How has Sierra Leone’s judiciary fared in the last ten years?

Dr Sama Banya (Puawui): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 March 2019:

The honourable Samuel Beccles Davies was the Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone in May 1997, when the misguided Corporal Gborie and his friends overthrew the democratically elected President of Sierra Leone and installed Major Johnny Paul Koroma as chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and Head of state.

In his first response to the illegal action which received widespread condemnation – both nationally and internationally, the ousted President Tejan-Kabbah called for civil disobedience and non-cooperation with the regime.

Unfortunately, our learned Chief Justice either did not listen or was ill advised. I and six others were already detained at Cockrill Military headquarters for, in the words of my nephew the much-dreaded Sam Bockarie alias Maskita (Mosquito) ‘for attempting to instigate them (the members of the RUF) to overthrow the Johnny Paul Koroma regime’.

It was at the Cockrill Military headquarters that Chief Justice Samuel Beccles Davies administered the oath of office to Johnny Paul.

On the country’s liberation and return to civilian rule, honourable Beccles Davies was retired and replaced by Desmond Luke – the former leader of the Unity Movement. On reaching the mandatory retirement age, Desmond Luke who was very reluctant to go was replaced by Justice Abdulai Timbo who also on reaching the retiring age was replaced by Justice Ade Renner Thomas.

Soon after assuming the office of President and Head of state President Ernest Bai Koroma replaced Ade Renner Thomas with Justice Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh, who on reaching retirement age was also replaced by Hon Valescius Thomas for whom I had the highest respect and admiration as a man of integrity and faith, who was well grounded in the Law.

That is until the infamous Sam Sumana decision, a decision that shook the nation and the international community. The reverberations are being felt by the perpetrators to this day. More on that later.

Rewind to the days of the founder and leader of the APC party, “the Pa” himself President Siaka Stevens, who had no principles when it came to the judiciary and the rule of law. Stevens abruptly removed chief Justice C O E Cole who had served him faithfully, from office and replaced him with Justice Livesy Luke.

Siaka Stevens was sometimes predictable, especially when he planned a mischievous move. We were in the usual Cabinet meeting when he asked no one in particular whether a person who was only an Appeal Court judge could be appointed Chief Justice.

In the Cabinet were many eminent Lawyers, including Dr Abdulai Conteh, Francis Minah, Abu Kamara, Brima Kebbie one or or two others. Could the President not have asked anyone of them privately? But that was not Stevens.

As was expected the answer was in the affirmative. And so it was, that following the week in which Abdulai Conteh and I were unceremoniously removed from Cabinet, it was announced that Justice Sheku Kutubu would be the next Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Poor Livesey! He must have been shocked, disappointed and very bitter. But did he forget the saying that what goes around comes around?

Through the Commonwealth recruitment, Livesey Luke was appointed Chief Justice of Botswana, a position he held until he passed away after a short illness.

President Joseph Momoh was then President, but the Luke family refused the government’s offer to give Livesey Luke a civic funeral. Poor man, his family may have forgotten that his predecessor Chief Justice C O E Okoro Cole whom he replaced, had been pushed over in a similar way.

Justice Sir Samuel Bankole Jones – an eminent jurist, was the chief Justice when Mr. Albert Margai succeeded his brother Sir Milton Margai as the country’s second Prime Minister. Sir Samuel was later kicked upstairs as President of the Court of Appeal and succeeded by Justice Okoro Cole.

Again, shortly before the 1967 general elections, Justice Okoro Cole was sent to New York as Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He was succeeded by one of Sir Albert’s personal friends – Gershon Collier, who had been at the U N.

My goodness, I’m getting breathless by merely recalling this series of judicial musical chairs or political gimmicks.

My sister – Umu Tejan-Jalloh, had to be literally pushed over when Pa Ernest kept her on even though she had reached the mandatory retiring age. She had replaced Justice Ade Renner Thomas, who was also pushed over by the Pa. And so the story goes.

There was a depressing period in the history of our judiciary, when their conditions of service were dismal, the courts were dank and uninviting, with no electricity and lacking in proper sanitation, etc.

Two or more judges and magistrates had one vehicle allocated to them.

The United Kingdom government through its DFID office stepped in. They not only rehabilitated the entire Law Courts building and refurbished the court rooms, but they also recruited a few brilliant and upcoming young Sierra Leonean practitioners into a satisfying service and conducive working environment.

Despite these improvements and recruitment, all has not been well with our judiciary. There is need for more judges and magistrates in order to reduce the work load and help litigants.

In the midst of all this development, there have been glaring incidents that have cast a slur on the integrity of some judges and magistrates, including those who had hitherto earned remarkable public confidence.

Did the pa have the Executive Authority to have sacked his elected Vice President? Should Dr Alie Kabba have been refused bail and his passport seized in a contested case of bigamy until diplomatic intervention?

Should cases have been held up until the Pa’s directive? Should the 2012 election petition cases from Kenema and Kailahun districts have been settled the way they were by Justice Showers, who in her ruling awarded the declared vacant seats to the ruling party and thus set a bad precedence?

Why did the High Court intervene in a purely Party Parliamentary matter by refusing the majority of members of the opposition SLPP the right to change their minority leader democratically?

The new Chief Justice Edwards now has an opportunity to redeem the reputation of this vital arm of governance. With respect your Lordship the Chief Justice, the expectation of the public is high.

Equally so, are the good comments that I have heard so far about your integrity and knowledge of the law, naturally, with the exception of our still mourning APC members.

In addition, there are confirmed reports – which are no longer just rumours, of promotions and new appointments that should be of value in this direction.

I personally know some of the prospective beneficiaries of the promotions; and I have every confidence that if you (Chief Justice) and they, do your work diligently and without prejudice, there would be no need to wait for ‘orders from above’.

The atmosphere, the prevailing circumstances and the influencing factors are sufficient indicators that your arm of government will also move in the right direction. Good luck my Lord.

 

13 Comments

  1. I did not want to comment on this story because I found it misleading and biased. The title says: “How Sierra Leone’s judiciary fared in the last ten years?”

    I was prepared to hear all the negatives of the Koroma led APC government and, as usual, the positives of the current Bio led SLPP government. But I can only grasp a scanty bit for the specified period of the story, that is, 2009 – 2019. Most of the narrative dwelled on the Siaka Stevens’ era, and I guess the writer deliberately omitted the NPRC period between 1992 and 1996.

    Nonetheless, from my analysis, the comments on this story to date, are 6 for and 6 against the intended emotions. So, I will call it a DRAW.

    Mr Sahr Matturi’s comments are outstanding because, he stood his ground. He has made his opinion, and for me, that is it! Let’s carry on the debate, and don’t be too personal.

    However, the best comment comes from Mr Musa Koroma. “Attacking an octogenarian who has done so much for his people is a hit below the belt”.

    Tell us Mr Koroma, was the ‘hit below the belt’ just a mere foul; or was it a knock out blow for our legendary Puawui?

  2. Mr. Dimoh, I reckon that you understood my comment. Asking Dr. Banya and I quote – ‘ Will you please inform us how Sierra Leone’s finances fared in the last ten year’s ‘ does not mean I disrespect him. Moreover, there is no sentence in my comment that suggests that Dr. Banya is corrupt or has anything to do with corruption.

    May be, you were distracted by the sentence where percentages were mentioned. It is just outrageous for you to have such thoughts. Finally, I would like you to thoroughly read my comment once more. Thanks for triggering such a discussion.

    • “You are the right person to inform us because you have served in both the SLPP and the APC governments. I hear people say, you know how to cut the snake’s head. Is that true? If yes, what does that mean?

      My own interpretation is that, you participated in the APC government, then got to know how they operate, so that you will later use the training you received from them to K**L them. I hope I am wrong.” Sahr Matturi

      If the above quote is not disrespect to someone who is old enough to be your grandfather, then I don’t know what else it could be.

      Rightly, Dr. Banya is one of the few among us today who we can learn so much from about our history since Independence. And believe you me he has not disappointed us. For some of us who followed his erudite column before he retired last year it is a joy that he has decided to come out of retirement.

      Dr. Banya served the APC in the late 70s and early 80s. He left with Siaka Stevens because he refused to endorse J.S Momoh’s nomination. When all the senior politicians in Steven’s cabinet refused to support S.I Koroma, it is on record, (please read newspapers for 83/84) that Dr. Banya was one of the few senior Cabinet Ministers who refused to endorse Momoh. Rather it is said that put in a motion in Parliament that S.I should succeed Stevens as stipulated by the constitution then. Many at that time accused him that he wanted a Bo School graduate to become head of States. The Rest is history.

      When President Koroma came to power in 2007, his cabinet members were 90% from Bombali district. The Term Bombali 11 was coined out. Towards the 2012 elections, President Koroma to prove that he was not “regionalistic” or “districtlistic” (mine), decided to appoint senior citizens from either the East or South to join his cabinet especially people who had served in the former APC government. President Koroma first reached out to Dr. Banya who vehemently declined. It was after Dr. Banya’s declination that President Koroma reached out to J.B Dauda who could not resist the temptation.

      Dr. Banya was not in Koroma’s Government. He has written series of articles critical about the management of the country’s purse under Koroma. Search and read my brother instead of attempting to impugn the man’s integrity.

      The handling of the country’s finances over the last ten years is under judicial enquiry and investigations. I don’t think informed Sierra Leoneans would need an article from Dr. Banya to know what happened. I might be mistaken as there are many who do not like to read anything more than 2 pages long.

      Please give Dr. Banya time to continue to educate and entertain us on crucial things about our country. How some of us are hoping that others in Dr. Banya’s generation could do similar things so that they would not die without leaving behind anything worth reading.

    • Attacking an octogenarian who has done so much for his people is a hit below the belt. And refusing to apologise to the legendary medical doctor and politician smacks of empty arrogance and small-mindedness.

  3. Thank you very much Dr. Banya for informing us on how has Sierra Leone’s judiciary fared in the last ten years?
    Will you please inform us how have Sierra Leone’s finances fared in the last ten years?

    I will love to hear something on how the so called kickbacks and percentages(2% to 10%) are levied on government contracts. It will be interesting to hear.

    You are the right person to inform us because you have served in both the SLPP and the APC governments. I hear people say, you know how to cut the snake’s head. Is that true? If yes, what does that mean?

    My own interpretation is that, you participated in the APC government, then got to know how they operate, so that you will later use the training you received from them to K**L them. I hope I am wrong.

    Nice to hear from you Dr. Banya. God bless you. Wise Dr. Banya there.

    • Mr. Sahr Matturi,

      Your message to uncle Sama Banya smacks of an attack on the man’s integrity. It is also disrespectful to say the least.

      Just because Dr. Banya served in both the APC and SLPP governments does not make him culpable for the corrupt practices that may have taken place in government.

      Dr. Banya served in the APC government not by choice. The APC had declared a one party state, which made even Mr. Sahr Matturi an APC.

      For those of us who are related to or personally know Dr. Banya, he is a man that cannot be corrupted. Before he entered politics, he was already a successful medical doctor running a successful medical practice in Kenema and elsewhere. He did not need Salone government money to survive. You owe uncle Sama Banya an apology.

    • Thank you very much Aminata for your lecture on APC political history. Your lecture will serve history students immensely. I appreciate that.

      Finally, I have been clear on this issue and have given the appropriate response. What I will not do is to continue to reply to the same question in another phrase. Thanks and let’s move on. BYE.

  4. APC destroyed the Judiciary. Not only did they manipulate the appointment of CJs, but they also started dictating the Judgements.

  5. What a sad story. This should be an excellent case study on how strong institutions can be weakened and destroyed. With such a history and with very recent (even current) clouds appearing, should we realistically expect something different now? How I would love to share big brother Puawui’s optimism. But…

  6. Well done Dr Banya. Please continue to help us understand everything in detail, as somebody who has been both an insider and outsider.

    Let us hope that President Bio will root out the rot of the judiciary acting and behaving like a political gigolo, initiated by Siaka Stevens, who had no respect for the independence of the judiciary. It was under him that everything about our nation that was exemplary took a nose dive. The nation became a shadow of its former self.

    If President Bio remains aloof of the judiciary as he is now doing with the Commissions of Inquiry, Sierra Leoneans will start developing confidence in the judiciary in the knowledge that the law deals equally with everybody whether they are a labourer, a doctor, or president of the nation. We are tired of the executive poking its nose into the judiciary.

  7. I love our respected Puawi’s beautiful and brilliant mind! Always there to enlighten us on the trail of our past that got our country where it is today. The mark of a true elder.

    If only our politicians would study these trails, learn from them, avoid repeating them and genuinely change course; Salone would be a better place for all its citizens.

    • Well said my sister; but will they…? Most of our politicians are filthy-stinky-bady-hearty.

      They lack the civic virtue to serve our people and country. For some of them, a little more liberal education in the humanities will help them figure the true meaning of veracity and fidelity to people and country…So help us God!

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