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RATIONALE BEHIND PLEADINGS

Dictum

The basic law is that parties are bound to plead all facts they intend to rely upon at the trial and facts not pleaded will go to no issue. One rationale behind this principle is that litigation must follow some restrictive order and not open-ended in order to save the time of both the Courts and the litigants. If the procedure of pleadings was not introduced in litigation, parties search for evidence could not have ended and that should have protracted litigation beyond expectation. The law simply put, is that litigation is fought on pleadings. The pleadings define the parameters of the case and they give notice of the case to the other party. Any evidence led must be within the circumference of the facts pleaded. Pleadings in that wise, must not be deficient of the facts required to build up the case.

— S.J. Adah, JCA. Luck Guard v. Adariku (2022) – CA/A/1061/2020

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COURT TO DETERMINE CASE BASED ON THE PLEADINGS

There is no gainsaying the settled principle of law to the effect that the Court is bound to determine the case before it, as made out by the pleadings of the parties, particularly the Claimant’s or Plaintiff’s cause of action.

– Tukur JCA. Odulate v. FBN (2019)

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NATURE OF PROOF OF PLEADINGS

It must be appreciated that there cannot be a better notice of a case a party intends to make than his pleading. It is a mere notice and can never be substituted for the evidence required in proof of the facts pleaded, subject however to an admission made by the other party. Unless through skilful cross-examination discrediting the case of the other party, he is still bound to lead evidence in support of his own pleading. Where evidence is adduced to buttress a pleading, then it is good news for the pleader, as it strengthens his case. However, evidence adduced in support of facts not pleaded goes to no issue and should therefore be disregarded ORIZU V. ONYAEGBUNAM 1978.5 S.C. 21 at 820. In ACB V. GWAGWALADA 1994. 5 NWLR Part 342 page 25 at 27 it was held that before considering admissibility of any evidence or document in support of a party’s case it must be shown that the evidence sought to be led is relevant. Even if the evidence is admissible and it is not relevant, the admission of such evidence does not advance the case of the party.

— A. Jauro, JCA. Chevron v. Aderibigbe (2011) – CA/L/76/04

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PLEADINGS SHOULD NOT CONTAIN LAW OR MIXED LAW & FACT

It is well settled that every pleading must state facts and not law. A party is not expected to plead conclusions of law or mixed fact and law. However, conclusions of law can be drawn from material facts pleaded. It is also unnecessary to set out in a pleading content of a public statute.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Finnih v. Imade (1992)

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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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CONFLICTING FACTS CAN BE PLEADED WHERE ALTERNATIVE RELIEFS ARE SOUGHT

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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