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PARAGRAPHS IN PLEADINGS READ TOGETHER

Dictum

Paragraphs in pleadings are not read in isolation but read together to obtain the total story of the parties. – Niki Tobi JSC. Okonkwo v. Cooperative Bank (2003)

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HOW PLEADING OF FACT IS DONE

How now should the respondent have pleaded the invalidity of the transaction? In considering whether the invalidity of the transaction was pleaded, I must bear in mind the fact that pleadings are no longer required to be technical in formulation. Subject to the requirement that parties must not offend against any of the known rules of pleadings as laid down by law, such as that they should not plead evidence or omit to plead facts which, when proved, may result in surprise to the other side, or facts which are frivolous or vexatious, or which may tend to prejudice, embarrass or delay the trial of the action, all that a pleader is now required to do in such a case is, where necessary, to allege illegality or invalidity and plead facts from which inferences of law thereof could be drawn: see on this Knowles v. Roberts (1888) 38 Ch.D. 263, at p.270 to 271; Willis v. Lovick (1901) 2 K.B. 195. That is the proper rule. But the court will itself take notice of the illegality or invalidity of a contract on which a party is relying if it appears on the face of the contract or from the facts pleaded, although the party has not expressly averred that it is illegal or invalid: see Windhill Local Board v. Vint (1890) 45 Ch.D 357; Gedge v. Royal Exchange Assurance (1900) 2 Q.B. 214.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Adesanya v Otuewu (1993) – SC.217/1989

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AVERMENTS IN PLEADINGS WITHOUT EVIDENCE TO SUBSTANTIATE ARE USELESS

Mere averments in pleadings, no matter how impressive they may be are useless if no evidence is led to prove them. Such averments in the pleadings unless, they are admitted, are regarded as mere suggestions of counsel and if they are not proved by evidence of witnesses are deemed to have been abandoned. [Adegbite v. Ogunfaolu (1990) 4 NW1,11 (Pt.146) 578; Balogun v. Amubikanhun (1985) 3 NWLR(Pt.11)27; Obmiami BrickAND Stone (Nig.) Ltd. v. A.C.B. Ltd. (1992) 3 NWLR (Pt.229) 260;Ayeniv. Sowemimo (1982) 5 SC 60; Idesoh v. Ordia (1997) 3 NWLR (Pt.491) 17 referred to].

— Adeyemo v. Ida & Ors. (1998) – CA/1/6/92

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GENERAL TRAVERSE WILL BE THE APPOSITE WHERE PETITIONER/CLAIMANT PLEADINGS WHERE GENERAL IN NATURE ITSELF

per Ogunwumiju, JCA (as he then was, now JSC), held in UDEAGHA & ANOR v OMEGARA & ORS (2010) LPELR-3856(CA), as follows: “The argument of Appellants’ counsel that the Respondents did not adequately traverse the petition is unfounded. The petition itself contained general complaints. There was no effort to pinpoint in the pleadings the various places where corrupt practices, non voting, use of violence, thuggery, rigging in polling units, massive thumb-print of ballot papers, fictitious entry of election results took place. Therefore, there was a general corresponding reply denying the allegations in general terms from the Respondents. If the Petitioners did not plead particulars, how could the respondents traverse non-existent particulars? The averments in the Appellants’ pleadings should have contained details of the allegations and complaints to which the Respondents could reply in detail in their own pleadings. The Appellants expected the Respondents to reply to the various specific allegations contained in the witness statements filed along with the petition. That is not the correct procedure. Those specific allegations should have been in the pleadings. The pleadings must show the facts disputed while the witnesses would give evidence of these facts. In election petitions, it has been held that there is need for particulars where required in order to prevent taking adverse party by surprise. See Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 7 SCNJ 1. It is not the function of particulars to take the place of necessary averments in pleadings. See Nwobodo v Onoh (1984) 1 SC 201…”

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PLEADINGS SHOULD BE CONCISE PRESENTATION OF FACTS

Para. 12: “The court reiterates that the pleadings should be confined to a concise and precise presentation of facts and brief summary of evidence in support including references to documents. All arguments shall be reserved for the oral phase of the proceedings. Reference is hereby made to Articles 33 and 35 of the Court’s Rules of Procedure.”

— Saidykhan v GAMBIA (2010) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/08/10

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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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THE STAGE PLEADINGS ARE SETTLED

The respondent, as plaintiff produced exhibits M, M1 photograph and negative to support averment in her pleadings that she is the daughter of L.O. Ukeje (deceased). The defendant/appellant denied the averment in the plaintiff’s pleadings. At that stage pleadings are settled. At trial, if the defendant seeks to disprove the plaintiffs documentary evidence (i.e. exhibits M, M1) which was used to support her claim to being the daughter of the deceased, the defendant is not bound to plead that the plaintiff’s documentary evidence is false, fraudulent or forged. The defendant is to cross-examine him and lead evidence to show beyond reasonable doubt that exhibit M, M1 are forgeries. This the defendants appellants were unable to do.

– Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Ukeje v. Ukeje (2014)

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