AMENDMENT OF PLEADINGS IN NIGERIAN COURTS

By Olawale Ajetunmobi

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Amendment of Pleadings

In civil proceedings, parties are generally required to file their pleadings wherein they set out the material facts in support of their respective cases. Pleadings constitute an essential aspect of civil litigation. Pleadings help to define or limit with clarity and certainty the real matters/issues in controversy between the parties and to give them notice of the case to be met in Court to enable them prepare their case before hand in order not to be taken by surprise. In addition, pleadings enable the Court to know the issues joined by the parties in the suit, which issues form the basis and limits of the action.

The nature and purpose of pleadings as stated above are well captured in the Supreme Court cases of Buhari v. Obasanjo [2005] All FWLR (Pt. 273) 1 at 129 – 130 per Belgore, J.S.C. and Eke v. Okwaranyia [2001] FWLR (Pt. 51) 1974 at 1994 to 1995 per Uwaifo, J.S.C. The content and the filing of pleadings are regulated by the various Rules of Court. Pleadings are also of various categories – Statement of Claim, Statement of Defence, Reply, Rejoinder, Surrejoinder, Rebutter or Surrebutters.

The whole essence of the adjudicative system is to see that proceedings are conducted in a way that justice is not only done but is also seen to be done. Therefore, where a party desires to amend his pleadings to incorporate facts necessary for the proper determination of the real question raised in the suit, such a party is generally allowed to apply to the Court for leave to amend his pleadings. In Okoli v. Ajose [1994] 8 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 362) 300 at 312, the purport of amendment of pleadings was explained thus:

“The object of the amendment of pleadings is to enable the parties to alter their pleadings so as to ensure that the litigation between them is conducted, not on the false hypothesis of the facts already pleaded or the relief or remedy already claimed, but rather on the basis of the true state of the facts or the true relief or remedy which the parties really and finally intend to rely on or to claim …. Sometimes the litigant may find it necessary to revise his own pleading to re-state or re-frame his case, before the action proceeds to trial in order to bring out ‘the real question in controversy’ between the parties.”

The grant of the application for amendment is, however, discretionary. The discretion of the Court must be exercised judiciously and judicially. See University of Lagos & Anor. v. Aigoro [1985] 1 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 1) 143 at 148; Unipetrol (Nig.) Limited v. Musa [1992] 7 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 251) 63 at 72.

The Rules of Court on Amendment

In Lagos, Order 24 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2004 governs the amendment of originating processes and pleadings. Order 24 Rules 1 and 2 provide as follows:

1. A party may amend his originating process and pleadings at any time before the close of pre-trial conference and not more than twice during the trial but before the close of the case.

2. Application to amend may be made to a Judge. Such application shall be supported by an exhibit of the proposed amendment and may be allowed upon such terms as to costs or otherwise as may be just.

In the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, amendment is provided under Order 24 Rule 1 of the Court Rules. At the Federal High Court, Order 17 Rules 1 and 2 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 provide for amendment of processes.

It is also trite that an amendment may also be granted to bring pleadings in line with the evidence led at the trial in order to make the pleadings or claim accord with the evidence already on record. See Biode Pharmaceutical Ind. Ltd v. Adsell (Nig.) Ltd (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt. 46) 1070; Anakwe v. Oladeji (2008) 2 NWLR (Pt. 1072) 506; Adepoju v. Oke (1990) 7 NWLR (Pt. 164) 643; Fagbule v. Rodrigues (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt. 765) 188

Principles Guiding Amendment of Pleadings

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