S. 20 EA defines admission as a statement, oral or documentary or conduct which suggests any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact and which is made by any of the persons and in the circumstances mentioned under the Act. There are also judicial authorities defining admission. For example, in PAIS v JK PEEZ the court defined admission as a voluntary acknowledgement made by a party of the existence of the truth of certain facts which are inconsistent with his claim. Please note that under S. 19 Old Evidence Act, admission did not include conduct.
To constitute an admission, the statement must be precise, clear and unequivocal. The admitting party must be saying yes and yes at all times. It must admit facts in issue and linked to the reliefs claimed by one of the parties to a case (Coker v Olukoga; Oyetunji v Akani). An admission which borders on mere rhetoric lacking exactness and firmness of purpose does not qualify as an admission in law. A declaratory expression of a vain nature does not qualify as an admission in law. See Ogunaike v Ojayemi. Also note that a person can only admit facts which are known to him and which exists therefore ignorant admission of non-existing facts would not amount to an admission (BAMIRO v SCOA; CUSTOMS CONTROLLER v WESTERN LECTRIC CO). As the court in the latter case noted that if a man admits something which he knows nothing of, it is of no real evidential value.
It is perfectly legitimate for the court to infer admission of a fact by a party from the conduct of such a party. Whether there is an admission by conduct or not is essentially a question of fact in each case. In Daniel Akinbiyi v Raliatu Anike where the plaintiff sued in order to recover money allegedly paid by him on behalf of the defendant. The defendant who was sued made a counter-claim against the plaintiff. In this, he alleged that the plaintiff had detained some of her goods. During the trial, she tendered an inventory which contained the goods alleged to have been taken including their respective prices. The plaintiff did not object to the document or the inventory being tendered. The plaintiff also failed to cross examine the defendant on the accuracy of the items contained in the inventory and their prices. The court held that this was an admission by the plaintiff that the goods listed in the inventory were taken by him. The prices stated there were also the correct prices. In Moriarthy v London Chathan, the plaintiff had procured someone to lie on oath. The court held that this was a clear admission by conduct that his claim was false/weak. See also Oil Field Supply Co Ltd v Johnson: the appellant company was established by the respondent and a few other people. They were all co-directors of the company. The respondent was the MD of the appellant and shares were allotted to him. Payment of the shares were partly in cash and partly in the services which he rendered to the company before and after the company was incorporated. When the dispute arose, it was argued that he had no locus standi to sue the company because he was neither a shareholder nor a director of the company. It was held that there were sufficient admissions on the part of the company to confirm that he was a shareholder. The court inferred admission from the minutes of meetings of the company wherein he was referred to as having been allotted shares. According to Oputa JSC (as he then was): “if a company admits directly or consequentially that a person is a shareholder of that company, I do not think that it is imperative to offer in addition to that admission documentary evidence of his shareholding”. In Bessela v Stern, evidence was adduced to show that on one fateful day, the plaintiff reminded the defendant of his express promise to marry her. The defendant in response offered her some money in order to lure her away. The court inferred admission of the existence of the promise from the defendant’s conduct. In Weidman v Walpole, the plaintiff had written the defendant some letters reminding him of his promise to marry her. The defendant failed or refused to reply her letters. The court held that the defendant’s failure to reply the letter was not on an admission of the existence of such promise. In Oloko v Oloko, H petitioned for a divorce. W in turn made an allegation of adultery as a counter-claim against the petitioner. The court held that the non-response by the petitioner to the cross petitioner’s allegation did not constitute an admission of the allegation by the petitioner.
What is the benefit of admission? The Benefit of an admission is that a fact which has been admitted need no further proof (S. 123 EA). In essence, where a court finds that a fact has been admitted the court would likely hold that the fact in issue has been proved. Admission is the best evidence against a party since a person is not likely to admit a fact unless it is true. However, admission does not necessarily prove a fact in issue. In other words, admissions are not conclusive proof of matters admitted but may operate as estoppel under part X (S. 27 EA). This means that a party alleged to have made an admission is at liberty to offer evidence in rebuttal of facts alleged to have been admitted (Nwankwo v Nwankwo). In Ehidimhen v Musa, the court was called to interpret S. 27 EA and state where the aforesaid section would apply. The court stated that although a party may give evidence to rebut an admission earlier made by him, where the other party had believed the fact admitted to be true and had acted to his detriment, the principle of estoppel would apply and the party would be precluded from giving evidence to rebut his admission.
Who can make admissions? By virtue of S. 21 EA, it is clear that persons other than the parties to a suit can make admissions. Where an admission is made by an agent or servant of a party provided the former is clothed with express or apparent authority to make admissions and he makes such admissions while acting within the scope of his authority such admissions will have binding effect on such a party/principal. In Okonkwo v Kpajie, the court held that a counsel representing his client in a civil cause or matter in litigation can make admissions which will bind his client. See also Cappa & D’alberto Ltd v Akintilo and Okesiji v Lawal. In Adisa v Efuye, the court held that the driver of a vehicle acting as the agent of the vehicle owner can make admissions which will bind the vehicle owner. Simons v London Bank is the authority which supports the view that a bank will be affected by admissions made by its manager as to its practice in making loan to customers. In Oyedele v Oyename, admissions made by the driver of the defendant that he drove with a defective brake was held as binding on the defendant because he acted within the scope of his authority in making the admission. Iga v Amakiri is the authority in support of the principle that admissions made by the head of a family is binding on not only the family head but on all other members of the family who such family head represents.
Under S. 21(1) EA, an admission made by the keith and kin of a party which is adverse to the party’s claim is admissible against the party. Even where a party’s witness makes admissions which are adverse to the party’s interests, the admissions are binding on the party (Anyabunsi v Ugwunze). In Morohunde v Adeoti, admissions made by the keith of the claimant in a kingship case which were adverse to the interest of the claimant were held admissible. See s. 21(3) EA.
S. 23 EA allows for admissibility of admissions made by a person to whom a party to the suit has expressly referred to for information. Admissions made by referees are binding on persons making the reference. In essence, if A refers B to C for information concerning A. whatever admission is made by C to B is binding on A (Williams v Innes; R v Mallory). Please note that admissions made by predecessors-in-title also bind their successors-in-title.
Special types of admissions are inadmissible where parties settle their disputes out of court. Here, they are free to make admissions on the understanding that if settlement breaks down (they can’t settle their dispute) whatever they admit during settlement will not be binding on them. This is because the admission was made on the understanding that there would be no disclosure of the admission without the consent of the person making the admission (S. 26 EA).