Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 January 2016
The popularity of Alhaji IB Kargbo is once again soaring, but for all the wrong reasons, not least for creating the Lebanese wastegate storm, that is now blowing the Koroma government into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
Following his arrest and questioning by police in Freetown yesterday, for his role in the Lebanese wastegate scandal, there are questions tonight as to whether he lawfully contested the by-election held in Bombali last month, which he narrowly won.
The man at the centre of the wastegate fraud investigations in Sierra Leone – Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, was declared duly elected by the people of constituency 30 of Bombali to serve as the Member of Parliament for that constituency.
But it appears the country’s electoral commission may either have unwittingly turned a blind eye to a major violation of the election rules by IB Kargbo, or deliberately looked the other way, given Kargbo’s senior position in the ruling party and his close relationship with president Koroma.
According to Sierra Leone’s electoral laws, anyone who is a public official must have relinquished that position before contesting constituency or presidential election.
Looking at the self-incriminating letter written and signed by IB kargbo on the 7th January 2016, and addressed to a Dutch company acting on behalf of the Lebanese government, it is clear that IB Kargbo is still working in his capacity as Senior Presidential Adviser, whiles serving as a member of parliament. This is against the Law.
Did IB Kargbo lie to the electoral commission? Did he fail to declare to the electoral commission that he was still working for the government as presidential adviser?
Did the electoral commission fail in their duty to vet and carry out proper background checks on Alhaji Ibrahim Kargbo? Was president Koroma aware of this electoral violation?
Should IB Kargbo be stripped of his parliamentary seat?
This is what Mustapha Wai of Mamba TV – USA, thinks about this developing story:
The letter bearing the signature of Ibrahim Ben Kargbo on January 7, 2016, as adviser to President Koroma which gives clearance for the Lebanon Garbage deal, for which he has been “invited” by the Police for questioning, raises more questions and implicates the Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission (NEC).
It must be noted that Kargbo was pronounced the winner in the Parliamentary bye-election for constituency 30 in Bombali District, held on December 12, 2015.
Immediately following the announcement of the bye-election result, Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) leader who was a candidate in that election, questioned the eligibility of Kargbo and threatened to file a petition in court.
According to Mr. Mansaray, Kargbo did not resign his position as adviser to the president before contesting that election as required by law.
The Sierra Leone Constitution requires that a civil servant must resign their position a year in advance of the time of contesting in an election for Parliament.
Section 76. (1)(b) of the 1991 Sierra Leone Constitution states that no one is qualified to run for Parliament “if he is a member of any Commission established under this Constitution, or a member of the Armed Forces of the Republic, or a public officer, or an employee of a Public Corporation established by an Act of Parliament, or has been such a member, officer or employee within twelve months prior to the date on which he seeks to be elected to Parliament”.
An opposition SLPP candidate for Parliament, Mr. Ansu Lansana, who had won a seat during the 2012 general elections was petitioned and later disqualified by NEC for similar violation.
Mr. Lansana had been petitioned by his challenger, because the former had not resigned his position as a board member of the Sierra Leone Commercial bank within the time allowed, before he contested.
The seat was later handed over to the ruling APC candidate, who came a distance second. The ruling by the High Court reportedly left Mr. Lansana, who got over 11,000 votes disqualified and his main challenger, Ms. Regina Songa of the ruling APC, who got less than 2,000 votes the winner.
Now that IB Kargbo appears to have not only remained as adviser to president Koroma (Photo) at the time of the bye-election, but that he had continued to serve in that capacity, even after he was pronounced the winner of the bye-election, as evident in the letter he signed four days ago for the Lebanon Garbage deal, all eyes are on NEC to see if the right thing will be done.
The credibility of NEC is on the line on this one. But as NEC ponders this, many questions have been raised regarding how NEC may have missed this violation.
These questions include whether IB Kargbo deliberately lied on his candidacy application submitted to NEC that he had resigned his position; whether NEC performed its due diligence by requesting for evidence substantiating the resignation of IB Kargbo before clearing him to contest; and whether NEC conducting any corroboration with the President’s Office to ensure that the evidence, if any submitted to substantiate IB Kargbo’s resignation was valid.
As this event unfolds, many have already begun to congratulate Mr. Mansaray as the rightful winner of the Bombali bye-election.
For more on this, you can join MambaTV on Saturday, January 16, 2016.