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FUNCTION OF A REPLY BRIEF

Dictum

The function of a reply brief is to refute the new arguments in the respondents brief. A reply brief is necessary when an issue of law or argument is raised in the Respondents brief which requires a reply by the appellant. Failure to file a Reply brief can adversely affect the case of the appellant if the issues raised in the respondent’s brief are weighty, substantial and relevant in law. A reply brief is not meant to re-argue or fine tune an appellant’s case. A reply brief has no connection or affiliation with the Cross-Respondents brief and can only be filed by an appellant in the main appeal or cross-appeal.

— O.O. Adekeye, JSC. Mini Lodge v. Ngei (2009) – SC.231/2006

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INCOMPETENT REPLY ON POINTS OF LAW

Now, the law is that a reply on points of law is meant to be just what it is, a reply on points of law. It should be limited to answering only new points arising from the opposing brief. It is not meant for the party replying on points of law to reargue its case or bring in points it forgot to advance when it filed its final written address. It is not a form to engage in arguments at large. Alternatively put, a reply on points of law is not meant to improve on the quality of a written address; a reply brief is not a repair kit to correct or put right an error or lacuna in the initial brief of argument. See Dr Augustine N. Mozie & ors v. Chike Mbamalu [2006] 12 SCM (Pt. I) 306. The effect of non compliance is that the Court will discountenance such a reply brief. See Onuaguluchi v. Ndu [2000] 11 NWLR (Pt. 590) 204.

— B.B. Kanyip, J. Olatunji v UBER (2018) – NICN/LA/546/2017

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FAILURE TO FILE REPLY BRIEF MAY BE DEEMED ACCEPTANCE OF NEW POINTS RAISED

Although it is not mandatory for an appellant to file a reply brief. However, where a respondents brief raises a point of law not covered in his (appellants) brief, he (appellant) ought to file a reply (brief). Indeed, where he fails to do so (that is, fails to file a reply brief) without an oral reply to the points raised in the respondent’s brief, he may be deemed to have conceded to the points of law or issues so raised in the respondent’s brief.

— C.C. Nweze JSC. Onuwa Kalu v. The State (SC.474/2011, 13 Apr 2017)

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FUNCTION OF A REPLY BRIEF

In Ecobank Plc v. Honeywell Flour Mills Plc (2018) LPELR 45124 (SC), it was held: I need to emphasize that the function of a Reply Brief is to answer the arguments in the Respondents brief which were not taken in the Appellants brief. It is not meant to be a repetition of the arguments in the Appellants brief. It is not an opportunity to re-emphasize the arguments in the Appellants brief.

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NEW FACTS CANNOT BE INTRODUCED VIA A PETITIONER’S REPLY

It is therefore clear that paragraph 16(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act does not permit a Petitioner in his Reply to introduce or bring in any new issue or fact which ought to have been raised in the petition itself. In other words, a Petitioner cannot in the guise of a Reply to a Respondent’s Reply, introduce a new issue of fact which was never raised in his Petition nor raised by the Respondent. To do that will amount to amending or adding to the petition, and also taking the Respondent by surprise because at that stage, the Respondent will not be in a position to react to such new issue or fact. It will therefore breach the Respondents fundamental right to fair hearing. Therefore, the Petitioner is not permitted to repair or rehash his averments in the Petition in such a way that it will amount to an amendment or reconstruction of the petition. See Dingyadi v. Wamako (2008) 17 NWLR (pt. 116) 395.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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REPLY BRIEF TO ATTACK NEW ISSUE(S)

The purpose of Reply Brief is to tackle new issues or argument raised in the respondents’ Brief of Argument and not dealt with in the appellant’s Brief of Argument otherwise a Reply Brief would be tantamount to a repetition of the appellant’s main Brief. In other words, it should not serve as a forum for reopening the appellant’s case over again. And where it is coterminous in every respect with the appellant’s main Brief, it should be discountenanced.

– Chukwuma-Eneh JSC. Yaro v. Arewa CL (2007)

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IT IS NOT NECESSARY FOR A PLAINTIFF TO FILE A REPLY

In the cited case ofAli v. Salihu (2011) 1 NWLR (Pt.1228) 227 at 253, this Court, per Shadipe JCA stated thus – “The law is no doubt settled that a reply is not filed to a statement of defence as of course. Further pleadings by way of reply is to be filed for the purpose of bringing parties to an issue. It is not necessary for a plaintiff to file a reply if the only purpose to be so achieved is to deny any of the allegations the defendant may have made in the statement of defence. This is because if no reply is filed all the material allegations/facts in the statement of defence are in issue. A reply to merely join issues is therefore not permissible. See paragraph 18.06 of the Practice and Procedure of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Courts of Nigeria by T. A. Aguda. The purpose of filing of a reply to a statement of defence has been succinctly stated by Kawu, JSC; in the case of Akinremi (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt.108) 164 at page 172, paras, F-G as follows:- “Now, the rule of practice is that where no counter-claim is filed, a reply is generally unnecessary if its sole object is to raise, in answer to the defence, any matters which must be specifically pleaded, which make the defence not maintainable or which otherwise might take the defence by surprise or which raise issues of facts not arising out of the defence – Bullen and Leake and Jacob’s Precedents of Pleadings, 12th Edition, p.107 (Also see Williamson v. London and North Western Railway Company (1879) 12 Ch. D 787, 794). Reply is the proper place for meeting the defence by confession and avoidance. Hall v. Eve (1876) 4 Ch.D 341.”

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