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PLEADING IS THE LIFE WIRE OF PROCEEDING IN ADVERSARIAL SYSTEM

Dictum

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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WHERE THERE IS VARIANCE IN PLEADINGS AND THE EVIDENCE, THE ACTION IS BOUND TO FAIL

It is clear from the foregoing that the claim of the plaintiffs as disclosed in the writ of summons and statement of claim was not supported by the evidence of the trial. It is well settled law that parties are bound by their pleadings. Where there is variance between the claim the pleadings and evidence, the action is bound to fail- See Ogiamen v. Ogiamen (1967) NMLR. 245.

— A.G. Karibi-Whyte, JSC. Olowosago V. Adebanjo (SC.134/86, 29 Sep 1988)

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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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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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DISTINCTION IN AVERMENTS IN AFFIDAVIT vs THAT IN PLEADINGS

MAGNUSSON VS. KOIKI (1993) 12 SCNJ 114 held 5, the Supreme Court said: “Averments of facts on pleadings must be distinguished from facts deposed to in affidavit in support of application before a court. Whereas the former, unless admitted, constitutes no evidence, the latter are by law, evidence upon which a Court of Law may, in appropriate cases, act.”

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ESSENCE OF PLEADINGS

Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC, in ATANDA V. AJANI (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt. 111) 511 @ 546 put that point across most forcefully when he said that: “It appears to me that the rule which required every fact upon which a party intends to rely at the hearing to be pleaded goes to the fundamentals ofjustice. For no one can defend the unknown. If one has to defend or counter a fact made by his adversary, the one must have due notice ofthat fact to enable him prepare for his defence. That is the very essence of pleading. As it goes to the very root of the rule of audi alteram partem one of the twin pillars of justice — it would be a misconception to describe it as mere technicality or irregularity. It is a matter which cannot, therefore, be waived. Indeed, by a long line of decided cases, it has been long settled that any evidence on a fact that ought to have been pleaded, but is not, goes to no issue at all at the trial and ought to be disregarded.”

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THE IMPRECISENESS IN PLEADING NON-QUALIFICATION WITHOUT SUFFICIENT PARTICULARS

It must be noted, too, that under Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution of this country, there are as many as four different qualifications a person must possess before he can contest presidential election and another 10 different grounds that can disqualify such a candidate who has all the four qualifications of section 131. Therefore, an assertion that merely says that a person is not qualified to contest election by reason of non qualification, will leave not just the person so assailed but every other person involved, including the court, at a loss as to what the pleader has in mind. In fact, to allow such pleading will amount to upsetting the very essence of filing pleadings in a case, which is to give the adversary and the court a clear notice of the pleader’s case a point further fortified in Paragraph 16(1)(a) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022.

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

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