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HOW PROCESSES FILED IN COURT MAY BE SIGNED

Dictum

In SLB Consortium Ltd v NNPC (2011) 4 SC (Pt.1) p.86, I explained how processes filed in Court are to be signed. I said: First, the signature of counsel, which may be any contraption. Secondly, the name of counsel clearly written. Thirdly, who counsel represents. Fourthly, name and address of legal Firm. It is clear from the facts above that the Statement of Claim was signed, but there was no name of counsel. So the process is irregular.

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PROCESS TO BE EXHIBITED ALONGSIDE APPLICATION FOR EXTENSION OF TIME

Besides the preliminary objection, the defendant did not file any other defence process within the time allowed it by the Court. The application by the defendant for leave to extend this time was rejected by the Court since copies of the defence processes were not exhibited alongside the application for extension of time. This meant that the defendant had no defence process in this suit.

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

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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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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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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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STATEMENT OF CLAIM WHICH HAS BEEN AMENDED DOES NOT CEASE TO EXIST, BUT CANNOT DETERMINE LIVE ISSUES

Again, the Appellants are spot-on that this Court can look at the Respondent’s original pleadings because it is settled law that a statement of claim or defence, which has been duly amended, does not cease to exist: it still forms part of the proceedings and a Court cannot close its eyes to it -see Salami V. Oke (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt. 63)150, Agbaisi V. Ebikorefe (1997) 4 NWLR (Pt. 502) 630 SC, A.S.E.S.A. V. Ekwenem (2009)13 NWLR (Pt. 1158) 370 at 436 SC. But this does not mean that the original pleadings can be the basis of a Party’s case nor may a Court rely on it for its Judgment. It is just that the original pleadings that was amended “no longer determines or defines the live issues to be tried before the Court; not that it no longer exists” see Agbahomovo V. Eduyegbe (1999)3 NWLR (Pt. 594)170 SC. Thus, such original pleadings cannot be deemed to have been expunged or struck out. It certainly exists.

— A.A. Augie, JSC. Berger v Toki Rainbow (2019) – SC.332/2009

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