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Special Report For The Archive:Why Bayelsa Guber Case Took New Dimension Over Video Evidences

By  Enideneze Etete

Videos admitted as evidences in the Bayelsa State Gubernatorial Election Tribunal in Abuja, for the Petitioner, Chief Timipre Silva of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Defendant, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively, have caused a new dimension in the case.

Both parties had successfully secured ruling from the tribunal which admitted the videos they pleaded, during different sittings, but the tribunal did not openly play the Video Compact Disk (VCD), which Chief Silva relied upon, whereas a VCD pleaded by Governor Dickson was played to affirm claims by a witness that latter’s victory in the election was valid.

Dissatisfied with the development, Chief Silva filed an appeal at the Federal Court of Appeal in Abuja, on the ruling that led to rejection of plea by his lead counsel, Mr. Serbastein Hon (SAN) that the VCD be played openly in the tribunal.

Mr. Hon, counsel to Chief Silva and Mr. Taiyo Oyetibo (SAN), counsel to Governor Dickson engaged in fierce arguments over the appropriateness of the procedures for admittance of the video evidences, with both counsels relying on various sections of the Evidence Act, during cross examination of witnesses who appeared to testify orally about the contents. The presiding judge, Justice Kazeem Olanruwaju, however, upheld arguments for the admittance of both video materials for the parties, respectively.

The VCD that was played, as tendered by Governor Dickson, according his witness, a male journalists from one of the television stations in Bayelsa State, allegedly contained a press statement by Chief Silva, wherein, he (Silva) allegedly declared readiness to participate in the re-run election in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area (SILGA) on January 9, 2016, after cancellation of the earlier elections, due to alleged violence. The essence of the use of the VCD containing the petitioner’s press comment, by the defendant, Governor Dickson, was to affirm that elections validly held in Silga on January 9, 2016, contrary to claims by the plaintiff and APC.

The journalist asserted the authenticity of the video, stating during cross examination, that he was a seasoned and multi-award winning practitioner, adding that the video was shot by a cameraman attached to him, and at his professional directive. But Mr. Hon, the counsel to Chief Silva argued otherwise.

In a previous sitting, a DVD, submitted as evidence, was struck out against Governor Dickson, following arguments by Mr. Hon, Counsel to the petitioner (Chief Silva), that what was pleaded by the defendant was a VCD, and that the two items were not the same thing, neither could one replace the other. The submissions were accordingly upheld by presiding judge, Justice Alogba.

The said rejected DVD allegedly contains press interview with some traditional rulers from Southern Ijaw Local Government, who had gone to court in Yenagoa to seek an order to compel INEC to reschedule the governorship election in the area, so as to enable exercise their franchise. They also testified orally in the tribunal and asserted that election held in Silga on the re-scheduled date, January, 9, 2016 and Governor Dickson declared winner.

The DVD that was rejected as material for evidence was also produced by the Yenagoa-based journalist, who produced the one allegedly containing Chief Silva’s press comments. The same witness was to corroborate the veracity of the struck-out DVD orally in the tribunal, but was not allowed to do so due to the ruling against the defendant.

So far, Chief Silva and Governor Dickson have lost one major sensitive ruling, each. But the APC governorship candidate for the Bayelsa elections suffered a setback, haven failed to secure the tribunal’s nod to at least play the video that was admitted in his favour.

Earlier in a different sitting, one Mr. Patrick Orano, witness to the petitioner, had testified that the un-played video, was shot during the December 5 and 6, 2015 as well January 9, 2016, respectively, and aired on Channels Television.

But Mr. Oyetibo, counsel to the defendant put it to him (Patrick) that he was not personally present in Bayelsa to have shot the films, neither has he ever being to Bayelsa State in his life, adding that the said video was shot by one Mr. Pedro Innocent who was physically present in the state. The defense counsel, therefore, prayed the tribunal that the testimonies by Mr. Patrick and the said video, ought not to be relied upon as valid proofs to affirm the petitioners’ contentions against the election of Governor Dickson. Hence, the tribunal ruled against playing of the video relied upon by the Chief Silva.

Consequently, his lead counsel, Mr. Hon, Serbastein and others have filed an appeal at the Appeal Court in Abuja, seeking three reliefs against the ruling. They include an order by the Appeal Court to direct the tribunal to play the struck-out video in an open court; recalling of the witness to testify orally as well and any other necessary directives.

The appeal, with petition Number EPT/BY/GOV/002/2016 was served on the respondents, through an order for substituted service, granted in motion ex-parte filed by Mr. Hon Serbastein and others, before the Appeal Court. Signed by Deputy Registrar, Ahmed Sad’ Alhaji on May 26, 2016 the notice was published on June 2, 2016. A copy of the order for substituted service was paste on the main door of the tribunal in at the headquarters of the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

The respondents in the appeal are the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) as first respondent; Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, second respondent and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as third respondent.

At the time of writing this news, the notices of appeal and substitution of service, had been tied on the door of the main entrance to the tribunal. Other places of service, ordered by the Appeal Court are offices of the three respondents, in Yenagoa and Abuja.

Litigants standing for Chief Timipre Silva in the appeal are Mr. Hon (lead counsel), Bars Fedude Zimughan, Olorogun F. B., Inemo Oruebimiekumo and many others.

NOTE: This report was first used in a print medium at the time of the case.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of  Enideneze Etete and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."