A Statement of Claim not signed by a legal practitioner is incompetent but does not affect the Writ of Summons duly signed.

Hamzat v. Sanni [2015] 5 NWLR (Pt. 1453) 486 at 505-506 paras. H-C, per Ariwoola, JSC:

“…The Statement of Claim upon which the evidence relied upon by the trial court was based having been signed by a person not known to law as a legal practitioner, as required by our law, is incompetent, it deserves to be discountenanced and struck out. However, because the Writ of Summons by which the action was commenced and which originated the action was properly signed by a legal practitioner as prescribed by our law, it remains valid and can still be built upon as a solid foundation. It is the Statement of Claim upon which evidence was based that cannot stand. Indeed as the saying goes, you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay, it will fall. Evidence led in the case based on incompetent Statement of Claim is also incompetent and should be discountenanced and struck out.”

Notes:

You can read the full Judgment here.

A Statement of Claim is not an originating process strictly called. It is a pleading. Although frontloaded along with the writ of summons in compliance with the Rules of Court, a Statement of Claim remains a separate court process from the Writ of Summons. An irregular or defective Statement of Claim must go down alone (or along with any evidence led in reliance), leaving the competent Writ of Summons.


Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has advised a number of both established and startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.

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