By Abdulwahab Abdulah & Richard Eromosele
Justice Mufutau Olokooba of an Ikeja High Court has fixed ruling till April 19 over the argument on whether or not the court should allow the video recording at the government Special Investigation Panel, SIP, that investigated former Chief Security Officer to the late Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and three others admitted as an exhibit be viewed publicly or in private.
The defence had submitted in their argument that viewing of the SIPâ€™sÂ video tape would be prejudicial to the case and the interest of the defendants because the tape was admitted as aÂ res (a thing done in the course of investigation) which amounts to doing a control viewing since it contains alleged admissions and confessions.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, the defence team continued with their argument that the purpose of the ruling of the court while admitting the VHS tape in evidence, which was something that took place in the course of investigation and it was admitted as a res and not as a document to play its content.
It could be recalled that Justice Olokooba had on March 1, 2010 admitted the tape as exhibit after much argument by the defendants that the said video was not relevant to the case. They argued that to view the video tape in open court will be an error because the tape was admitted as a document which translates to its content being read or viewed in court.
It is the belief of the defense that since the said exhibit is a â€˜RESâ€™, it should not be used for any other purpose than that for which it was admitted.
In its ruling the court, it held that it has a jurisdiction to revisit its ruling on the admissibility of the tape because it is not a document legally admissible in law and we have found authority that says the tape isnâ€™t a document.
Justice Olokooba however said that he gave the ruling after series of arguments from all the parties involved and will not overrule itself after due consideration of the facts of the partyâ€™s arguments at the time.
â€œThe court cannot judge on public opinion. Whether the court was in error or not in admitting the tape, I cannot seat on my own appeal. You can go to the Court of Appeal, if at the end of the day, the court finds the document irrelevant, it will either be expunged or completely ignored.â€
However the lead prosecution counsel, Lawal Pedro, SAN, said that the issue of admissibility of viewing a tape which has already been admitted is foreclosed having regards to the earlier decision of the court.
Speaking further, he said the only exception recognized by law is that on appeal, the decision could be rescinded at the end of the trial or at the verge of judgment writing.
â€œThis is a public place and nothing can be done in secrecy. It is difficult that having admitted the tape, it wonâ€™t be viewed; it is against the issue of public policy though the defendants are entitled to justice via fair trial but the society too has a stake and that is why we have a public prosecution.