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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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FOUR REASONS WHY AMENDMENT OF PLEADINGS MAY ARISE

Amendments arise because of a number of reasons. I can identify four main reasons here. First, at the time of filing the pleadings, the factual situation sought to be amended was not available or if available was not within the reasonable anticipation of the party and his counsel, employing all diligence and intellectual resources at their command. Second, although the factual situation sought to be amended existed at the time the pleadings were filed, human idiosyncrasies, human lapses and human frailties resulted in its non-inclusion. This could either be the fault of the party or counsel or both. . Third, when there is a Reply to either the Statement of Claim or the Statement of Defence. Four, when the court suo motu raises a factual situation. Since this last reason is not consistent with our adversary system, a trial Judge should only resort to it when it is absolutely necessary so to do and in the overall interest of the parties. He cannot do so willy nilly and by his whims.

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

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AVERMENTS IN PLEADINGS NOT ADMITTED MUST BE PROVED

An averment in pleadings is not and has never been considered as legal evidence unless the same has been admitted by the other side to the litigation. Accordingly an averment which is not admitted must be proved or established by evidence. An averment of a material fact in pleadings which is denied but is not established by evidence is worthless and must be discountenanced. In a sense, such an averment may in law be rightly regarded as abandoned. (See generally on the above, Akinfosile v. Ijose (1960) 5 F.S.C. 192; (1960) SCNLR 447; Muraina Akanmu v. Adigun (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt.304) 218 at 231; Obmiami Brick and Stone Ltd v. A.C.B. Ltd (1992) 3 NWLR (Pt.229) 260 at 293 and Anyah v. A.N.N Ltd. (1992) 6 NWLR (Pt.247) 319 at 331.)

– Iguh, JSC. Magnusson v. Koiki (1993) – SC.119/1991

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WHERE THERE IS VARIANCE IN PLEADINGS AND THE EVIDENCE, THE ACTION IS BOUND TO FAIL

It is clear from the foregoing that the claim of the plaintiffs as disclosed in the writ of summons and statement of claim was not supported by the evidence of the trial. It is well settled law that parties are bound by their pleadings. Where there is variance between the claim the pleadings and evidence, the action is bound to fail- See Ogiamen v. Ogiamen (1967) NMLR. 245.

— A.G. Karibi-Whyte, JSC. Olowosago V. Adebanjo (SC.134/86, 29 Sep 1988)

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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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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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PARTY WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO LEAD EVIDENCE ON MATTER NOT PLEADED

The elementary rule of pleading is that a party shall plead facts which he propose to rely upon in order to establish his own case. It is now trite law that a party will not be allowed to lead evidence in respect of facts not pleaded; or to lead evidence contrary to his pleading. The sole purpose of pleading is to ensure that the parties to the case know the case they will meet at the trial, to obviate element of surprise. Pleading saves time and brings out clearly the issues in the case.

— Olatawura JSC. African Continental Bank Ltd. v. Alhaji Umaru Gwagwada (SC.26/1990, 29 APR 1994)

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