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TRIAL JUDGE SHOULD NOT RELY ON ORIGINAL STATEMENT OF DEFENCE WHEN THERE IS AN AMENDMENT

Dictum

Madam Salami and others v. Oke (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt.63) 1. Both counsel relied on this case. In this case, the Supreme Court held that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with a trial Judge merely referring to an original Statement of Defence. However, there is everything wrong with the trial Judge relying on original Statement of Defence to arrive at the live issues in a case where there exists an Amended Statement of Defence. That was the lead judgment of Kawu, J.S.C. In my view, if an amendment relates to the real question in controversy, a trial Judge has no jurisdiction to ignore it and fall back on the original pleadings which are contrary to the amended pleadings. The original pleadings have been overtaken by events and should be so treated. But I see nothing wrong in a trial Judge making reference to original pleadings in the course of his judgment. What should guide an appellate court is whether from the totality of the judgment of the learned trial Judge, he was influenced by the affidavits in previous interlocutory proceedings which are not relevant in arriving at findings and final decisions.

— Tobi, JCA. Abraham v Olorunfunmi (1990) – CA/L/83/89

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ONLY LEGAL PRACTITIONER WITH NAME ON THE ROLL SHOULD SIGN COURT PROCESS

The purpose of Sections 2(1) and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, is to ensure that only a Legal Practitioner whose name is on the roll of the Supreme Court should sign Court processes. It is to ensure responsibility and accountability on the part of a legal practitioner who signs a Court process. It is to ensure that fake lawyers do not invade the profession … The literal construction of the Law is that Legal Practitioners who are animate personalities should sign Court processes and not a firm of Legal Practitioners which is inanimate and cannot be found in the roll of this Court.

– Bage, JSC. GTB v. Innoson (2017) – SC.694/2014(R)

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COURT PROCESS IS TO BE FILED AS FOLLOWS

This position is further reinforced by the case of; Daniel Ihibe Omede v Umion Bank of Nigeria Plc. (2013) LPELR-22793(CA) where Abdullahi JCA held as follows; ‘’All processes filed in Court are to be signed as follows: a) The signature of counsel, which may be any contraption, b) name of the counsel clearly written, c) the party counsel represents, d) name and address of law firm.”

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PROCESS TO BE EXHIBITED ALONGSIDE APPLICATION FOR EXTENSION OF TIME

Besides the preliminary objection, the defendant did not file any other defence process within the time allowed it by the Court. The application by the defendant for leave to extend this time was rejected by the Court since copies of the defence processes were not exhibited alongside the application for extension of time. This meant that the defendant had no defence process in this suit.

— B.B. Kanyip, J. FG v. ASUU (2023) – NICN/ABJ/270/2022

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CARE MUST BE OBSERVED IN PREPPING COURT PROCESSES

Tobi, J.C.A. in Joshua Fumudoh and Anor. v. Dominic Aboro and Anor. (1991) 9 NWLR (Pt.214) 210 at 225 where His Lordship had this to say:- “All I have done is send one message to counsel in the preparation of court processes. So much care is required and so much care should be taken. A Court process is not just like a letter to a friend where one can afford to slip here and there with little or no adverse effect. A Court process is a sacred and most important document which must be thoroughly done and thoroughly finished. The adverse party, as usual in the profession will always open his ears and his eyes very wide to pinpoint any error and capitalise on same. He is always on the toes of the opponent to ‘devour’ him. But surprisingly, learned counsel for the appellant did not see the points. It is possible he saw them and ignored them, knowing that they do not in reality detract from the merits of the objection as such.”

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IF IT CANNOT BE SAID WHO SIGNED A PROCESS, THE PROCESS IS INCURABLY BAD

RHODES-VIVOUR, JSC in SLB CONSORTIUM v NNPC (2011) 9 NWLR (PT. 1252) P. 317 opined that: “Once it cannot be said who signed a process, it is incurably bad and rules of Court that seem to provide a remedy are of no use as a rule cannot override the law (i.e the Legal Practitioners Act)”

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STATEMENT OF CLAIM WHICH HAS BEEN AMENDED DOES NOT CEASE TO EXIST, BUT CANNOT DETERMINE LIVE ISSUES

Again, the Appellants are spot-on that this Court can look at the Respondent’s original pleadings because it is settled law that a statement of claim or defence, which has been duly amended, does not cease to exist: it still forms part of the proceedings and a Court cannot close its eyes to it -see Salami V. Oke (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt. 63)150, Agbaisi V. Ebikorefe (1997) 4 NWLR (Pt. 502) 630 SC, A.S.E.S.A. V. Ekwenem (2009)13 NWLR (Pt. 1158) 370 at 436 SC. But this does not mean that the original pleadings can be the basis of a Party’s case nor may a Court rely on it for its Judgment. It is just that the original pleadings that was amended “no longer determines or defines the live issues to be tried before the Court; not that it no longer exists” see Agbahomovo V. Eduyegbe (1999)3 NWLR (Pt. 594)170 SC. Thus, such original pleadings cannot be deemed to have been expunged or struck out. It certainly exists.

— A.A. Augie, JSC. Berger v Toki Rainbow (2019) – SC.332/2009

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