Bayelsa gov loses appeal against Sylva’s video evidence

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PUNCH: Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal filed by the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, seeking to stop the state’s Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja, from playing a video clip with respect to the last year’s election in the state.

Dismissing Dickson’s prayer, a seven-man panel of the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal and ordered the election tribunal to play, in the open court, a Digital Video Disc recording of the announcement of the cancellation of the election in Southern Ijaw Local Government by the Resident Electoral Commissioner.

Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party was declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission as the winner of the election.

The substantive election was held on December 5, 2015 but INEC declared the election inconclusive after it cancelled the results of the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area on the grounds of electoral malpractices and violence.

The All Progressives Congress candidate in the election, Timipre Sylva, had contested Dickson’s victory at the election petitions tribunal, contending that the REC in the state lacked the powers to cancel election.

But while Sylva claimed in his petition that the REC cancelled the election, the respondents, including Dickson, his party, the PDP and the INEC, argued that the election was merely postponed.

Sylva’s lawyer, Mr. Sebastine Hon (SAN), tendered the DVD capturing the announcement of the cancellation by the REC to support his client’s case.

But the petitioner’s legal team was denied the opportunity to have the DVD played in court when he applied to do so through a witness before the tribunal.

Sylva appealed against the tribunal’s decision at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which, in a judgment on June 24, faulted the tribunal’s refusal to allow Sylva to play the DVD.

The Court of Appeal directed the tribunal to play the DVD in the open court but Dickson appealed against the order by the appeal court to the Supreme Court.

However, in its judgment on Tuesday, a seven-man panel of the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Dickson’s appeal filed through his lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN).

The apex court agreed with Sylva’s lawyer that Dickson’s objection to the playing of the video by the tribunal “was misplaced, unwarranted, baseless and lacking in merit.”

In the lead judgment read by Justice Chima Nweze, the court held that the foundation for the admission of the said video tape was properly laid by the petitioners in compliance with section 84 of the Evidence Act in their petitions.

The court directed that the witness, Mr. Emmanuel Ogunseye, who produced the video tape, should be allowed by the tribunal to demonstrate it in the open court in the interest of justice and having complied with the relevant laws.

Justice Nweze particularly noted that by his objection to the demonstration of the video, Oyetibo “rail-loaded” the tribunal into making a wrong decision in accepting his objection.

Justice Nweze ruled, “This is a fallacious piece of reasoning, because Section 84 of the Evidence Act did not require the production of two certificates before electronically-generated evidence can be demonstrated in court.

“The court has no power in making a cluster enquiry outside the evidence adduced before the tribunal as far as the video tapes already admitted in evidence by the tribunal is concerned.”

He noted that, in the instant case, the single certificate tendered by the witness had satisfied Section 84 of the Evidence Act and therefore there was no need for any hindrance to be put forward before the exhibit in question could be demonstrated.

Justice Nweze said, “Demonstrating the evidence in court will allow the applicant to link the evidence and also allow the opponent to test and contest the accuracy of the said evidence.

“In conclusion, I found that the appeal by the appellant is wholly unmeritorious and is dismissed. The judgment of the court of appeal delivered on June 24 is hereby affirmed.”

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