Justice Bankole Thompson has on Wednesday 4th September, 2019 reacted to the behaviour of person of interest Sylvia Olayinka Blyden by inviting her to his Chambers today to tell her what he intends to do regarding her conduct which he considers close to contempt of court. She was cautioned by the Judge to reflect on her behaviour as he certainly does not intend to tolerate such behaviour in his Commission. Blyden was being cautioned because she told State Counsel Robert B. Kowa that “he is behaving exactly as his witness by wasting the time of the Commission.”
As she was asked to sit down by the Judge, Lawyer Kowa interjected by saying that he thinks she is going too far and what she said “is so insulting and I do not intend to take her on that. She owes me an apology.” The Judge agreed with Lawyer Kowa’s request and stated that he thinks what has happened at the tribunal has been far lower than what he is used to. “I do not think this public platform should be used to trade insults” he warned. Before the Judge could adjourn the hearing, Lawyer Kowa said that in a bid to observe decorum at the Bar he respectfully requested that a seat be provided for Blyden as POI. He said that she was only allowed to sit where Counsel are seated because they gave her opportunity to be by her Lawyer but since she is representing herself after terminating the services of Lawyer Melron Nicol-Wilson, there is no need for her to be seated there. “I still insist on the withdrawal of the statement made against my person by Blyden publicly. I am not only here representing the State but I am also the President of the Bar Association and what transpired here publicly is being publicised” Lawyer Kowa added. The Judge again agreed for the second time and asked that Blyden apologise to Lawyer Kowa, to which she replied “My Lord, I am sorry I owe him no apology and I insist that he is wasting the time of the court just as his witness. So I owe him absolutely no apology with all due respect.” It all started when Blyden made a submission to the Judge that the State Witness that was presented was like an ambush on her as nothing was stated on the documents served on her. “I was not prepared, so as my previous Lawyer, I am in a dilemma here as we need to have justice seen to be done” she said. In his response, Lawyer Kowa said it is really unfortunate that she is saying that and that is why they are all trained in their respective professions. “I can understand the constraint, but I have no way, I have served the documents that I have and I indicated to this investigative tribunal that even during the proceedings we may have documents coming up.” He told her that if she is challenged there is an opportunity to ask for time to go back and look at documents and come back to cross examine. “I am also constrained as to how to direct and tailor my witnesses as they come. I have children who have been here since morning thinking that we will be spending two hours thirty minutes on each witness” he said. Lawyer Kowa submitted that it will be injustice to have other witnesses spend the whole day without taking the stand. He therefore pleaded with the Judge to be rigid with time or else they will spend more than one month to take all the 17 witnesses. Blyden he said cross examined the witness from the Family Support Unit for over three hours, “we must have trained personnel here and allow them to perform their duties otherwise we will spend time on irrelevancies. We are here for specific issues and I think I was within the time limit to present those issues” he said. Lawyer Kowa further informed the Commission that he indicated to her that he had some documents that were given to him in the morning hours of Wednesday but was told by her to hold on to those documents. “I had wanted to serve those documents on you this morning you said no and let me keep them. I do think that the State must be treated fairly also.” The Judge promised to deliberate on the issues raised by both sides as to question of service of documents to POI and also on the general question whether the modification of their procedures in examination in chief and cross examination is adhered to a very rigid timeframe.
By Zainab Iyamide Joaque
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