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JUDGE ADMITS VIDEO TAPE EVIDENCE IN AL-MUSTAPHA'S TRIAL

nerPostTitle">JUDGE ADMITS VIDEO TAPE EVIDENCE IN AL-MUSTAPHA'S TRIAL Written by furtune Politics http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/?author=25 http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/?cat=57 Mar 2, 2010

Judge admits video tape evidence in Al-Mustapha's trial

By Odunayo Abiodun and David Ajikobi.
2010-03-02 04:54:41
http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/dt.common.streams.StreamServer9.jpeg Al-Mustapha, still facing trials over Kudirat Abiola's murder.

Photo: Sunday Adedeji
A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Monday admitted in evidence, video tapes containing recordings of the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) proceedings in the ongoing trial of Al-Mustapha Hamza along with three others, over the attempted murder of the publisher of The Guardian newspapers, Alex Ibru.

Presumed credible
The tapes, tendered in evidence, contained the proceedings of interrogation conducted by the SIP on several suspects including Mr. Hamza and the other defendants in 1999. A prosecution witness, Felix Ogbuadu, while testifying, had made reference to some incidents contained in the tapes.

Consequently, the prosecution, led by Pedro Lawal, the solicitor general of Lagos State, had asked the court to admit the tapes in evidence.

However counsel to the defendants, Olalekan Ojo, urged the court not to admit the tapes. He stated that the authenticity of the tapes have been undermined in the process of editing and that the source of the tapes is doubtful.

Mr. Lawal submitted that the tapes are authentic and that the sources from whom the tapes were obtained are credible ones. He also submitted that there is no other proper witness through which the tapes can be tendered other than Mr. Ogbuadu, who was a member of the panel.

While delivering ruling on the tapes, Mufutau Olokooba, the presiding judge, said 'Some doubts may exist as to the document since it was not signed by the authority that made it, but this is due to the nature of the document. The tape was made in the presence of PW9 (Mr. Ogbuadu), a member of the panel, therefore it is presumed authentic.'

Consequently, Mr. Olokooba admitted the tapes and adjourned the matter to March 24, 2010 for the continuation of the trial.

Reaction
An Abuja based lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, praised the decision of the court for admitting the video tapes as evidence.

'It is a welcome development,' he said. 'The court and the laws of the country are not static and the court must move with the times. The video evidence is a new phenomenon in our jurisprudence, so in as much as our Evidence Act did not provide for this, we should respect that.'

Mr. Ajulo, who is one of the legal practitioners championing the amendment of the Act, said the law is archaic and was last amended many decades ago before the Internet and other technology channels were even conceived.

The Evidence Act was enacted 65 years ago and, apart from some minor amendments effected in 1948, 1958 and 1991, the Act has remained unchanged and does not recognise electronic documents as evidence before a court.

'We have been calling that this Evidence Act needs to be reviewed in line with the current situation, the twenty first century. Most of the way our courts perceive some evidences affects the outcome of the cases,' said Mr. Ajulo.

He also added that the N230 million money laundering case against the former aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, would have come to a logical end if the court had admitted the data print out.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission charged Mr. Fani-Kayode with money laundering, in a 47-count charge. He was said to have laundered about N230 million, which was said to have been deposited in his account with 'First Inland Bank', now 'Finbank', but the court refused to admit a computer print of the statement of account that was tendered as exhibit.

'That is why we had a little problem with the court when it rejected the data print out in Femi Fani-Kayode's case. The society is not static and our laws are not, so I believe the court should take note of some electronic evidence,' he said. 'It depends on the foundation of the case, but if the foundation is well laid, then the prosecution can create a premise for the evidence to be admitted.'

History
The defendants, James Danbaba, Hamza Al-Mustapha, Jubril Yakubu and Rabo Lawal, are in court on a two-count-charge of conspiracy and attempted murder of the publisher of The Guardian newspaper, Alex Ibru.