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THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF PLEADINGS IN A TRIAL

Dictum

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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GENERAL TRAVERSE IS NOT AN EFFECTIVE DENIAL

A general traverse is not an effective denial of essential or material averments in the opposing party’s pleading. – Kekere-Ekun, J.S.C. Union Bank v. Chimaeze (2014)

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PLEADING IS THE LIFE WIRE OF PROCEEDING IN ADVERSARIAL SYSTEM

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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PLEADINGS TELL WHAT A PARTY IS SEEKING

There is also no doubt that in order to determine what the cause or reason for which the party seeking relief has come to the Court, regard must be had to that party’s pleadings, particularly the statement of claim. It is from there that the Court will be properly guided as to what set of facts the party is presenting as grounding his claim, the applicable principles of law and the legal remedy the party is seeking.

– Tukur JCA. Odulate v. FBN (2019)

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MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS OF PLEADINGS IN ELECTION PETITION

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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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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AMENDMENT OF PLEADINGS – TECHNICAL JUSTICE – SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE

With due deference to learned counsel for the appellants, the aim of amending pleadings in general is to enable the court to decide the rights of the parties, and not to punish them for mistakes made in the conduct of their cases by deciding otherwise than in accordance with their rights. The age of technicalities is now history. Substantial justice is the order of the day. So it is either you get moving on the train of justice or you get left behind, with the necklace of technicalities wrapped around your neck to keep you warm company or, on the other hand, to choke you.

– SANKEY, J.C.A, Awure v. Iledu (2007)

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