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Morohunfola v. Kwara College of Technology

B.A. Morohunfola…. Applicant

V

Kwara State College of Technology… Respondent

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria On Friday, the 6th day of July 1990 SC 170/1987

Judgment of the Court Delivered by Belgore, J.S.C.

I dismissed this appeal on the 9th day of April, 1990 and reserved the reasons for so doing to today. I now give my reasons. The appellant was the plaintiff at the trial High Court in Ilorin and after he was non-suited there, he appealed to the Court of Appeal, the respondent who was the defendant also cross-appealed asking that the correct verdict of the trial Court ought to be that of dismissal and not non-suit. The appellant’s appeal was dismissed and the cross-appeal was allowed. The pleadings that one would say joined the issues between the parties are very short. The statement of claim reads as follows:

  1. By a letter from the Principal of the College acting for and on behalf of the defendant a letter dated the 17th April, 1980 was issued to the plaintiff purportedly terminating the plaintiffs service with the defendant, which said letter the plaintiff hereby pleads:
  2. The plaintiff was the defendant’s Deputy Registrar on GL 14.
  3. The defendant’s Sole Administrator’s appointment had terminated on or before 15/4/80 and His Excellency, Alhaji Adamu Atta, the Governor of Kwara State had not appointment a new Governing Council or another Sole Administrator.

Wherefore the plaintiff claims as per his writ of summons, viz : The plaintiffs claim is for

(i)  DECLARATION (a) that the purported termination of the plaintiff’s ap­pointment by a letter from an agent of the defendant dated the 17th April, 1980 to the plaintiff is null and void as the Sole Administrator’s Office had terminated on or before (15/4/80) and a Governing Council had not been set up by His Excellency the Governor of

Kwara State, Alhaji Adamu Atta and (b) that the plaintiff is entitled to his emolument until the determination of this suit and thereafter until the plaintiff is legitimately relieved of his post and (ii) a perpetual injunction restraining the defendant and/or its agents and/or servants from filling the post, which the plaintiff contends is not vacant. Dated this 10th day of June, 1982. (Sgd.) J.O.Ijaodola Plaintiff’s Solicitor. And against this unusually short statement of claim is a safely short statement of defence reading as follows: STATEMENT OF DEFENCE SAVE AND EXCEPT as may hereinafter expressly admitted the defendant denies each and every allegation of fact con­tained in the statement of claim as if such allegations were set out seriatim and specifically traversed. Wole Olanipekun -Defendant’s Solicitor. It is upon the meagre statement of claim traversed by statement of defence that the appellant wanted to have his declaration that Exhibit I was null and void and the purported termination of his appointment as Registrar of Kwara College of Technology was of no effect. Learned trial Judge observed as follows: I have scrutinised all the pipers filed in this case; and upon due reflection it seems to me that the statement of claim is so grossly inadequate that it falls far short of the minimum practically required under Order It of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 1975. It is just too brief to be regarded as pleadings and too deficient to he relied upon for any purpose in this suit. It cannot be over-emphasised that evidence must be based on the pleadings and no testimony should lie in vacuum. The plaintiff ought only to be permitted to establish his claim against the defendant on the facts as pleaded or borne out the Writ of Summon and the statement of claim. I dare say that much of the facts received in evidence in this case has no bearing or relevance to the plaintiff’s pleading. They are completely outside it as will be pointed out presently. The Writ of Summons and the statement of claim together fail to comply with the elementary principle of briefly describing each of the parties, neither are there any averments relating to the appointment of the plaintiff as such. It is indeed necessary to allege the fact of the plaintiffs appointment by the defendant, its date, duration and conditions as well as the plaintiffs office, status or position at the time of his appointment. None of these was pleaded or testified to by the plaintiff’. The trial court found no merit in the appellant’s case and non-suited him. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal. And the respondent also cross-appealed asking for the case to be dismissed rather than be non-suited. The appellant’s appeal was dismissed and the cross-appeal was allowed. Against this judgment the appellant has appealed to this court. There were three grounds of appeal which can be summarised as follows: (i) that the court of Appeal was in error in holding that because of non-pleading and tendering of the original letter of appointment, the appellant could not give evidence of such appointment and this main plank of his case failed. (ii) that there was no legitimate authority of the respondent competent to terminate the appointment of the appellant. (iii) that by receiving three months salary in lieu of notice, the appointment. This is an unusual case. In our High courts the best method of explaining issues between the parties before hearing is by way of pleadings. Pleadings must contain facts, facts only, on which a party relies for his case; the facts must be material. In the matter of pleading it is for the plaintiff to plead sufficient material facts so that the defendant will know the case he is to face; the it is then up to defendant to admit or traverse those facts. If a right is pleaded, e.g. those rights under Chapter IV of the constitution, sufficient material facts must be pleaded to point unequivocally that those rights have been infringed. See Ransome-Kuti v. Attorney-General of the Federation (1985) 2N.W.L.R. (P.6) 211. Thus, facts not pleaded go to no issue; and because parties are bound by their pleadings, evidence received on unpleaded facts must be expunged from the record.

The court of trial was just confronted with a letter of termination without more; the plain­ tiff’s statement of claim is too vague and lacking in particulars not only by its brevity but also by lack of material particulars that most of the evidence led during trial actually went to no issue. The appellant’s case had virtually collapsed at the court of first instance and the very able judgment of the Adeniyi J., was concluded with a generous verdict of non suit. The court of Appeal rightly set aside the non-suit by entering a verdict of dismissal. What happened in that court is that the appellant by the inadequate pleading and offering of inadmissible evidence woefully failed to prove his case. It was not a matter of mere technical defect in the case; it was the failure to prove his case. The verdict in such a case is not to non-suit, it should have been dismissed outright. It was for the foregoing reasons that I dismissed this appeal on 9th day of April, 1990 and awarded N500.00 costs against the appellant.

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