The words, “I’m sorry” are a balm that can heal all wounds.

Diamond Bank Ltd. v. P .I. C. Ltd. [2009] 18 NWLR (Pt. 1172) 67 at 96, paras. E-F, per Ogbuagu, JSC:

“In my respective view, where a person has acted in good faith and another is damnified by such an act, I believe that the words, “I am sorry” are a “balm” that can heal all wounds. But where one person persists in justifying such a wrongful act as has happened in the instant case leading to this appeal by the appellant, a court of justice including this court, must see and allow justice to prevail even if the heavens fall although it will not fall.”

Blogger’s Note:

The important lesson to learn from the above dictum of the learned Justice of the Supreme Court is that where and when necessary, a person must know when to seek an amicable resolution of a dispute which may easily be triggered by some expressions of apology.

This case also establishes the principle that it is not in every case that a bank draft is payable at sight. The facts of the above case are that the 1st Respondent was a customer of the Appellant maintaining a current account with the Bank at the time. The 1st Respondent requested the Appellant to issue two separate bank drafts in favour of two different companies. The Managing Director however orally instructed the Appellant’s Manager not to pay the two bank drafts without prior confirmation and clearance from the 1st Respondent. The Appellant’s Manager, in response, demanded that the 1st Respondent’s request be put in writing. The 1st Respondent complied. However, when the bank drafts were presented for payment through the 2nd Respondent (Gamji Bank Ltd), the Appellant paid both without prior confirmation or clearance from the 1st Respondent. There was evidence that the Appellant was still in possession of the drafts when it received the 1st Respondent’s instructions and had not yet paid to the beneficiaries. Aggrieved, the 1st Respondent sued the Appellant and the 2nd Respondent. The trial Court found in favour of the 1st Respondent against the Appellant but dismissed the suit against the 2nd Respondent. The Appellant’s appeal up to the Supreme Court was dismissed. The Supreme Court held that although the law is that a bank draft is payable at sight and therefore cannot be countermanded, in the instant case, the Appellant willingly took instructions from the 1st Respondent not to honour the bank drafts without prior confirmation and clearance from the 1st Respondent. The Court was of the view that asking the 1st Respondent to put the oral instruction in writing was an implied assurance or undertaking that it would comply with the said instruction. On the whole, the Supreme Court found that the act of the Appellant in honouring the bank drafts was wrongful in the circumstances and that the Appellant was liable in negligence. The apex Court rightly reasoned that: “if the Appellant had obeyed the instructions of the 1st Respondent, those who should have complained or have a cause of action against the Appellant, should have been both or one of the beneficiaries of the said drafts. In that case, the Appellant could have applied to join the 1st Respondent or the 1st Respondent could have applied to be joined in any such suit if and where the said beneficiaries or any one of them, did not sue the 1st Respondent for breach or seek specific performance.” See page 95, paras. B-D of the report.
You may read the full Judgment here.

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