Doctrine of estoppel

Doctrine of estoppel entail 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 be 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.

Doctrine of estoppel in administrative law

Although estoppel 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 estoppel 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 by record

Estoppel by record also known as action estoppel and issue estoppel when it provides that:

Every judgment is conclusive proof, as against parties and privies, of facts directly in issue in the case, actually decided by the court, and appearing from the judgment itself to be the ground on which it was based; unless evidence was admitted in the action in which the judgment was delivered which is excluded in the action in which that judgment is intended to be proved“.

However, estoppel by records is the most popular among the four classifications. It is estoppel which results from the judgment of a court. This is why it is also referred to as estoppel by judgement.

Doctrine of estoppel example

The rationale for this doctrine was well articulated in the old case of Cave vs Mills as follows:

A man shall not allowed to blow hot and cold-to affirm at one time and deny at another – making a claim on those whom he has deluded to their disadvantage, founding that claim on the very matters of the delusion. Such a principle has its basis on common sense and common justice, and whether it is called “estoppel” or by any other name, it is one which courts of law have in modern times most usefully adopted“.

In Evans vs Bartham, Lord Wright defined estoppel as : a rule of evidence that prevents the party estopped from denying the existence of a fact”. The Nigerian Supreme Court in Koiki vs Magnut Son and Adone vs Ikebudu defined the term 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 affects is not allowed to plead against it, or adduce evidence to contradict it. It prohibits a party from proving anything which contradicts his previous acts or declaration to the prejudice of the party, who relying upon them, has altered his position. There 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 latter acted to his detriment.

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