The Supreme Court has ordered the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Tribunal to play a key Digital Video Disc (DVD) tendered in evidence by the APC candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, to prove his petition against the declaration of Hon Henry Seriake Dickson as the governor of the state.
The DVD contains a recording of the announcement of the cancellation of the December 6, 2015 governorship election in Southern Ijaw Local Government by INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mr Baritor Kpagih.
In his petition before the tribunal, Sylva is contending that INEC’s REC does not have powers under the law to cancel the election.
The Apex Court agreed with counsel to Sylva, Mr. Sebastine Hon (SAN) that the objection of Dickson against the playing of the video by the tribunal was “misplaced, unwarranted, baseless and lacking in merit”.
The court in a unanimous judgment of its full panel of seven justices delivered by Justice Chime Centus Nweze 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.
Justice Nweze 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.
The Apex Court held that counsel to the appellant Mr. Tayo Oyetibo’s objection to the demonstration of the DVD “rail-loaded” the tribunal into the unwarranted decision to disallow it. In the process, the tribunal sought to rewrite the evidence rule in Section 84, adding “this is the 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”.
Justice Nweze added 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 can 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 and that the judgment of the court of appeal delivered on June 24 is hereby affirmed”.
The court of appeal, Abuja Division, had on June 24 in a judgment ordered Tribunal to play in the open court the video tape recording tendered as evidence by former Governor of the state.
In a unanimous judgment on an interlocutory appeal filed by Sylva, the Court of Appeal had set aside the ruling of the Tribunal delivered on May 10, 2016 which rejected the request of Sylva to play the video tape in the open court.
In the judgment delivered by Justice Onyeakachi Ottis, the court said that contrary to the decision of the Tribunal, Sylva complied with the conditions precedence stipulated in Section 84 of the Evidence Act on the admissibility of electronically generated evidence.
The court held that it was wrong of the tribunal to have misapplied Section 84 to deny the former governor the right to play the video tape in the open court to justify his petition against the election of Governor Seriake Dickson.
The court said that once the evidence has been admitted having met all the conditions under Section 84 of the evidence act, there was no need for the demand for any certificate before any computer can play the evidence.
Consequently the court had ordered the tribunal to recall petitioners witness to play the said video tape in open court.
The court said that in the first instance the video tape was pleaded and that it was relevant to the petition and that it also conforms with the law on electronically generated document.
The appellant had sought to have the video tape played in the tribunal as part of evidence to prove election malpractices but he was denied the opportunity by the tribunal on the ground that there is no authority to that effect.
The appeal court said that since the video tape was admitted into evidence in line with Section 84, and the foundation for the admission was well laid and 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 video tape in the open court by the tribunal because all conditions prescribed by law have been fulfilled by the appellant.
The court also said that the video tape ought to be played it demonstrated by the tribunal in the open court sp as not to make it a sleeping exhibit by the tribunal.
Reacting to the judgment, Sebastine Hon. SAN, who stood for Sylva thanked the Supreme Court for finding time to attend to the matter in spite of the yearly vacation.