APC takes commissions of inquiry to the Supreme Court

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 February 2019:

Barely three days after Sierra Leone’s commissions of inquiry started their investigations into alleged corruption by former  government officials, the opposition All People’s Congress party (APC)  has finally decided to take court action to stop the inquiry.

But according to critics of the APC, this decision comes after much bellicose procrastination, hanging on to the tailcoats of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, who are seeking Supreme Court’s interpretation of the laws governing the establishment and mode of conduct of the commissions of inquiry.

Yesterday, All People’s Congress party (APC) filed its own petition at the Supreme Court. According to local media reports, the party is accusing the government of conducting ‘illegal inquiry’, and is asking the Supreme Court to stop it.

This is how this story was reported yesterday by Awareness Times newspaper:

“Awareness Times can confirm that few moments ago at the Law Courts in Freetown, Alhaji Ambassador Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh, Dr. Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara and Major (rtd) Alfred Palo Conteh Esq. have just filed at the Supreme Court Registry a Case against the following defendants: Hon. Attorney General & Minister of Justice Dr. Priscilla Schwartz; The Hon. Chief Justice Babatunde Edwards in his capacity as Chairman of the Rules of Court Committee and all three judges acting as Commissioners of all the three Commissions Of Inquiries namely Justice John Bankole Thompson, Justice Biobele Georgewill and Justice William Annan Atuguba.

“The case is hinged on several limbs concerning serious contraventions of the Constitution including a purported attempt to treasonably amend the Sierra Leone Constitution as well as the urgent protection of several aspects of the human rights of the Applicants including their rights to a fair and legitimate judicial process.”

Launching the Commissions of Inquiry in Freetown last week, the country’s Chief Justice – Babatunde Edwards, was confident about the legality of the commissions of inquiry. He said:

“Since the heralded birth and or setting up of the Commissions of Inquiry by the aforesaid Instruments, views have polarized as to whether it should be set up in the first place, and secondly, whether the correct procedure has been followed in setting them up. This is only academic. It has no practical value or significance.

“There has been much talk about the necessity for rules pursuant to Section 150 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991. Who says there are no rules? Check out the Commissions of Inquiry Act Cap 54 of the Laws of Sierra Leone 1960 and the Commission of Inquiry Amendment Act No 1 of 1982; they claim further that the Executive (referring to His Excellency the President) overstepped their mandate as they had no power to make rules for the Commissions.

“Against this background, I say to you Commissioners that is their claim, but such should never stop you from performing your duty. Your duty as Commissioners would be to stay within the parameters and remit that is to say: A full, faithful and impartial inquiry as stated by Section 149(1) of the Constitution and no more.

“The much hyped about Section 150 of the Constitution commences with the words “Subject to his chapter”. The Chapter starts from Section 147 and ends at Section 150 of which section 149(1) is what details your duties as Commissioners. Section 149 (1) provides as follows:

“The Commission of Inquiry shall – a) Make a full, faithful and an impartial inquiry into any matter specified in the commission of appointment; b) Report in writing the result of the inquiry ; and c) Furnish in the report the reasons leading to the conclusions arrived at or reported. Thus implicitly and/or expressly section 150 is subject to section 149(1).

“These provisions as stated in section 149 (1) supra constituting part of the Primary Legislation are bigger and mightier than any proposed rules constituting Secondary Legislation otherwise known as delegated, subsidiary or subordinate legislation created by the same Parliament, that might have come into force by any Rules of Court Committee and indeed, form the basis under which the established Commissions of Inquiry under CI Nos 64, 65 and 67 should operate.

“Any rule made under Section 150 would only have been there to support/ supplement Section 149(1), and its absence or otherwise does not reduce or add to the powers so conferred, especially so, when it says “Subject to this Chapter” and where the Commissioners herein are indeed you such eminent jurists of profound renown, high caliber and proven independence.

“This, as you are well aware, brings to light the power of Primary legislation over Secondary legislation. Primary Legislation consists of Statutes known as Acts of Parliament that set out broad outlines and principles but delegate specific authority to other agencies or bodies. The Sierra Leone Act No 6 of 1991, the Constitution of Sierra Leone, is one such Primary Legislation.

“Delegated legislation are rules and regulations made by persons authorised to make them which cannot in any way override the Primary legislation. Their main purpose is most invariably always to supplement, support and in some case administer or enforce Primary legislation.

“Thus, anything it takes to make a full, faithful and impartial Inquiry as Commissioners would suffice. This may require you to make your own rules to bring about such impartiality and even if there may not be rules from the Rules of Court Committee, which anyway would have been subjected to section 149 (1) of the Constitution, rules made to show such impartiality by you would not only be sufficient but well in place.

“Cap 54 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1960 and its Amendment Act No 1 of 1982 forms part of the existing Laws of Sierra Leone by virtue of Section 170 (1) (e) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No 6 of 1991.

“In Section 9 of the Commissions of Inquiry (Amendment) Act No. 1 of 1982 there is power given to you the Commissioners to make rules.

“Rules or no rules and even in the light of an allegedly overstepped constitutional mandate you are still empowered and required to do all it takes to operate within the primary legislation and your constitutional mandate as laid down in section 149(1) supra. This is what you would be judged on.

“At the end of your work people will be asking: Did you make a full, faithful and impartial Inquiry? Did you report in writing the findings of your Inquiry? And whether you disclosed or furnished in the report the reasons leading to the conclusions arrived at.

“A full Inquiry presupposes that all what was required to be inquired into was indeed inquired into leaving no stone untouched. A “faithful Inquiry” presupposes that what was found out was brought out in your findings with no distortion; while an Impartial Inquiry would require that due process was observed, relevant evidence admitted without technicalities and that there was equality of arms to all parties and so on and so forth as you deem fit and just in the circumstances. I have no doubt that you are up to the task hence your appointment.

“To you the members of the public and all concerned, I would ask that you welcome and support the Commissioners who are more than equipped to carry out the Inquiry you have demanded.”

With that statement and yesterday’s decision by the APC to take Supreme Court action to stop the commissions of inquiry, the die has been cast.

It is not clear as to how soon the Supreme Court will sit to deliberate on both the opposition APC and the Bar Association writs. But one thing is clear, it is better  for the opposition to seek legal clarification and redress, than to promote anarchy, pursue armed conflict and violence.

14 Comments

  1. This country belongs to Sierra Leoneans and let no one jokes with the law. We have religious people in this nation but we are not fair. That is the biggest problem. If only Mr A knows that I should not step on Mr B, then what is for Mr B is for him, our problem is solved. Please let us try to keep the peace. Most of us only know this country we don’t known any other place only Mama Salone.

  2. APC IS NOT ASHAMED THAT THEY TOOK THE COUNTRY TO POVERTY AS IT IS HAPPENING IN VENEZUELA. THE PRESIDENT IN VENEZUELA HAS LOCKED THE WHOLE COUNTRY TO MAKE PEOPLE CONTINUE TO SUFFER THE HARDSHIP, TILL SOMEONE THROWS HIM OUT. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN SIERRA LEONE.

    I DO HOPE NO OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRY WILL UNDERGO PIRACY. COMMUNISM IS NOT GOOD FOR ANY COUNTRY TODAY AND THAT WORLD HAS FINISHED. CHINA STILL PRACTISES COMMUNISM BECAUSE OF THEIR POPULATION. THEY ARE OPENING COMMUNISM LITTLE BY LITTLE TO THE WORLD, SO COMMUNISM PRACTISED IN ANY OTHER COUNTRY WILL ALWAYS RESULT IN FAILURE.

  3. Mr Moiba, we all have been following the formation of the commission of inquiry since the day it was announced. And truth be told, APC has been questioning the commission’s legality since day one. Not only complaining but also threatening not to participate. why? Because, they said, the process is not fair.

    On multiple occasions,they had said they are not against it (COI) but the process by which the COI is formed is what they are against. And that call has been ongoing for too long, hoping that their concerns would be looked into. But never was their concerns looked into. So if you are asking why it took them so long to make this move, in my opinion I think the reasons I outlined above have answered your question.

    • Mr. Sulaiman Jalloh,

      The Commissions of Inquiry were created by an act of parliament. The APC has the highest number of parliamentarians. Why didn’t the APC fight the bill in parliament?

      The law is the law whether a group of people like it or not. Accordingly, if the APC guys refuse to appear before the commissions, they will be breaking the law and could very well be arrested.

      The notion that the APC believes that the process that gave birth to the commissions of inquiry is not fair is nonsensical. These guys spent all their time misbehaving and threatening violence instead of operating within the ambit of the law. Too little too late. That is what a political party gets for being a lawless organization.

    • Mr. Jalloh, from day one they should have called the courts and my advice to APC is that they stop looking at the government of Sierra Leone as the SLPP Party.

      The government represents us all until the next elections and then it’s…. NGC!!! Let us try to be law abiding and always put SALONE FOS, like the NGC, the Lawyer Kalokoh Movement and many others are doing.

  4. I dont believe it is the APC who made the Quote…..I think it is a quotation from the constitution that the writer was trying to portray…correct me if I’m wrong. However, for whatever reason the APC has in mind, at least everyone here can attest to the fact that the track on which they (APC) are trending, is surely the right path – go to court.

    Because the Interpretation of section 149,150,151, etc of the constitution is some how confusing. Everyone keep giving confusing interpretations between the Commission mandate and the constitution. Now that the issue had been sent to those who know so well and so much about this issue (COI) in general and the constitution in particular, it is going to be resolved once and for all. And the outcome will serve as an example and precedence for the future and forever….

    • Thanks a lot Sulaiman for the correction. With following what the writer wrote after that statement and I quote ‘With that statement and yesterday’s decision by the APC to take Supreme Court action to stop the commissions of inquiry, the die has been cast.’ you write. Responsible criticism, support and correct comments on any articles are very vital to our comments. People’s opinion or correction about me is always fine and welcome. The good thing is, the APC followed the rules by taking their concerns to the supreme court. I applaud them for that. Thanks a lot for your correction.

  5. Commissions of Inquiry have and will happen for the public interest in any democratic or non-democratic states. Sierra Leone is not new to COI’s. Even during the ONE PARTY SYSTEM under the good, old APC, we had COI’s. So, why now is COI unconstitutional?

    I am elated to hear the APC party has gone by legal means to address their concerns. This shows the political landscape in Sierra Leone is ascending to maturity, instead of hooliganism.

    My question is, is there any “Borbor Belleh” (not skeleton) in the closet? If there is no “Borbor Belleh” in the closet, then it will be wise for the previous administration to prove to the People of the Lion Mountains that they are CLEAN. I think, since APC has ruled Sierra Leone for 20+ years of the 58 years of Independence, APC should be MAN enough to comply with the rules of engagement to show MATURITY. Otherwise, failure to deliberately not participate in the exercise of our democratic principles will send APC into a legal quagmire that will hunt the Party the rest of its lifespan.

    Brothers, Sisters, Comrades or Paopa’s which ever fits you, please co-operate with the COI. The Land of the Lion Mountains was entrusted to all of us by the Almighty GOD. The way we have treated our People and our Land has consequences.

    Lonta!

    • It’s one of the branches of government (JUDICIARY). It’s not about who is better than the other. It is an organ responsible to look into issues of concern. APC felt like they are not fairly treated and they are concerned. That is why they are taking the issue to court. Instead of taking the law into their own hands. But at least, it is a step into the right direction!

  6. Commission of inquiry is not a good idea in Sierra Leone now. We all know no body is perfect in our political system. Let us respect our young democracy. After a long time of one party state under the APC rule, then came the civil war. Sierra Leone must now turn the page and let bygone be bygone and stop this political rat race between APC and SLPP.

    We are fed up with this two hungry parties; stop the barbarism and love peace. I dont think this inquiry can solve any problem. Peace, love and harmony. God bless Sierra Leone.

  7. This advice from the APC and I quote – “To you the members of the public and all concerned, I would ask that you welcome and support the Commissioners who are more than equipped to carry out the Inquiry you have demanded.” and the decision to take their concerns about the commission of inquiry to the supreme court, has given them some support. What they did has prevented chaos and anarchy in the country.

    It also tells us that democracy is at work in Sierra Leone. Whether you like the APC or not, this decision is a big win for them. How that will play out politically, remains to be seen. The problem and dirty politics has now been thrown on the supreme court. The supreme court has a very serious case to deal with. I hope the government will come out with a defence that see them through.

    Now is the time for our democratic institutions to get to work. They should also show how they are fair, transparent and not on any side of the political divide when it comes to the execution of their work and justice. Their decision in this case will go a long way in bringing political stability to our country for years to come.

    If ever there was a mess somewhere, the two giants in Sierra Leone politics have sent that mess to the supreme court to be cleaned. Sierra Leoneans just have to live with the dirty politics of these two giants.

  8. At last, after twisting and turning, common sense has prevailed and APC indeed wants to go by the RULE of LAW and not by the RULE of CHAOS. Why did it take so long to make this move?? In any case we should be happy about this news and let the COURT decide the way forward!! No ONE should ever try to hold our COUNTRY to RANSOM.

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