Reliefs must be backed by facts

Reliefs sought in a suit are not part of the facts pleaded.

MTN (Nig.) Comm. Ltd. v. C.C. Inv. Ltd. [2015] 7 NWLR (Pt. 1459) 437 at 474, paras. D-E, per Orji-Abadua, JCA:

“It is trite that a relief sought by a party to a suit does not constitute part of the facts in the pleading and it cannot be granted unless there are facts contained in the party’s pleading in support of it upon which evidence can be called.”

Blogger’s Note:

The above position clarifies the point that although in statement of claim, a claimant is required to clearly state the reliefs or prayers sought from the court, however, that section of the statement of claim (usually the last section) is not considered part of the facts of the case and therefore need not be specifically denied in the statement of defence. Now, even though the reliefs section is not considered part of the facts of the case, there must be some facts stated in the statement of claim to support the reliefs sought. Most importantly, the facts pleaded must then be supported by evidence such that it is only when those facts are proved that the reliefs sought can be granted by the court. It is on the basis of the foregoing that the Court of Appeal further held, relying on the case of I.M.N.L. v. Nwachukwu [2004] 13 NWLR (Pt. 891) 543, that: “it is settled law that a court cannot grant to a plaintiff a remedy which has not been claimed and established by the pleading and the evidence respectively. Thus a court cannot grant a relief which has not been specifically prayed for.”

The situation is slightly different in the case of certain reliefs which are in the nature of special damages. The law is that special damages must be specifically pleaded in detail, with distinct particularity, and must be strictly proved before they can be granted by the court. See Ngilari v. Mothercat Ltd. [1999] 13 NWLR (Pt. 636) 626. In UBN Plc v. Ajabule [2011] 18 NWLR (Pt. 1278) 152, the Supreme Court stated that “special damages are those alleged to have been sustained in the circumstances of a particular wrong.” (Fabiyi, JSC at page 181, para. A). They are damages “which the law does not infer from the nature of an act but which are exceptional in character. Special damages denote those pecuniary losses which have crystallized in terms of cash and value before trial.” (Adekeye, JSC at page 183, paras. C-D). This principle does not apply to general damages which the apex Court defined as damages which “are always made as a claim at large. The quantum need not be pleaded and proved. The award is quantified by what in the opinion of a reasonable person is considered adequate loss or inconvenience which flows naturally, as generally presumed by law, from the act or conduct of the Defendant. It does not depend upon calculation made and figure arrived at from specific items.” (Mohammed, JSC at page 178, paras. C-D).
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