Appeal courts orders Bayelsa tribunal to play video evidence in open court

Gov Seriake Dickson

Gov Seriake Dickson

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has ordered the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Tribunal to play in open court a DVD recording tendered as evidence by former Governor of the State Timipre Sylva.

The appellate court panel, in a unanimous judgment on an interlocutory appeal filed by Sylva, yesterday, set aside the ruling of the Guber-Election Tribunal delivered on May 10, 2016, which had disallowed the request of the appellant (Sylva) to play the video evidence.

Justice Onyeakachi Ottis, delivering the judgment of 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 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 enable him justify his petition against the election of Governor Seriake Dickson.

The court held that once evidence has been admitted and having met the conditions under Section 84 of the Act, there was no need for the demand for any certificate before any computer can play the evidence.

Consequently, the court ordered the tribunal to recall petitioners’ witness number 51 to play the said video evidence in open court.

Also, the appellate court said that the DVD in the first instance was pleaded and that it was relevant to the petition and that it also conforms to provisions of the law on electronically generated document.

The appellant had sought to have the DVD played in the tribunal as part of evidence to prove election malpractice. However, he was denied the chance by the tribunal on the ground that there is no authority to that effect.

The appeal court therefore held that since the DVD 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.

Reacting to the judgment, Sebastine Hon, the appellant’s counsel, described it as a milestone in the development of laws.

Emeka Etiaba, counsel to Governor Dickson, in his comment, said that the judgment will be studied by his client and may go to the higher court if necessary.

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