Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 January 2019:
The three learned judges that will chair Sierra Leone’s Commissions of Inquiry into alleged corruption, abuse of office and misdemeanours by ministers and senior public officials in the former APC government led by president Ernest Bai Koroma – dubbed the people’s commissions of inquiry, have today – Tuesday 29th January 2019, been sworn into office by president Julius Maada Bio.
Justices Biobele Georgewill – from Nigeria, Bankole Thompson – a Sierra Leonean Judge, and William Annan Atuguba – from Ghana, took their oath of office this morning at State House in Freetown.
The formal launching of the Commissions of Inquiry is taking place today in the Buildings of the Special Court, Jomo Kenyatta Road in the capital Freetown, where the commissions will sit for the next nine months for formal hearing of evidence and counter-evidence.
Shortly after the ceremony, president Bio said he is pleased to welcome the three Judges and wish them well, as they embark on a very difficult assignment.
Bio said his government decided to go beyond borders in search of Judges, because of the difficult nature of the assignment and to ensure there is fairness and neutrality in the process.
He thanked the Nigerian and Ghanaian Judges for consenting to come to Sierra Leone, at a time when the nation is in dire need of their services, adding that because of their experiences, they are expected to be impartial and do their job without bias and prejudice.
President Bio also assured the Judges of his government’s fullest support and asked for their independence during the entire process.
Chief Justice of Sierra Leone – Babatunde Edwards, said it is time for justice to be done and in a transparent and open way. He said Sierra Leoneans are looking up to the learned-Judges to do an excellent job in bringing justice to Sierra Leone.
He added: “We are not going to tell them what to do in terms of the matters that they have before them, because they are sufficiently equipped – in terms of having the right calibre and knowledge to handle what will come before them. They have a lot on their plates but I am sure they are able to navigate through it all and at the end, all of us will know that indeed justice has been done”.
Section 147 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991, provides the president with the powers to appoint a Commission of Inquiry into any matter of public interest. Pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, the Judges were appointed as Chairmen and Sole Commissioners of the Commissions of Inquiry, as established by Constitutional Instrument No.65 of 2018.
This is what president Bio said:
We support his Excellency for the good job he has done in the past couple of months. This is one of the best presidents I have seen ever in Sierra Leone. I am also pleading with our president for the youth to get employment.
Brilliant idea Mr president. We hope the judges will do their best to bring glory to the people of Sierra Leone.
Commissions of enquiry, done in good faith and with fairness and efficiency, can yield positive dividends. That stated, one of the best ways a leader can massively minimize corruption involving his/her people and officials, is by leadership example such a leader will set in this regard.
By never doing anything that remotely has even a whiff of corruption about it; by living his/her life modestly; by decisively and swiftly dealing with anyone (including officials, friends and family members) caught in the corruption web, irrespective of that person’s connections or station in life; and by setting up and constantly strengthening independent transparency and accountability institutions (e.g. Procurement, Auditing, Anti-corruption agencies); by actively supporting whistle-blowing activities and a free, unfettered and itself incorruptible media landscape, then that leader would have laid strong foundational pillars for vigorously checkmating corruption in all its facets/manifestations.
Indeed, by such actions, such a selfless, patriotic leader would have put every citizen and resident on notice that a new and very determined sheriff is in town who is hell-bent not to hold prisoners in the war against graft.
So, rhetoric alone, no matter how colorfully adorned it is, or how well-intentioned it may be, is not enough a tool to combat corruption. For we all know, that the road to hell is sometimes paved with good intentions, and that greed for power and excessive cravings for money by African leaders in particular can easily become so intoxicating, as to tempt even otherwise well intentioned leaders to lose their way in genuinely combating corruption.
President Bio’s ongoing initiative to have his country turn a new leaf in the way and manner in which public resources are managed, will only stand the test of time if he takes a long term and sustainable view of the long festering anti-development practice of siphoning public resources, by a small cabal of self-seeking individuals.
His is a good first step, but only time will tell if his otherwise good intentions in this regard will, in the fullness of time, translate into tangible and sustainable achievements to wrestle and defeat the scourge that is corruption.
Thanks a lot Abdul Rashid for this article. Many Sierra Leoneans and myself now know why the president decided to recruit judges outside Sierra Leone. I was asking in one of my comments whether the reason was that Sierra Leonean judges are incompetent or corrupt or because of fairness. President Bio has cleared the air by saying that, he want to ensure there is fairness and neutrality in the process. Fair enough. Thank God our judges are not corrupt or incompetent. That’s good news.
We support our able president to set up a commission of inquiry. We pledged our love and loyalty to this great nation Sierra Leone.