Section 51 of the Evidence Act

Entries in books of accounts or electronic records regularly kept in the course of business are admissible whenever they refer to a matter into which the Court has to inquire but such statements shall not alone be sufficient evidence to charge any person with liability.

By a long line of authorities, the provision above[1] has been consistently interpreted by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. A review of the cases would reveal that the law is now settled that a statement of account cannot, on its own, amount to sufficient proof to fix liability on the customer for the overall debit balance shown on the statement of account.

Any person who is claiming a sum of money on the basis of the overall debit balance in a statement of account must adduce both testimonial and documentary evidence, explaining clearly the entries therein to show how the overall debit balance was arrived at. Therefore, where there is a dispute on alleged indebtedness, a Claimant cannot just toss and dump before the Court the Statement of account in proof of the indebtedness of the customer for the overall debit balance in it. The Claimant must demonstrate through testimonial evidence given by an official who is familiar with the accounts, how the debit balance was arrived at.

The following cases are apposite on the point – OGBOJA vs. ACCESS BANK PLC (2015) LPELR (24821) 1 at 42-44, CO-OPERATIVE BANK LTD vs. OTAIGBE (1980) NCLR 215, YUSUF vs. ACB (1986) 1-2 SC 49, HABIB NIGERIA BANK LTD vs. GIFTS UNIQUE (NIG) LTD (2004) 15 NWLR (PT 896) 405, WEMA BANK vs. OSILARU (2008) 10 NWLR (PT 1094) 150, AKINRINLOLA & ANOR v. ECOBANK (2021) LPELR-53342(CA) Pp 32 – 33 Paras E – F, UNITY BANK PLC V RAYBAM ENG LTD (2018) 12 NWLR Pt 1633 at 214 at 233 to 234 Paras F – A, MUOGBO v. EQUINOX MICROFINANCE BANK LTD (2019) LPELR-47161(CA).

The legal position does not change where summary judgment is applied for. In such a circumstance, the Court of Appeal has held in Akinrinlola v Ecobank (Supra) that it behooves the Claimant to clearly explain in the supporting affidavit, the entries in the Statement of Account, on the basis of which it wants summary judgment, so as to satisfy the stipulations of Section 51 of the Evidence Act 2021.

[1] See Section 38 of the Evidence Act LFN 2004

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