The legal battle over the governorship tussle in Bayelsa state appears to have taken a new twist as Governor Seriake Dickson has reportedly reached out to the leadership of the All Progressives Congress ( APC). He has reportedly relocated to the nation’s capital, Abuja in the last thirteen days.
This emerged a few hours after the nation’s apex court, the Supreme Court dismissed Governor Dickson’s appeal to delete a video evidence from the records of the governorship election tribunal.
It was gathered that the trial tribunal had awaited the decision of the apex court on the governor’s appeal to fix a date for judgement as the propriety or otherwise of the video evidence was seen as a major thrust of the legal battle between Governor Dickson and the APC governorship candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, also a former governor of the state.
It could not be confirmed immediately if the governor’s move is aimed at possible defection to the ruling party. But a member of the party’s National Executive Committee(NEC) said ‘defection cannot be ruled out.’
”The Supreme Court decision on the 20th July 2016 is a major break through although we still await the tribunal’s final judgement. But ever since the verdict was delivered, the governor has called some of us, the reason for the call we do not know yet but he has made several attempts to see the national chairman of our party.
“We have watched the situation closely but without prejudice to what he intends to discuss, it is curious that the move was coming just after the verdict of the Supreme Court. Asked if it a move aimed at possible defection, the party stalwart said ‘defection cannot be ruled.’
The Supreme Court had Wednessday, dismissed the objection of Governor Dickson to the open court room watch of the video tapes tendered at the State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal by the APC and its governorship candidate Sylva to substantiate their allegation of fraud and malpractices against the election of the governor.
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, lacking in merit.
The court in a unanimous judgment of its full panel of seven justices delivered by Justice Chime Centus Nweze ordered the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Tribunal to play the video tape tendered in evidence by a witness of the APC candidate, to prove his petition against the governorship election conducted on December 5 and 6 of 2015 and January 9 of 2016.
The Apex 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.
Justice Nwaeze 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 video tape “rail-loaded the tribunal into unwarranted exercise 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 appellate court 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 as it demonstrated by the tribunal in the open court so as not to make it a sleeping exhibit by the tribunal.