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THE STAGE PLEADINGS ARE SETTLED

Dictum

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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GENERAL TRAVERSE OF FACTS

Anah v. Nnacho (1965) NMLR 28 at 31 the Supreme Court in considering a general traverse stated thus: “Now it seems clear that the cumulative effect of these two paragraphs is that the appellants joined issue with respondents in respect of all the lands described in the pink area of Exhibit 2. By common practice a general traverse in the form of paragraph 15 of the statement of defence has always been accepted and when employed it puts the opponent to proof of the facts stated or alleged.”

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APPLICATION TO DISMISS AN ACTION WILL BE DETERMINED ON STATEMENT OF CLAIM ONLY

It is settled principle of law that when a Defendant files an application (such as the one that has given rise to this appeal) to strike out or dismiss an action on the ground that it disclosed no reasonable cause of action, he is, for the purpose of the application, taken to have admitted the facts alleged in the Statement of Claim. And in the determination of the application, the Court is bound to restrict itself to the Statement of Claim and to proceed on the assumption that the facts therein have been although the facts in the Statement of Claim are admitted, the Plaintiff has not, on the face of such facts, made out a case to warrant a trial or that he has, in law, a complete answer to the Plaintiffs case. See F.C.D.A. v NAIBI (1990) 3 N.W.L.R. (Part 138) 270 at 281; IMANA v ROBINSON (1979) 3-4 SC 1 at 9-10; U.D.C. v LADIPO (1971) 1 ALL N.L.R. 102; FADARE v A.G. OYO STATE (1982) 4 SC 1; TANDON v CFAO of ACCRA 10 WACA 186; AKANBI v ALAO (1989) 3 N.W.L.R. (Part 108) 118 at 140 and 153; EGBE v ADEFARASIN (1985) 1NWLR (Part 3) 549 at 556.

— F.F. Tabai JSC. Stephens Eng. Ltd. v. S.A. Yakubu (2009) – SC.153/2002

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MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS OF PLEADINGS IN ELECTION PETITION

The requirements of pleadings in election petitions are primarily provided in Paragraph 4 of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022. Specifically, Paragraph 4(1)(d) mandates that “an election petition shall state clearly the facts of the election petition and the ground or grounds on which the petition is based and the reliefs sought by the Petitioner.” Subparagraph (2) of the same paragraph further provides that “the election petition shall be divided into paragraphs each of which shall be confined to a distinct issue or major facts of the election petition, and every paragraph shall be numbered consecutively.” In addition to the provision of Paragraph 4 of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, Paragraph 54 of the same Schedule to the Act has made applicable to Election Petitions the Rules of Civil Procedure in the Federal High Court of 2019, subject to such modifications as would bring same in conformity with the provisions of the Act. By Order 13 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019, every party to an election petition shall ensure that averments in their pleadings “contain in a summary form the material facts on which the party pleading relies for his claim or defence, as the case may be, but not the evidence by which they are to be proved, and shall, when necessary, be divided into paragraphs, and numbered consecutively.” By subparagraph (4) of that Rule, such facts contained in the pleading must “be alleged positively, precisely and distinctly, and as briefly as is consistent with a clear statement.” The aforementioned provisions contained in the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022, as well as the Federal High Court Rules, 2019 state the mandatory requirements of pleadings in election petitions.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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FUNDAMENTAL AIM OF PLEADINGS

One fundamental aim of pleadings is to give notice to the adverse party of what he is going to meet at the trial. He should not be kept in the limbo. He should not be in dark. He should not be kept in abeyance. He is entitled to know the case of the opponent well before trial commences. And so when a part;, states his case in his pleadings, he cannot depart from it, unless the court allows him to do so. And the court can allow him to so depart by allowing an amendment to the original pleadings. And this must be based on an application. If parties are allowed to move in and out of their pleadings at will, the litigation will be more of a game of speculation, particularly as it relates to the facts relied upon by parties. If parties are allowed to move in and out of their pleadings, then there will be no end to litigation as they can freely introduce mid-stream any issue not pleaded to the disadvantage and surprise of the adverse party. That will be over-reaching the adverse party. That is not right. No, not at all.

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

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THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF PLEADINGS IN A TRIAL

The primary purpose of pleadings is to prepare the minds of the parties and the Court to know the case to be presented at the trial by each party, and to define and delimit with clarity and precision the real matters in controversy between the parties upon which to prepare and present their respective cases. It is designed to bring the parties to an issue upon which the Court will adjudicate between them. See Kyari v. Alkali (2001) 11 NWLR (Pt.724) 412 at 433-434 paras. H-A. It is therefore of utmost importance that both parties be comprehensive and accurate in their pleadings. In that regard, a plaintiff’s averment of facts must be met by the defendant frontally and categorically. The essential averments in the statement of claim should be specifically traversed. In order to raise any issue of fact, there must be a proper traverse; and a traverse must be made either by a clear denial or non-admission, either expressly or by necessary implication. A denial of a very material allegation of fact must not be general or evasive, but specific. Therefore, every allegation of fact, if not denied specifically or by necessary implication shall be taken as admitted and established. Putting it in a different way, where a party fails to join issues on material averments, he is deemed to have conceded the points made in those averments. They are deemed admitted and need no further proof to establish the facts contained in the pleading. See Ekperanisho v. Aloko (2015) 14 NWLR (Pt.1475) 153; Salzgitter Stahi GMBH v. Tanji Dosunmu Industries Ltd. (2010) NSCQR 1085 (2010) 11 NWLR (Pt.1206) 589. See Ekwealor v. Obasi (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt.131) 231 at 251, Oshodi v. Eyifunmi (2000) 13 NWLR (Pt.654) 298 at 337.

— T. Akomolafe-Wilson, JCA. Alabi v Audu (2017) – CA/A/494/2014

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ESSENCE OF PLEADINGS

Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC, in ATANDA V. AJANI (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt. 111) 511 @ 546 put that point across most forcefully when he said that: “It appears to me that the rule which required every fact upon which a party intends to rely at the hearing to be pleaded goes to the fundamentals ofjustice. For no one can defend the unknown. If one has to defend or counter a fact made by his adversary, the one must have due notice ofthat fact to enable him prepare for his defence. That is the very essence of pleading. As it goes to the very root of the rule of audi alteram partem one of the twin pillars of justice — it would be a misconception to describe it as mere technicality or irregularity. It is a matter which cannot, therefore, be waived. Indeed, by a long line of decided cases, it has been long settled that any evidence on a fact that ought to have been pleaded, but is not, goes to no issue at all at the trial and ought to be disregarded.”

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