Failure to indicate counsel signing is not fatal

Failure to indicate the particular counsel who signed a court process where more than one name appeared is not fatal.

Maitumbi v. Baraya [2017] 2 NWLR (Pt. 1550) 347 at 394, paras. C-E, per Sankey, JCA:

“On the authority of INEC v. Oshiomole [2009] 4 NWLR (Pt. 1132) 607, it was incumbent upon the 1st respondent who contested the ownership of the signature (and not the petitioners) to prove his assertion that the signature on the petition did not belong to anyone of the solicitors named at the foot of the petition. Clearly from the above affidavit evidence, the applicant (1st respondent) did not come even close to discharging the onus of proof in this regard. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the signature atop the names of the three solicitors named at the foot of the petition was affixed by one of the petitioners’ named solicitors…”

Blogger’s Note:

The position of the Court in the above case is commended. Indeed, the courts should not sustain such technical objections like that of the 1st Respondent in the case. In fact, in this era of NBA stamp and seal, the affixing of a counsel’s stamp and seal goes to show the actual counsel who signed the court process provided that his name is among the names appearing below the signature on the process. However, counsel are encouraged to always make the necessary indication. Sankey, JCA at page 394, paras. F-H admonished as follows: “Nonetheless, it must be stated that it is not good practice which is encouraged by the court for counsel signing any court process, (and even more so, election petitions), to fail to indicate who, (from a list of solicitors named in the process), appended his signature thereto. It is evident that, while this court has in such cases attributed the failure to indicate the actual name of the solicitor who appended his signature on a petition as not being fatal but a technicality which should not defeat the ends of justice, that is not to say that it should be the norm…”

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2 thoughts on “Failure to indicate the particular counsel who signed a court process where more than one name appeared is not fatal.”

  1. I think the position of the Court of Appeal on the matter is commendable. It is also in line with the admonition of the Supreme Court in State v Gwonto to the effect that technicalities should not be allowed to deflect the course of justice. And as rightly pointed out in the Blogger’s note section, the affixation of the approved Stamp and Seal of any of the lawyers whose name appears at the foot of the process should be deemed sufficient in that regard. However, a High Court in Anambra State relying on another Court of Appeal decision tending to support the opposite view, had held otherwise recently in a fundamental right application on the ground that there is confusion as to which legal practitioner among the two names thereon actually signed the process before the Court.

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