On Your Fingertips: Simple Principles on How to Endorse Court Processes
Many funny practices occur in chambers when we want to file legal documents. Especially when counsel is racing against time to make the filings. A recurring mistake I have observed from going through years and years of law reports is a failure to properly endorse, sign or frank court processes.
Let me quickly share some principles that you should always have at your fingertips and a number of cases you can successfully use in court when the other party is in default:
SIGNING OF COURT PROCESSES
All court processes are to be properly signed before filing at the registry. Per Hon Justice Yargata Byenchit Nimpar JCA in Ibeke V. Nzegwu & Ors (2017) LPELR-43056(CA), when signing for a principal in chambers or signing for himself, a legal practitioner endorsing the writ must:
- Clearly state his name (preferably as it appears on the roll of Registered Legal Practitioners)
- State his designation
- Append his signature.
“…a signature is important in the signing of processes to be filed in Court being a vital part of the signing process, the name identifies whose signature it is. The two are a tag team. Without a name, there may be need to call evidence to identify who actually signed the processes and that is contrary to law particularly with regards to initiating processes. See MADAM ELIZABETH EWUKOYA & ANOR V. TAJUDEEN BUARI & ORS (2016 ) LPELR-40492 where the Court held thus:
“It is not the duty of the Court to begin to trace on the writ the signature on the writ to prove that writ was signed by a legal practitioner. Where a person signs a process, the name of the signatory must be clearly indicated and or stated beneath the signature. No Court is permitted to go on a voyage of discovery to determine such… I have always held the view that the essence is also to ensure that Court processes are signed by a person entitled to do so by law, to protect the interest and safeguard processes (originating processes for that matter) to ensure that touts, unauthorized persons such as clerks, secretaries, messengers even security man at the firm do not sign processes coming from a Legal Practitioner’s firm. It is in the interest of the legal practitioner and the legal profession as a whole that Court processes where required, be signed by a legal practitioner in the firm who has been called to the bar and his name is on the roll of barristers and solicitors”.”
The rationale behind this principle can be found in Section 2(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act. I must state clearly here that a LAW FIRM IS NOT A LEGAL PRACTITIONER AND CANNOT LAWFULLY SIGN PROCESSES.
4. State who the Counsel is representing
5. Input the Name and Address of the Law Firm (see Supreme Court Decision in SLB Consortium Limited V. Nigerian Petroleum Corporation (2011) LPELR-3074 (SC))
The locus classicus on this principle is currently GTB V. Innoson Nigeria Ltd where Ejembi Eko, J.S.C said, “It is trite that it is the seal or signature, of the author on a document that authenticates the document. A legal document or process of Court must be settled or signed by either the legal practitioner of the choice of the litigant or the litigant himself. The disputed processes were purportedly settled or signed by a legal practitioner, whose identity is unknown. Where ex facie a Court process it is uncertain if the process was signed by the litigant or the legal practitioner representing him, the process is incompetent. Court processes must either be signed by the litigant himself or by the legal practitioner retained by him.”
These simple steps have the power to make or mar your case, or even keep them going on for longer than necessary because nobody will let it slide.