COI appeal of former President Koroma is reserved for judgment  

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 03 July 2022:

Presiding Judge, Justice Fatmatta Bintu Alhadi last Friday reserved former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s Commission of Inquiry (COI) appeals for Judgment, after listening to closing arguments from Counsel representing both the Appellant and Respondent. The empaneled Judges are Justices Fatmatta Bintu Alhadi, Komba Kamanda, Tonia Barnette.

In October 2020, Lawyers for the former President Ernest Bai Koroma, filed two Notices of Appeal challenging the ‘adverse findings’ of the COI Judges – Justice Thompson and Justice Biobelle Georgewill, seeking to set aside or quash the adverse findings against the former President.

They also sought a declaration from the court voiding the acceptance of the Government White Paper dated September 2020, on matters affecting the former President as a Person of Interest, as well as enter a judgment in his favour.

On their first ground of appeal, the Lawyers for the Appellant argued that the Sole COI Commissioners – Justices Bankole Thompson and Biobelle Georgewill, erred in law when they failed to consider and apply the Head of State Immunity clause as provided under Section 48(4) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, which gives the President immunity against the commencement or continuation of civil or criminal proceedings against the person holding the office of President.

They went on to argue that the Sole Commissioners erred in law and acted in violation of section 150 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991, when they proceeded to conduct the Commissions of Inquiry without the “rules regulating the practice and procedure” of all Commissions of Inquiry as prescribed by the Rules of Court Committee through a constitutional instrument.

As part of the former President’s defence, his lawyers further argued that the Sole Commissioners erred and without authority, indicted and tried the Appellant for the offence of Abuse of Office and corrupt acquisition of wealth, a power that was not conferred by the Constitutional Instrument 64, that established the Commission.

In addition, the lawyers stressed that the Sole Commissioner erred and misapplied the law to the facts when he opined that, “This Commission has critically reviewed, appraised and considered the totality of the evidence of the State against the Persons of Interest and finds that the unchallenged evidence of the State has made out a prima facie case against all of the Persons of Interest.” They affirmed that the adverse findings against the Appellant, cannot be supported by the evidence presented and challenged.

In his final submissions on behalf of the State in response to the Appellant’s Lawyers, the Solicitor General, Robert Baoma Kowa argued that Section 48 (4) of the 1991 Constitution states that, “while any person holds or perform the functions of the office of the President, no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against him in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him either in his official or private capacity.”

“My Lords, it is my submission that ground 1 of the Appellant’s appeal dealing with the immunity provisions of Section 48(4) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone amounts to a question of interpretation of the said Constitution hence, it cannot be formulated by way of an appeal and brought before this Court for interpretation,” R.B Kowa Esq said, adding that, “Section 124 of the Constitution makes provision for the forum to which issues of interpretation of the Constitution should be directed.”

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal had earlier ruled that a former President is not immune from prosecution, stating that Section 48 (4) is very clear on the issue of immunity for only serving President.

Lawyer R.B.Kowa called on the empaneled Judges to dismiss this ground of appeal and afford the Appellant the opportunity to proceed to the proper jurisdiction for adjudication and determination.

According to R.B.Kowa, the Chairman/Sole Commissioner was not given the mandate to interpret the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. He submitted that he was only bound by the Terms of Reference stated in Section 4 of the Constitutional Instrument No. 65 of 2018, which was to investigate persons who were President, Vice President, Ministers, Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers within the period November, 2007 to April 2008.

He stated that the Constitutional Instrument No. 65 is not in any way inconsistent with the Constitution of Sierra Leone as Section 4(a)-(d) therein and the Instrument itself have not been found by any adjudicating authority in the country to be inconsistent with Section 48(4) of the 1991 Constitution, reaffirming that, “is therefore part of the Laws of Sierra Leone pursuant to Section 170 (1) of the 1991 Constitution.”

Referencing the submissions by the Appellant’s Lawyers (Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, Ady Macaulay and others), R.B.Kowa pointed out that they have failed to substantiate “the ground of appeal with the relevant particulars and facts backed up with legal arguments. The arguments of the Appellant seem to be a drift as against his ground of appeal.”

He further submitted that the Commissions were set up to investigate whether persons who were in control of government resources did act wilfully, dishonestly, complacently or abused their offices for private benefits that caused financial loss or damage to the Government and people of Sierra Leone by their actions and inaction.

He said the Appellant (former President Koroma) did fall under the categories of persons that are to be investigated pursuant to Section 4 (a)-(c) of the Constitutional Instrument No. 65 of 2018.

He rebutted the position of the Appellant in respect of section 150 of the 1991 Constitution and argued that the Sole Commissioners did not violate the said Section, stressing that the Appellant failed or reneged in his submission to direct the Court to any law or section of the provisions of Constitutional Instrument No. 65 of 2018 which has been found to be inconsistent with any provision of the 1991 Constitution that will necessitate the invocation of section 171(15) of the 1991 Constitution.

Arguing against the claim of the Appellant that the Sole Commissioners erred to have tried or indicted their client for corruption offences, R.B.Kowa argued that the Appellant failed to show proof that he was tried for the offences stated in his appeal, rather than that he was investigated pursuant to section 4 of the Constitutional Instrumental No. 65 of 2018. He therefore submitted that the Judges did not proceed to put the Appellant on a criminal trial and that the proceedings did not in any way constitute a trial nor, did they proceed with their investigations pursuant to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act of 2008.

He continued that the Commissioner was correct in his fact-finding and in law that the Appellant was in control of pecuniary resources of property disproportionate to his official emoluments and also maintained a standard of life above that which was commensurate to his official emoluments which is supported by evidence before the Commissioner in respect of property situate and being at Robureh, Makeni, Bombali District in the Northern Province of the country. The total cost of the said house only, they argued was USD 2,522,930 while the extra work costs USD 1,209,500.

The State canvassed the Court that the evidence before the Commissioners in respect of the allegations were uncontroverted which led to the publication of its complete report by the President pursuant to Section 149(2) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, contrary to what the Appellant claimed.

At the close of their submissions, the Presiding Judge – Justice Fatmatta Bintu Alhadi in agreement with the other two Judges
informed both parties that notices would be sent to them on the final date for Judgement for the two Appeals.


  1. Ladies and gentlemen. Let’s be careful with this case. Remember that all the decisions, as seen in the article, are based on the 1991 constitution. My question is, “are there articles and sub-sections that will be used under the constitution to acquit the former president or allow the case to continue or be suspended indefinitely, without us knowing”? The 1991 constitution mostly proves to have controversial areas with different interpretations. That bothers me.
    If this case ends without the former president paying anything, who are you to ask president Bio when he becomes former president to pay back government money due to alleged corruption when he retires? The only thing that will happen is to say “let the bygones be bygones” and continue rebuilding our country and living in peace. I believe that anyone who wrongly converts the people’s money as their right is a guaranteed inhabitant of Hell. Everybody says AMEN!
    The biggest question is, “will the courts convict the former president and allow him to refund anything allegedly from corruption whilst he was in office”? Terrible, sad and baffling stuff!
    God bless former President Koroma and President Bio, but I don’t know whether they will go to Heaven or Hell. God have to make that decision on behalf of our people. Yeah.

  2. I believe that former President Koroma will definitely reap whatever he sowed. He declared AUSTERITY and now he is one of the RICHEST MAN in Africa after massive theft. Unfortunately, he has been trying to hoodwink our citizens that he is still constitutionally protected by the immunity clause which only a sitting president enjoys.
    Since our Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces and Fountain of Honor, President Julius Maada Wonnie Bio launched the Commission Of Inquiry, some members of the Ayampie Peoples Party (APC) started misleading and distracting our citizens through baseless allegations that the sitting President is also corrupt. Even the suspended Auditor General has apologized to the people about the $4 billion corruption propaganda (which is more than our GDP) against the New Direction Government.
    Former President Koroma lost an opportunity in 2007 to fully investigate late President Tejan Kabba’s outgoing government amidst all the corruption allegations. That should have been the precedent for minimizing future corruption. He literally lied to our people that he was “trying to maintain peace “ but his real intent was to also intensify his corruption with impunity and hoping to get away with it. He even used his “Barbaric tactics” of hiding behind women, children and members of our secret societies ( human shields) in order not to be accountable for his stewardship.
    Finally, I hope and pray that he will peacefully give back his looting to the people of Sierra Leone, otherwise, just like the late Foday Sankoh, he will face the full penalty of the law.

  3. Just as Maada Bio has always said, all we want is our money back. Ernest Bai Koroma and all those who are involved should just do the decent thing and pay back what they have stolen. May God bless Sierra Leone.

    • I agree with you entirely. Our money back is indeed what we all want, including obviously – even though you purposely fail to say so – the money Bio and his gang of kleptocrats have stolen since replacing Koroma and his own gang in 2018.

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