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PARTIES ARE BOUND BY THEIR PLEADINGS

Dictum

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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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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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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CRIME MUST BE SPECIFICALLY PLEADED

Crime as an offence punishable by law must be specifically pleaded and proved. – Niki Tobi JSC. Okonkwo v. Cooperative Bank (2003)

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PLEADINGS SHOULD NOT CONTAIN LAW OR MIXED LAW & FACT

It is well settled that every pleading must state facts and not law. A party is not expected to plead conclusions of law or mixed fact and law. However, conclusions of law can be drawn from material facts pleaded. It is also unnecessary to set out in a pleading content of a public statute.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Finnih v. Imade (1992)

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PLEADINGS MUST BE SUFFICIENTLY SPECIFIC AND COMPREHENSIVE TO ELICIT NECESSARY ANSWER

✓ In BELGORE v AHMED (2013) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1355) 60 at 95 – 96, the complaint against the averments in the petition was that they were unspecific, generic, speculative, vague, unreferable, omnibus and general in terms. In that case the Apex Court specifically held as follows: “Pleadings in an action are the written statements of the parties wherein they set forth the summary of the material facts on which each relied in proof of his claim or his defence as the case may be and by means of which the real matters was (sic) controversy between the parties and to be adjudicated upon are clearly identified. Although only material facts are required to be pleaded and in a summary form, they must nevertheless be sufficiently specific and comprehensive to elicit the necessary answers from the opponent. See Ashiru Noibi v. Fikolati & Ors (1987) 3 SC 105 at 119, (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 52) 629 and Omorhirihi v. Enetevwere (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt. 73) 746. They must contain such details as to eliminate any element of surprise to the opposing party. In this case where the dispute involves the election in as many as 895 polling units, the pleading in the petition which alleged electoral malpractices, non-compliance and/or offences in “some polling units”, “many polling units”, “most polling units” or “several polling units” cannot be said to have met the requirements of pleadings as stipulated in paragraph 4(1)(d) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act and/or Order 13 Rules 4(1), 5 and 6(1) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009.”

✓ Also, in PDP v INEC & 3 ORS (2012) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1300) 538, the Apex Court, was also categorical when it held thus: “On whether the affected paragraphs were rightly struck out, I have read the affected paragraphs and found that they relate to allegations of non-voting in several polling points, disruption of election, non-conclusion of election, thumb-printing of ballot papers, falsification of election results, wide spread disruption, irregularities and malpractices without providing particulars or the polling units where the alleged malpractices took place. The lower court was therefore right when it held as follows: “The paragraphs above in my view are too generic, vague and lacking in any particulars as they are not tied specifically to any particular polling unit or any particular number of people who were alleged to be disenfranchised. The fact that a party can file further particulars or deny in a reply the averment in the pleading must not be general, it must be specific as to facts. It is settled law that a petitioner’s obligation to plead particulars of fraud or falsification without which the allegation is a non-starter.” I have nothing to add to this statement of law as advanced above, and I adopt it as mine.”

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MATTERS NOT PLEADED GOES TO NO ISSUE

At the trial, a party is bound by the pleadings and shall not be permitted to set up a different case. It is not open to a party to depart from his pleadings and put up an entirely new case. Matters not pleaded go to no issue and should not be admitted in evidence and, if admitted, should be ignored or discountenanced in the absence of an amendment of the pleadings. See Njoku and others v. Eme and others (1973) 5 S.c. 293; Okafor and others v. Okitiakpe (1973) 2 SC 49; EmegokWue v. Okadigho (1973) 4 SC.113 etc.

— Iguh, JSC. Onamade v ACB (1997) – SC.199/1990

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