. (1997) 2 NWLR (Pt. 488) 405 SC. In Egesumba v. Onuzuryike (2002) 15 NWLR (Pt.791) 466 at 499 Ayoola JSC, expatiated thus “Where, of course, the plaintiff seeks to contradict the allegations in the statement of defence not merely by traverse but by raising issues of fact which would take the defendant by surprise, he should raise such issues by a reply. But, even then, the consequence of his not so raising it is not that he is taken to have admitted the truth of the allegations of fact in the statement of defence so as to free the defendant from the obligation to lead evidence in proof of what he alleges, but to deprive the plaintiff from adducing evidence of facts not pleaded or already raised by the pleadings as they stand. Tobi JSC at p. 519 of the report also clarified that:- “(iv) In order to allow a party to file a reply the trial Court must be satisfied that both the statement of claim and the statement of defence filed by the parties have not, when read together, sufficiently disclosed and fixed the real issues between the parties and that further pleadings in the reply to be filed will achieve the purpose of bringing the parties to an issue.”

— T. Akomolafe-Wilson, JCA. Alabi v Audu (2017) – CA/A/494/2014

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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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STATEMENT OF CLAIM, NOT DEFENCE, IS LOOKED AT TO DETERMINE COURT JURISDICTION

In a long line of decided authorities, it is now firmly settled that it is the Statement of Claim that is looked at in determining whether or not, a court has jurisdiction to entertain and determine any suit or matter and not at the defence. (See Chief Adeyemi & others v Opevori (1976) 9-10 SC 31; The Attorney-General, Anambra State & 13 others v The Attorney-General of the Federation & 16 others (1994) 3 NWLR (Part 335) 659; (1994) 4 SCNJ 30). — Ogbuagu JSC. AG Kano State v AG Federation (2007) – SC 26/2006

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THE FUNCTION OF PLEADING IS TO DEFINE & DELIMIT REAL MATTERS IN CONTROVERSY

Atolagbe v. Shorun (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 2) 360 at 365 where Coker, J.S.C. in dealing with the main function of pleadings in the trial of an action had this to say: – “The primary function of pleadings is to define and delimit with clarity and precision the real matters in controversy between the parties upon which they can prepare and present their respective cases and upon which the court will be called to adjudicate between them. It is designed to bring the parties to an issue on which alone the court will adjudicate between them party is bound by his pleading and cannot go outside it to lead evidence or rely on facts which are extraneous to those pleaded.”

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FACT ADMITTED WHERE NO DENIAL

It is still the law that where a defendant fails to deny specifically an allegation of fact in the Statement of Claim and a denial cannot be reasonably inferred from the defendant’s pleadings that fact will be taken as admitted and therefore regarded as established at the hearing without further proof.

– Onnoghen JCA. Union Bank v. Akinrinmade (1999)

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