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ESSENCE OF PLEADINGS

Dictum

Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC, in ATANDA V. AJANI (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt. 111) 511 @ 546 put that point across most forcefully when he said that: “It appears to me that the rule which required every fact upon which a party intends to rely at the hearing to be pleaded goes to the fundamentals ofjustice. For no one can defend the unknown. If one has to defend or counter a fact made by his adversary, the one must have due notice ofthat fact to enable him prepare for his defence. That is the very essence of pleading. As it goes to the very root of the rule of audi alteram partem one of the twin pillars of justice — it would be a misconception to describe it as mere technicality or irregularity. It is a matter which cannot, therefore, be waived. Indeed, by a long line of decided cases, it has been long settled that any evidence on a fact that ought to have been pleaded, but is not, goes to no issue at all at the trial and ought to be disregarded.”

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LITIGATION IS FOUGHT ON PLEADINGS

It is trite that litigation, particularly election dispute litigation, is fought on pleadings. Parties swim or sink with their pleadings. In the case of ANYAFULU & ORS V. MEKA & ORS (2014) LPELR 22336 (SC), the Supreme Court Per Kekere Ekun, JSC held that: “Litigation is fought on pleadings. They are the pillars upon which a party’s case is founded. Not only do they give the other side notice of the case they are to meet at the trial, they also define the parameters of the case. In other words, parties are bound by their pleadings. Any evidence led on facts not pleaded goes to no issue while any pleadings in respect of which no evidence is led are deemed abandoned. In effect, where the pleadings are deficient no matter how cogent the evidence led, the case would fail. See: Nwokorobia Vs Nwogu (2009) 10 NWLR (1150) 553; Shell B. P. Vs. Abedi (1974) 1 SC 23; Ebosie Vs. Phil Ebosie (1976) 7 SC 119; George Vs Dominion Flour Mill Ltd. (1963) 1 ALL NLR 71.” See also IFEANYICHUKWU OSONDU CO. LTD & ANOR V. AKHIGBE (1999) LPELR (SC). Those pleadings in Paragraphs 41-42 of the Petition having been abandoned are discountenanced.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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EVIDENCE ON MATTER NOT PLEADED

It is settled that evidence led on any matter not pleaded goes to no issue and ought to be disregarded when giving judgment. – Kutigi JSC. Amadi v. Nwosu (1992)

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AMENDMENT OF PLEADINGS – PARTY WILL NOT BE DISALLOWED

Let me pause here to say one or two words on amendment of pleadings. Amendment of pleadings is part of the judicial process and we cannot run away from it. We cannot even avoid it. The courts are mostly receptive to applications for amendment. They accommodate applications for amendment most of the time. Apart from the understandably relaxed and accommodating nature of our adjectival Law on the issue, courts of law, by their nature and institutional upbringing are reluctant and loath to shut their gates against willing litigants midstream in the presentation of their claims and rights in terms of available facts. Since that is not consistent with the basic rules of fair hearing and natural justice, the courts, in most cases, grant applications for amendment of pleadings.

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

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COURTS MUST BE GUIDED BY PLEADINGS

Both courts must be fully guided by the pleadings, which in this case are the petition and the replies. If a witness gives oral evidence on what is not pleaded in either the petition or the reply, the evidence will be of no probative value based on the principle of law that parties are bound by their pleadings. If evidence is not led on a fact pleaded in either the petition or the reply the fact will be deemed to have been abandoned unless the fact was admitted by the adverse party. This is because pleadings have no mouth to talk and need human being with mouth and sense to articulate them in court. This principle of law will not apply where the particular pleading is admitted.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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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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PARTIES ARE BOUND BY THEIR PLEADINGS

As the parties are adversaries, each one is bound by his case as framed in his pleadings. That being so, the Defendant/Appellant will not be allowed to set up (at the hearing as he did) an entirely different case without any prior amendment to his pleadings: African Continental Seaways Ltd. v. Nigerian Dredging Roads General Works Ltd. (1977) 5 S.C. 235 at p.249.

— Oputa, JSC. Salawu Ajide V. Kadiri Kelani (SC.76/1984, 29 Nov 1985)

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