Admissions and Confessions

To establish the truth or veracity of a fact asserted in any judicial proceedings, reliance can be placed on admissions and or confessions of a party to the proceedings. the question, therefore, is: What is an admission? And what constitutes confession?

Confessions and admissions


Generally, admission is an express or implied concession by a person of the truth of an alleged fact. section 20 of the evidence Act 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 hereafter mentioned. ‘

Kawu J.S.C. gave judicial view of what constitutes an admission in Ogunnaike v. Ojayemi when he stated that:

“Now admission is a statement, oral or written (express or implied) which is made by a party to civil proceedings and which statement is adverse to his case. It is admissible as evidence against the maker as to the truth of the fact asserted in the statement.”

Section 21 to 23 demonstrate the persons referred to in section 20 whose admissions may be evidence against a party while section 24 to 26 state the exceptional circumstances in which admissions are relevant and are provable by and in favour of the maker. Before we examine these persons and the exceptional circumstances; some preliminary remarks should be made.

First, admissions are either formal or informal. Admission within the meaning and contemplation of the provision of section 20 (which is our focus) refers to what is generally known as informal admission as against formal admission from which it must be distinguished.

A formal admission is a confession made by one of the parties in any civil proceedings of the truth of an alleged fact and is usually made in a pending litigation (in pleading). Where the truth of a fact is thus admitted, proof of such fact is dispensed with as it would be superfluous and amount to a wasteful dissipation of energy to prove what has been admitted to be true. Indeed, the utility of an admission is to render such proof unnecessary as such admission is conclusive proof of the fact admitted. It must also be noted that formal admission is only relevant in civil proceedings.

The forgoing can be contrasted with informal admission (which is the topic under consideration here). facts admitted under informal admission are not conclusive proof of such facts as they may be contradicted, explained or denied and they are generally admitted against and not in favour of the party making them.

Accordingly, the weight to be attached to an informal admission depends on the circumstances under which it was made. These circumstances may always be proved to impeach or enhance its credibility. for instance, a party against whom it is sought to be used may canvass that the admission is incorrect, untrue or was made under a mistake of law or fact. The case of Cecelia Nwankwo v. Emmanuel Nwankwo is quite apt in illustrating the foregoing point. The parties who were husband and wife, registered a business firm – Emceco Eng. Co. Shortly thereafter, the husband swore an affidavit dissociating himself from the company. He did this to circumvent the Regulated And Other Professions (Private Practice prohibition) Decree No. 34 of 1984.

In an action on the ownership of the company, the Supreme Court held inter alia that notwithstanding the admission in the affidavit by Emmanuel Nwankwo that he had nothing to do with the company, evidence of the circumstances in which the affidavit was made was admissible.

Second, while formal admissions are usually made with a view to the proceedings, informal admissions are usually made without reference to any proceedings and before proceedings are contemplated. third, unlike formal admissions, evidence of informal admissions is usually regarded as an exception to the hearsay rule.

The point must also be made that by Section 20 of the Act, it is now expressly stated that admission may be by conduct. This is a departure from the provision of section 19 of the repealed Act which did not expressly recognize admission by conduct. Nevertheless, it has always been held that the conduct of a party may amount to admission and it is immaterial that the conduct is passive, such as silence. In Moriarty v. London Chartham and Dover railway the conduct of the plaintiff who suborned witnesses to perjure in support of his claim for damages for injury in a railway accident was held to constitute admission by the plaintiff that his claim was unmeritorious and false.

The old English case of Bessela v. Stern provides another useful illustration. In that case, the plaintiff who sued the defendant for breach of promise of marriage, called her sister who deposed to the fact that she heard the plaintiff say to the defendant, “you know you always promised to marry me and now you don’t keep your word.”

The defendant made no reply to this allegation. Rather, he simply gave the plaintiff money to induce her to go away. It was held that the defendant’s silence amounted to an admission of the promise to marry the plaintiff. This case can be contrasted with the case of Weidemann v. walpoile where it was held that failure to reply a letter wherein the plaintiff alleged a breach of promise to marry, did not amount to admission. Admissions and Confessions.


Confession is succinctly defined by section 28(1) of the Evidence Act as:

…an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime, stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that offence.

A confession is an acknowledgement in express words by the accused in a criminal case, of the truth of the main fact charged or of some essential part of it. A confession can also be defined as a voluntary statement made by a person charged with the commission of a crime or misdemeanor, communicated to another person wherein he acknowledges himself to be guilty of the offence charged, and discloses the circumstances of the act or the share and participation which he had in it.

A beautiful judicial articulation of what constitutes confessional statement was made in the case of Egbeyomi v. The State as follows:

“A confession is an extra-judicial statement made by an accused person to the police containing assertion of admission showing that he participated in the commission of the offence for which he stands accused. Once an accused person makes a statement under certain circumstances saying or admitting the charge or creating the impression that he committed the offence charged, the statement becomes confessional”.

succinctly put, a confessional statement is a pre-trial admission of guilt by the accused.

The fundamental condition for the admissibility of confessional statement is that the statement must be voluntary. Elucidation of this fundamental condition will be made later. For purpose of clarity, certain preliminary points about confessions must be made as follows:

First, a confession is a specie of admission. Although a specie of admission, confession is governed by different rules with regard to their admissibility as will be seen shortly. Also, whereas “admission” when used in relation to crime connotes the acceptance/concession of some facts relevant to the crime under reference, confession on the other hand, is customarily used to denote a total and full admission of guilt.

Admissions and Confessions. Admissions and Confessions End

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