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THE NATURE OF PLEADINGS – IMPORTANCE

Dictum

In the case of Osondu Co Ltd. and Anor v. Akhigbe (1999) LPELR – 1433 (SC), the Supreme Court per Uwaifo, JSC, held as follows: “It must be realized that pleadings is a statement of candour as to what a party to a case relies on to prove or defend a cause. It ought to be made as clear as it possibly can, not evasive or misleading or ambiguous. Each party must endeavor to place and must be presumed to have placed, all necessary pleadable acts on record the best way it can in order to achieve the best of its case. It must put the other party and the Court on a firm understanding of what the issues joined or denied, or issues admitted or not admitted. Pleadings are the guiding light by which all concerned trace the path to the justice of a case. That path should not be hampered by and littered with stumbling blocks of uncertainties, misrepresentations and ambushes embedded in the averments. That will be an effort to spring surprises and will not be proper pleadings. As was said by Phillimore J., in The Why Not (1888) LR 2A and E. 265 and quoted with approval in Enwezor v. Central Bank of Nigeria (1976) 3 SC 45 at 56 Per Madarikan, JSC, pleadings “…are not to be considered as constituting a game of skill between the advocates. They ought to be so framed as not only to assist the party in the statement of his case but the Court in its investigation of the truth between the litigants.”

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A PARTY IS BOUND HIS PLEADING – PURPOSE OF PLEADINGS – A COURT ONLY GIVES TO A PARTY WHAT HE CLAIMS

A party is bound by his pleading at the trial and cannot make a case different from this pleadings. This is because the object of pleading is to appraise the opposing party of the case the pleader is making so as to avoid any surprise at the hearing and to ascertain the issue or issues in controversy between the parties with a view to enabling each party settle before hand, the evidence it shall adduce at the hearing. Similarly, a court only gives to a party what he claims by way of pleading. In this case the trial court was right in not declaring Exhibits 1 and D1 null and void as this fact was not pleaded by the appellant. [Olaopa v. O.A.U. Ile-Ife (1997) 7 NWLR (Pt. 512) 204 at page 225;Aderenii v. Adedire (1966) NMLR 398; A. C. 8. Ltd v. A. G. Northern Nigeria (1967) NMLR 231; Albion Const. Co. Ltd v. Rao Invest. AND Pro. Ltd (1992) 1 NWLR (Pt. 219) 583; Bakare v. L.S.C.C. (1992)8NWLR(Pt.262)641;Balogun v. Oshunkoya (1992) 3 NWLR (Pt. 232) 827]

– L.A. Ayanlere v. Federal Mortgage Bank of Nig. Ltd. (1998) – CA/K/186/96

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AMENDMENT OF PLEADINGS – PARTY WILL NOT BE DISALLOWED

Let me pause here to say one or two words on amendment of pleadings. Amendment of pleadings is part of the judicial process and we cannot run away from it. We cannot even avoid it. The courts are mostly receptive to applications for amendment. They accommodate applications for amendment most of the time. Apart from the understandably relaxed and accommodating nature of our adjectival Law on the issue, courts of law, by their nature and institutional upbringing are reluctant and loath to shut their gates against willing litigants midstream in the presentation of their claims and rights in terms of available facts. Since that is not consistent with the basic rules of fair hearing and natural justice, the courts, in most cases, grant applications for amendment of pleadings.

— Tobi, JCA. Abraham v Olorunfunmi (1990) – CA/L/83/89

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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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THE FUNCTION OF PLEADING IS TO DEFINE & DELIMIT REAL MATTERS IN CONTROVERSY

Atolagbe v. Shorun (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 2) 360 at 365 where Coker, J.S.C. in dealing with the main function of pleadings in the trial of an action had this to say: – “The primary function of pleadings is to define and delimit with clarity and precision the real matters in controversy between the parties upon which they can prepare and present their respective cases and upon which the court will be called to adjudicate between them. It is designed to bring the parties to an issue on which alone the court will adjudicate between them party is bound by his pleading and cannot go outside it to lead evidence or rely on facts which are extraneous to those pleaded.”

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FACT ADMITTED WHERE NO DENIAL

It is still the law that where a defendant fails to deny specifically an allegation of fact in the Statement of Claim and a denial cannot be reasonably inferred from the defendant’s pleadings that fact will be taken as admitted and therefore regarded as established at the hearing without further proof.

– Onnoghen JCA. Union Bank v. Akinrinmade (1999)

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PARTIES ARE BOUND BY THEIR PLEADINGS

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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