Posted By: Eric Ikhilae, Abuja – The Nation Newspaper
Former Bayelsa State governor,Chief Timipre Sylva got a major boost Friday in his challenge of the re-election of the incumbent Seriake Dickson.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, in a ruling Friday, ordered the State Governorship Election Tribunal to play, in the open court, a digital video disc (DVD) recording of the announcement of the cancellation of the election in Southern Ijaw Local Government by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC).
Sylva, who is contesting the declaration of Dickson as winner of the last governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), contends, in his petition, that INEC’s REC lacked the powers to cancel election.
The ex-governor, whose lawyer, Sebastine Hon (SAN) had pleaded was denied the opportunity to play DVD when he applied to do so through a witness.
However, the Court of Appeal Friday faulted the tribunal’s refusal to allow Sylva play the DVD. It directed the tribunal to play the DVD in the open court.
Justice Onyeakachi Ottis, who read the court’s unanimous judgment on the interlocutory appeal by Sylva, set aside the tribunal’s ruling of May 10, 2016 rejecting the request by Sylva lawyer to have the DVD played.
The court said that contrary to the decision of the Tribunal the appellant complied with the conditions precedence stipulated in Section 84 of the Evidence Act on the admissibility of electronically generated evidence.
The appellate court held that it was wrong of the tribunal to have misapplied Section 84 to deny the appellant the right to play the DVD in the open court to justify his petition against the election of Governor Seriake Dickson.
It said once the evidence had been admitted, having met all the conditions under Section 84 of the Evidence Act, there was no need for any certificate before any computer could be deployed to play the DVD in evidence.
The court ordered the tribunal to recall the petitioner’s witness, through which he had sought to play it, to play the said DVD in the open court.
It noted that the DVD was pleaded by the petitioner; it is relevant to the petition, and that it also the tendering also conforms to the law on electronically generated document.
The court further noted that since it was admitted in evidence in line with Section 84 of Evidence Act; the foundation for its admission well laid, and the DVD well pleaded in the petition, “it is not the decision of the judiciary to supply any authority other than to follow the law in the circumstances.”
The court said there ought not to be any inhibition to the playing of the DVD in the open court by the tribunal because all conditions prescribed by law have been fulfilled by the appellant.
It held that the DVD ought to be played by the tribunal in the open court to demonstrate that it intended not to make it a sleeping exhibit.
Reacting to the judgement, Hon described it as a milestone in the development of our laws and will go a long way in strengthening the laws.
He said justice has been done to in his client’s case.
Lawyer to Dickson, Emeka Etiaba (SAN) said his client would first study the judgment and then, decide on what next step to take.