Credit –

“The apex court has held in Green v. Green that a
person whose interest is involved or is in issue in an action and who knowingly
choose to stand-by and let others fight his battle for him is equally bound by
the result in the same way as if he was a party”.
  • HIS
    10 NWLR PART 1307 P. 62 @  74
a non-lawyer, law student or person(s) with little to non-legal experience,
stepping into a court room for the very first time might be a bit overwhelming,
especially when such a person begins to witness
the exchange of certain intricate terms & phrases between lawyers and the
Judge(s). To sound less dramatic, such a person would literally feel as if they
just got teleported into a completely different world with people dressed in
flowing black gowns and wigs keep speaking in strange/alien languages. That at
least was how my experience went the first time I witnessed a court proceeding
and believe me when I say Nollywood movie courtroom scenes do not depict the
real thing (No offence meant).

parties to an action generally speaking, are persons whose names appear on the
record of the court as plaintiffs or defendants. They are other times referred
to as claimants, applicants, respondents, petitioners or appellant. In every
action, there must always be at least two (2) sides. It would either be between
claimant v. defendant, applicant v. respondent, petitioner v. respondent, or
appellant v. respondent. A plaintiff who conceives that he has a cause of
action against a particular defendant is entitled to pursue his remedy against
that defendant. Majorly, the manner in which parties to an action are addressed
will be dependent on factors such as; the cause of action, i.e. whether it is a
civil or criminal action; the type of court, i.e. whether it is before a
Magistrate Court or High Court; and the nature of the action i.e. whether it is
an originating action or an appeal to an appellate court.
claimant/plaintiff/petitioner/applicant/appellant is that party that files a
civil or criminal action, an application or petition in a court of law or seeks
to appeal the decision from same and to assert a right or demand while the
defendant/respondent is the party sued for such right or demand. An application
made during the pendency of the substantive suit could proceed from either the
claimant or defendant depending on the circumstances of the case. Where a party
is unsatisfied with the decision of a lower court, be it a final judgment or an
interlocutory ruling, such party can file for an appeal challenging either the
whole or a part of such decision at an appellate court of competent
jurisdiction. The party who files such an appeal is called the appellant while
the other party becomes the respondent.
some actions, parties are referred to as judgment creditor, judgment debtor or
garnishee. The judgment creditor is the party that obtained the judgment of a
court of competent jurisdiction in his favour while the judgment debtor is the
party that the decision was made against. The garnishee on the other hand is
party in whose custody the judgment debtor has money or any assets which the
judgment creditor now intends to attach and sell and use to fulfill the
judgment of the court. This sort of action usually occurs when a court of
competent jurisdiction gives a final judgment in respect of an action. Where
such judgment is in respect of monetary reliefs, the winning party can
institute a fresh action (the court becomes functus
officio (this is a Latin word that refers to the court or person having
fulfilled his/her/its function or accomplished the purpose set)
pronouncing a judgment and cannot revisit the action) i.e. garnishee
proceedings and make an application to the court to have the assets of the
losing party attached to fulfill the judgment debt.
the main reason for the necessity in making a person a party to an action in
court is so that he would be bound by the result of the action in the judgment
of the court. Where an action is instituted in a court of competent
jurisdiction, the trial judge becomes dominus
(the person who makes the decision in a lawsuit) and
assumes under the relevant Civil Procedure Rules the duty and responsibility to
ensure that the proceeding accord with the justice of the case by joining as
plaintiffs or defendants at any stage of the proceedings, all the persons who
may be entitled to, or who may be likely to be affected by the result if they
have not already been made parties.
to an action can be classified into proper parties; necessary parties; and
desirable parties and the category a party falls into is determined by the
degree of interest of such party in the cause of action. While proper parties
are those who though not interested in the plaintiff’s claim are made parties
for good reason, e.g. where an action is brought to rescind a contract, any
person is a proper party to it who was active or concurred in the matte which
gave the plaintiff the right to rescind, desirable parties are those who have
an interest or who may be affected by the result. Necessary parties on the
other hand are those who are not only interested in the matter in the subject
matter of the proceedings, but who may be bound by the result of the action and
who in their absence the proceedings could not be fairly, effectively and
completely dealt with.
conclusion, it should be noted that the principle that guides the court in
joining any person as a party to a suit is whether the entry of such person(s)
as party to the suit will enable the court effectually and completely
adjudicate upon and settle all questions in the suit.
hope this write up was beneficial to you. You are welcomed to leave your
questions, comments, constructive criticism, suggestions, new ideas,
contributions etc in the comment section or my email address which is I look forward
to reading from your comments.
1.     Green v Green
(1987) 3 NWLR PART. 61 P. 480
2.     Inyang v. Ebong
(2002) 2 NWLR PART. 751 P. 284 @ P. 340
3.     Black’s law
dictionary, 9thEd West publishing Co.
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Ed’s Note: This article was originally published here