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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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A LEGAL PROCESS MUST BE SIGNED BY EITHER THE LEGAL PRACTITIONER OR LITIGANT

It is trite that it is the seal or signature, of the author on a document that authenticates the document. A legal document or process of Court must be settled or signed by either the legal practitioner of the choice of the litigant or the litigant himself. The disputed processes were purportedly settled or signed by a legal practitioner, whose identity is unknown. Where ex facie a Court process it is uncertain if the process was signed by the litigant or the legal practitioner representing him, the process is incompetent. Court processes must either be signed by the litigant himself or by the legal practitioner retained by him. A Court process that purports to be settled by a legal practitioner must, as a requirement of statute, have not only the signature of the legal practitioner but also his name clearly shown and indicating that the signature is his. The decision of this Court in SLB CONSTRUCTION v. NNPC (2011) 9 NWLR (Pt.1252) 317 at 336 -337 and many others on Court processes prepared and filed by a legal practitioner clearly demonstrate that for the signature thereon appended to be valid, it must be traceable to a legal practitioner. The process must have the signature or mark of the legal practitioner either against his name, or over and above his name.

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

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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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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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PAPER OF WRIT, PETITION, AND OTHER COURT PROCESSES COULD REPLACE AN AFFIDAVIT

I acknowledge that there is no hard and fast rule that a preliminary objection must be supported by an affidavit so long as enough material is placed before the trial court on which it can judicially and judiciously pronounce on the preliminary objection. Where the alleged offending writ, petition or other court process ex facie contains the relevant information against which an objection is being raised, the necessity to rely on affidavit evidence does not arise. See Bello v. National Bank of Nigeria [1992] 6 NWLR (Pt. 246) 206 at 219 (per Achike, JCA, as he then was).

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

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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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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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