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Stowing Justice with the sandbags of technicalities: STOWE Vs. STOWE (2012) 9 NWLR (Part 1306) Page 450

The decision of the Supreme Court in STOWE Vs. STOWE (2012) 9 NWLR Part 1306 Page 450 has once again stirred up a hornet’s nest in the duty of our courts, particularly the Supreme Court, to prevent undue adherence to procedural technicality and defeat the ends of justice. The aspect of civil procedure that came up for consideration in that case was the legal effect of inserting the relief: “Whereof the Plaintiff claims as per writ of summons” in the statement of claim rather than set out the reliefs claimed in the writ of summons.

The appellants in the Supreme Court were the plaintiffs at the Port-Harcourt Division of the High Court of Rivers State. They commenced an action by writ of summons in October 1979 when the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules Cap 61 Laws of Eastern Nigeria was the applicable rules governing civil procedure in Rivers State. When the plaintiffs filed their statement of claim, these reliefs claimed in the writ of summons were not repeated but they simply stated in paragraph 19 of the statement of claim “Whereof the plaintiff claims as per writ”.

The defendants did not at the trial court object to the drafting style used by the plaintiffs but participated fully in the proceedings until judgment. The learned trial judge TABAI J. (as he then was) delivered judgment on 10th October, 1990 and granted all the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs. On appeal by the defendants, one of the issues for determination was whether by stating in its statement of claim that “the plaintiffs claim as per writ”, and the plaintiffs had abandoned the reliefs sought in its writ of summons and the reliefs granted by the trial court were “granted gratis”.

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