Failure to query an amount of debt in a letter written by a bank amounts to admission.

Bagobiri v. Unity Bank Plc (2016) LPELR-41161 (CA) Pp. 22-23, paras. F-B, per Abiru, JCA:

“The Courts have held that where a bank makes a demand for settlement of a debt by a letter and the amount of the debt is contained in the letter and the debtor does not query the figure written in the letter as the overall debt due but rather writes a letter explaining the reasons for non-payment of the debt, the debtor will be deemed to have impliedly admitted the quoted figure as the amount of debt due – I.O.M. Nwoye & Sons Company Ltd v. Co-operative and Commerce Bank (Nig.) Plc (1993) 8 NWLR (Pt. 310) 210 and Nagebu Company (Nig.) Ltd v. Unity Bank Plc (2014) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1405) 42.”

Notes:

The statement that “…the debtor will be deemed to have impliedly admitted the quoted figure as the amount of debt due” means that although the debtor may not have expressly admitted the debt, however, by preferring to explain the reasons for default and even asking for further loan (usually by applying for debt restructuring), the debtor is taken to have admitted the debt.

The Court of Appeal in the recent case of Baiophys Ent. Ltd. v. NDIC [2019] 8 NWLR (Pt.1674) 252 at 266, relying on Bagobiri v. Unity Bank Plc (supra), held that when a debtor pleads for leniency and further loan, same amounts to proof of admission of debt. In the case, the debtor had argued that the debt was not truly admitted because the admission was not unequivocal. Tukur, JCA dismissed the contention on the ground that there was nothing equivocal about such implied admission in the circumstance of the case.

The foregoing is strengthened by the provision of Section 123 of the Evidence Act, 2011 which states that a fact already admitted does not require further proof. Such a fact is deemed established.

It must be mentioned that although the debtor may be taken to have impliedly admitted the debt, the production of concrete evidence showing the actual debt owing may not be altogether discountenanced.

The point to be noted is that where a debtor is confronted with a letter of demand from a creditor, it is safer to approach a lawyer with such letter and seek proper legal advice and guidance. If the amount claimed by the creditor is less than accurate, it is better to dispute same at the earliest.

In some cases, we have seen a debtor ignore letter(s) addressed to the debtor by a creditor. Whatever may be the motive behind such conduct, the courts have warned at several times about the risk associated with such. In Bagobiri v. Unity Bank Plc (supra), Abiru, JCA reiterated that:

“It is trite law that where a party fails to respond to a business letter which by the nature of its contents requires a response or a refutal of some sort, the party will be deemed to have admitted the contents of the letter.”



Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a Legal Practitioner, Consultant, Mediator and Social Entrepreneur. He is the Managing Attorney at Splendour Legal Consultants. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts. Desirous of implementing new legal solutions, he founded Stephen Legal, a firm in the business of providing innovative legal insights and easy solution in this information age. Stephen serves as a volunteer at Prof. Pat. Utomi’s Centre for Values in Leadership in Lagos, given his passion for capacity building and leadership development. He is also a member of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (Lagos Branch).
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