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

Dictum

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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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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PLEADINGS MUST BE SUFFICIENTLY SPECIFIC AND COMPREHENSIVE TO ELICIT NECESSARY ANSWER

✓ In BELGORE v AHMED (2013) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1355) 60 at 95 – 96, the complaint against the averments in the petition was that they were unspecific, generic, speculative, vague, unreferable, omnibus and general in terms. In that case the Apex Court specifically held as follows: “Pleadings in an action are the written statements of the parties wherein they set forth the summary of the material facts on which each relied in proof of his claim or his defence as the case may be and by means of which the real matters was (sic) controversy between the parties and to be adjudicated upon are clearly identified. Although only material facts are required to be pleaded and in a summary form, they must nevertheless be sufficiently specific and comprehensive to elicit the necessary answers from the opponent. See Ashiru Noibi v. Fikolati & Ors (1987) 3 SC 105 at 119, (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 52) 629 and Omorhirihi v. Enetevwere (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt. 73) 746. They must contain such details as to eliminate any element of surprise to the opposing party. In this case where the dispute involves the election in as many as 895 polling units, the pleading in the petition which alleged electoral malpractices, non-compliance and/or offences in “some polling units”, “many polling units”, “most polling units” or “several polling units” cannot be said to have met the requirements of pleadings as stipulated in paragraph 4(1)(d) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act and/or Order 13 Rules 4(1), 5 and 6(1) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009.”

✓ Also, in PDP v INEC & 3 ORS (2012) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1300) 538, the Apex Court, was also categorical when it held thus: “On whether the affected paragraphs were rightly struck out, I have read the affected paragraphs and found that they relate to allegations of non-voting in several polling points, disruption of election, non-conclusion of election, thumb-printing of ballot papers, falsification of election results, wide spread disruption, irregularities and malpractices without providing particulars or the polling units where the alleged malpractices took place. The lower court was therefore right when it held as follows: “The paragraphs above in my view are too generic, vague and lacking in any particulars as they are not tied specifically to any particular polling unit or any particular number of people who were alleged to be disenfranchised. The fact that a party can file further particulars or deny in a reply the averment in the pleading must not be general, it must be specific as to facts. It is settled law that a petitioner’s obligation to plead particulars of fraud or falsification without which the allegation is a non-starter.” I have nothing to add to this statement of law as advanced above, and I adopt it as mine.”

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HOW PLEADING OF FACT IS DONE

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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PARTIES ARE BOUND BY THEIR PLEADINGS

It must be remembered that it is a cardinal principle of the Rules of Practice that parties are bound by their pleadings and evidence led on matters not pleaded goes to no issue. Furthermore, any fact admitted in a party’s pleadings, need not be proved by the other party.

— Craig JSC. Uredi v. Dada (1998) – SC.106/1986

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COURT CANNOT LOOK FOR EVIDENCE WHERE A PARTY ABANDONS HIS PLEADINGS

Once a party abandons his pleadings it is not the business of the court to look for evidence from the other party so as to base a case on facts which the plaintiff does not plead and cannot rely upon. Judgment is given in respect of material facts pleaded and proved at the trial. The parties as well as the court cannot go outside the pleadings. Facts are pleaded, evidence is led in support of the pleadings. The court is therefore bound to adjudicate on the issues arising from the pleadings. Where therefore evidence led is not based on the facts pleaded such evidence goes to no issue: Emegokwue v. Okadigbo (1973) N.S.C.C. p.220.

— Olatawura, JSC. Adesanya v Otuewu (1993) – SC.217/1989

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THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF PLEADINGS IN A TRIAL

The primary purpose of pleadings is to prepare the minds of the parties and the Court to know the case to be presented at the trial by each party, and to define and delimit with clarity and precision the real matters in controversy between the parties upon which to prepare and present their respective cases. It is designed to bring the parties to an issue upon which the Court will adjudicate between them. See Kyari v. Alkali (2001) 11 NWLR (Pt.724) 412 at 433-434 paras. H-A. It is therefore of utmost importance that both parties be comprehensive and accurate in their pleadings. In that regard, a plaintiff’s averment of facts must be met by the defendant frontally and categorically. The essential averments in the statement of claim should be specifically traversed. In order to raise any issue of fact, there must be a proper traverse; and a traverse must be made either by a clear denial or non-admission, either expressly or by necessary implication. A denial of a very material allegation of fact must not be general or evasive, but specific. Therefore, every allegation of fact, if not denied specifically or by necessary implication shall be taken as admitted and established. Putting it in a different way, where a party fails to join issues on material averments, he is deemed to have conceded the points made in those averments. They are deemed admitted and need no further proof to establish the facts contained in the pleading. See Ekperanisho v. Aloko (2015) 14 NWLR (Pt.1475) 153; Salzgitter Stahi GMBH v. Tanji Dosunmu Industries Ltd. (2010) NSCQR 1085 (2010) 11 NWLR (Pt.1206) 589. See Ekwealor v. Obasi (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt.131) 231 at 251, Oshodi v. Eyifunmi (2000) 13 NWLR (Pt.654) 298 at 337.

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

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