By Amaka Ezeno, MCLArb

It is said that silence is golden. Others say silence is the best answer to a fool. Among the Hausa people, they say silence is also a way of speaking. These sayings are true depending on the circumstances under which they are made. In law, silence could land one to prison.

According to Section 20 of the Evidence Act, an admission is 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, hereafter mentioned in the Evidence Act. In N.A.S Ltd. v. UBA Plc, the court defined admission as a statement by one of the parties to an action, which amounts to acknowledgement by him that one of the material facts relevant to the issues in the proceedings is not as he claims it to be.

As was held in the case of Gira v State, when a clear and direct accusation is levelled against a person in his or her presence, in circumstances which should warrant an immediate denial or refutation against the making of the accusation, evidence of such accusation could be given against the person as admission if he does not refute immediately.

In, an action for breach of promise to marry in Bessela v. Stern, the defendant’s failure to give any direct rebuttal when the plaintiff said, “You always promised to marry me, but you don’t keep your word”, and the defendant just gave her money to go away, was held to be an admission.

The person to whom an admission is made is immaterial. It does not matter if it is made to a party to the suit or a stranger. What matters is that it should be made by a party to the suit himself or his agent.

This rule of admission has exceptions, one of which is oral admission of a content of a document. An oral admission of a content of a document is relevant, unless the party proposing to prove such contents shows that he or she is entitled to give secondary evidence of the contents of such document or unless the genuineness of the document is called into question. However, for a public document, the only secondary evidence admissible to prove is not oral, but the Certified True Copy of that document.

The second exception is admission in civil cases based on parties’ agreement that no evidence of it be given in court. In civil cases, an admission will not be relevant if it is made upon an express condition that evidence of it will not be given, or under such circumstances from which the court will infer that the parties agreed together that evidence of it should not be given.

Similarly, it is also settled that an admission by a party of an issue in an action for declaratory reliefs, is not enough to relieve the party in whose favour the admission was made to lead to concrete evidence to prove his claims, and if he fails to prove his claims, the court will not enter judgement in his favour.