Estoppel is not defined anywhere in the act. However, in Evans V. Barthan (1937)2 AII E.R. 646 at 653; Lord Wright defined Estoppel as “a rule of evidence that prevents the party estopped from denying the existence of the fact. In Koiki V. Magnut Son (2001)FWLR (PT 63)167 at 188 and Adone V. Ikebudu (2001)FWLR (pt 72)1893 at 1910, in these cases the Nigerian Supreme Court defined is as “an admission or something which the law views equivalent to an admission.
By its very nature it is so important, conclusive that the party whom it may affect is not allowed to plead against it or adduce evidence to contradict it. It prohibits a party from proving anything which contradicts it.
It prohibits a party from proving anything which contradict his previous act or declaration to the prejudice of the party, who relying upon them, has altered his position. They must be some previous act, omission or declaration intentionally made by a person which caused or permitted the other person to believe to be true and upon which the later acted to his detriment.”
Section 169 of the Evidence Act provides that “when one person has either by virtue of an existing court judgment, deed or agreement or by his declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to e true and to act upon such belief, neither him nor his representative in interest shall be allowed, in any proceeding between himself and such person or such persons representative in interest, to deny the truth of that thing.
Nature of Estoppel
- Estoppel as a rule of evidence
- Estoppel as a rule of substantive law
- Estoppel as a matter of pleading
- Estoppel as a formal irrebuttable presumption of law.
- Estoppel as a rule of Evidence: in Low V. Bourverre (1891)3 ch. 82 at 105, it was held that “Estoppel is only a rule of evidence, you cannot find an action upon estoppel. In Sischel V. Alloagoa the Court of Appeal held that it is part of the law of evidence. It is no other than a bar to testimony.
- Estoppel as a rule of substantive law: Although it cannot be made a basis of an action in court by a plaintiff, a defendant can however predicate his defense exclusively on it and it is for this reason that it has been and can appropriately be viewed as a rule of substantive law. In Ojevwedie V. Echanokpe the Supreme Court stated as follows “although the plea of estoppel is a shield for the protector of a defendant, it can validly be employed as a sword by the plaintiff Udo V. Obot.
- Estoppel as a matter of pleading: a party who wishes to rely on it is obliged to raise it in his pleadings and state the relevant facts that gave rise to it. See the case of Rasaki Oshodi & Ors V. Yisa Oseni, the Supreme Court held as follows “were a party intends to rely on the plea of estoppel per rem judicatar he must specifically prove it, otherwise he will be disentitled from availing himself of the benefit.
4. Estoppel as a formal irrebuttable presumption of law: a presumption is said to be irrebuttable if no fact is admissible for purposes of contradicting or rebutting it. Estoppel has the same characteristics of preventing a rebuttal of fact.