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SOME PRINCIPLES OF PLEADINGS

Dictum

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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THE EFFECT OF A PARTY’S PLEADING

It is very important to note that it is settled law that in an action based on pleadings issues are joined by the parties in their pleadings. It is also settled law that evidence on facts not pleaded ground to no issue. The existence or non-existence of fact is said to be in issue if the existence or non-existence of that fact is asserted by a party in his pleading and denied by the other party specifically, positively, and unequivocally.

– Onnoghen JSC. Dalek v. OMPADEC (2007)

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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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MATTERS NOT DENIED IN THE PLEADINGS ARE DEEMED ADMITTED

The principle of pleadings has time and again been explained in law books and decided cases in this country that I shall be on the superfluous side to cite them. But suffice to restate that pleadings are meant primarily to let parties know each other’s case. They can even settle issues so as to save the Court’s time, by agreeing on those facts not in contest and leaving the Court to decide from received evidence based on those facts in pleadings contested, the justice of the case. Therefore all matters not denied in the pleadings whether raised in the statement of claim or statement of defence are taken as admitted. Facts emerging from any pleading, raising new matters and throwing new light on the adversary’s averment must be denied. If not denied, they are taken as admitted because there is no element of surprise or embarrassment. There are those occasions when Court suo motu can amend pleadings so as to bring the issues being fought by the parties into proper focus, but this is possible only when such amendment will not raise new issue or give the dispute of the parties entirely new colouration. The Judge who will suo motu amend of course must invite the parties to address him. Amusa Yesufu Oba v. Hunmuani Ajoke (see Olisa Chukura’s Privy Council judgments 1841-1943) at page 1018; Ambrosini v. Tinko (1929) IX N.L.R.8.

— Belgore, JSC. Ogunleye v Oni (1990) – S.C. 193/1987

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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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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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ISSUES ARE NOT JOINED ON POINTS OF LAW – LAW SHOULD NOT BE PLEADED

Ahmadu Bello University v. Molokwu it was held thus:- “It is unnecessary for parties to join issue on a point of law or statutory provisions once a statutory provision is found applicable, it would be applied by the court notwithstanding that parties have not joined issues on the point in their pleading.” The defendants/appellants just as in the present appeal contended that the law relied upon did not exist and therefore the plaintiffs/ respondents’ action must fail. The court in rejecting the contention held at page 286 that: “There is substance in the submission of the learned counsel for the appellant that there is no statute of Ahmadu Bello university know as Ahmadu Bello university calendar of 1986/1988. The reference may be one of lapsus calami. But if learned counsel’s objection is sustained. It would tantamount to giving reigns to technicality. Furthermore, if the submission is acceded to, it would be tacit acceptance and encouragement to reinstate the principle of law that law or statute or part thereof should be pleaded”.

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