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GENERAL TRAVERSE IS NOT AN EFFECTIVE DENIAL

Dictum

A general traverse is not an effective denial of essential or material averments in the opposing party’s pleading. – Kekere-Ekun, J.S.C. Union Bank v. Chimaeze (2014)

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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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PARTY MUST TRAVERSE EACH ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

The law is that each party must traverse specifically each allegation of fact which he does not intend to admit. The party pleading must make it clear how much of his opponent’s case he disputes. The law is notorious that a traverse must not be evasive, but must answer the point of substance. The basic rule of pleading is that a traverse whether by denial or refusal to admit, must not be evasive but must answer the point of substance. The pleader must deal specifically with every allegation of fact made by his opponent: he must either admit it frankly or deny it boldly. Any half-admission or half-denial is evasive.”

— O. Oyebiola, J. Yakubu v. FRCN (2016) – NIC/LA/673/2013

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ALL FACTS ON WHICH EVIDENCE WILL BE GIVEN MUST BE PLEADED

A legal battle does not permit of surprises. A legal battle is very much like a boxing match or a tennis match where the opponent is known and the instruments of battle i.e., boxing gloves or tennis racquets and ball, as the case may be, are in plain view for all to see. No surprises are intended. In a Military battle however, surprise is fair game. The: enemy is not to know his opponents weapons or battle strategy. The enemy can surreptitiously plant bombs, land mines, etc. An ambush is a legitimate battle strategy. What the Appellant did by relying on the Chinese regulation without first pleading it, is a veritable ambush and a Court cannot rely on such evidence.

– O. Daniel-Kalio, JCA. Egypt v. Abdoulaye (2017) – CA/K/540/2014

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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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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

It must be remembered that it is a cardinal principle of the Rules of Practice that parties are bound by their pleadings and evidence led on matters not pleaded goes to no issue. Furthermore, any fact admitted in a party’s pleadings, need not be proved by the other party.

— Craig JSC. Uredi v. Dada (1998) – SC.106/1986

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