Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 February 2016
There are unconfirmed reports from Sierra Leone this afternoon, of a raid by paramilitary police in Koidu, forcefully removing Mayor Emerson Lamina (Photo) from his office.
Eyewitness reports say that heavily armed police have unleashed tear gas canisters on youths supporting the mayor.
This action by the police, comes just twenty-four hours after a letter signed by the secretary to president Koroma ordered the suspension of mayor Lamina from office, without due process.
The 2004 Local Government Act, does not make provision, nor grant any power to the president or minister to suspend or sack a mayor in any part of the country.
Speaking to the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas this morning, mayor Lamina refuted all allegations of wrong doing. He said that no one has the authority to suspend or dismiss him from office, without the consent of two-thirds of the elected councillors of Koidu City Council.
A letter seen by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, dated 26th February, 2016, and written by the secretary to president Koroma of Sierra Leone, addressed to the permanent secretary of the ministry of local government and copied to the minister – Diana Konomanyi, is quoted saying:
“Please be informed that His Excellency the President has graciously approved the recommendation of the minister, that the mayor and deputy mayor of Koidu New Sembenhun City Council, should be suspended from office, pending the outcome of investigations into the Internal Audit Report of the Koidu New Sembenhun City Council, Conducted by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.”
But the letter neither cites, nor made any specific reference to the allegations of impropriety or misconduct supposedly to have been committed by the mayor and his deputy.
Quite simply, this latest unconstitutional fiasco seems like another abuse of office by those occupying the most powerful seats in the government, for political reasons.
Political observers in the country told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that the suspension of the mayor and deputy mayor of the city of Koidu, in the eastern district of the country, is a witch hunt instigated by the embattled minister of local government – Diana Konomanyi.
It is understood that there has been a long running political campaign to unseat the mayor, who is not a supporter of president Koroma’s ambition to be coronated by the country’s parliament to seek a third term in office in 2018.
Speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph this morning, mayor Lamina (Photo) said that the allegation of corruption is nothing but an attack on his integrity and good reputation in the city of Koidu in particular, and the country in general.
Although the mayor confirmed receiving a letter from Minister Diana Konomanyi informing him about the decision to suspend him from office, he told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that he had no knowledge of the letter written on behalf of president Koroma, ordering his suspension.
This letter (See below) signed by the president’s secretary, has once again raised serious questions about president Koroma’s persistent meddling and micro-managing of public institutions in the country.
Critics say that he is now running the country as his personal and family enterprise, to which only those close to the president enjoy special privileges, as well as granted immense power.
Political observers believe that this latest action by the government is not unconnected to the ongoing battle between the government of Sierra Leone and the gold mining company Octéa Limited, which mayor Lamina is understood to have demanded the payment of all taxes owed to the people of Sierra Leone by the company.
A report by Africa Confidential, published a few months ago, said that the heavily-indebted Octéa Limited, owner of the country’s biggest diamond mine at Koidu, owes payroll and other taxes of more than $13 million to the government of Sierra Leone – and by extension the people of Koidu, and mayor Lamina has not kept quiet.
Mayor Lamina’s brush with president Koroma is nothing new.
When vice president Sam Sumana was unconstitutionally sacked by president Koroma, the mayor told local media that the crisis was the “darkest period in the history of Kono and Sierra Leone.”
The outspoken mayor also said that the people of Kono are faced with a serious problem, whereby the larger and dominant tribes in control of power in the country, are manipulating the minority Kono people to suit their own political interests.
This remark did not go down too well with the president and his executives of the ruling APC party. Now it seems, the young mayor is paying a heavy price.
And in response to the sacking of vice president Sam Sumana, the mayor mobilised his seventy strong local councillors of the district, including the chairman of the council, to issues a press statement.
Their statement spoke of “dismay and dissatisfaction over the expulsion of Chief Sam Sumana (Photo) from the APC, being an empirical fact that the very action is unconstitutional and the grounds, baseless, unfounded and deficient of any substance, we condemn it outright.”
“Whereas we do not (and cannot) subscribe to the very unconstitutional and undemocratic decision, we would like to implore the nine-man Committee of the All Peoples Congress (APC) Party to see reason and go back to the drawing board (in accordance with Article 8 (i)) with the view to ascertain the veracity or raison d’être regarding the grounds on which such action has been taken against Chief Sam-Sumana.”
“Expelling such a public figure from the Party at this time will have the potential to create a divide amongst the Kono people; and which we the key stakeholders in local governance would not want to see in the District and perhaps the rest of the country. And being a very responsible thing to act with prudence in this matter, we are expecting a sound executive outcome that would have to clarify as to whether the decision can be reversed or shall remain irrevocable,” the statement reads.
A resident of Koidu – Mr. Lebbie, said this about the suspension of mayor Lamina, this morning: “The signs are clear that mayor Saa Emerson Lamina, the Peoples’ Leader, will defeat Octea Mining Limited in court, and so Diana Konomanyi and Chief Paul Saquee have vouched that this ‘Hero’ will never be in charge.
“The same vendetta, persecution, hate, Political bulldozing, and political witch-hunt is still alive and well. It brought down VP Sam Sumana, now it is extended to the Koidu City mayor -Saa Emerson Lamina.
“News making the round that Diana Konomanyi is singlehandedly about to bring down the Koidu City Mayor is truth, and no one should be surprised. It is the accomplishing state of her vow – bringing down all other stars so that only hers can be seen.
“The corruption allegation is only a pretext. But I can assure all and sundry, and even the enemy knows that the attack is not on Koidu City Administration, headed by the Chief Administrator, rather it is aimed at the humble Mayor, who is the political leader of the council.
“Diana came to Koidu a week ago, and incited unscrupulous and misguided youth– hooligans; against this gentleman. The plan is to eliminate him.
“The project to smear the Mayor is an ongoing project. That is in fact why the council has changed Chief Administrators (CAs) far more than any other council. Those CAs were programmed and planted on him, and because they couldn’t succeed, most were retired whilst others with strong counter- political backing were thrown to other councils. Equally so for the Finance Officers (FOs).
“Mayor Lamina ‘s council has received and exchanged FOs far more than all other councils. Even where the Local Government Act of 2004 specifies that an administrative staff should take a minimum of three years in one station before they are transferred, yet in just the same three years (2013 to date), the Koidu City Council has received and passed on five CAs; namely CPJ Kallon, Rapid, Alhaji Alhaji, Konkoro and now Musa.
“These well experienced senior staff have not been able to implicate the Mayor. And sadly, most have met their administrative demise when they failed in their mission.
“Though we’ve not seen the letter in question, however; since we’re here in Kono and close to issues, the writing is clear that, because signs are boldly on the wall that the mayor will win the tax evasion case against Octea.
“Octea sit in the hearts of Diana Konomanyi and Chief Paul Saquee, because it is the company that had financed most of their demeaning projects against the sacked vice president in Kono. By standing against them, or asking the company to pay tax, is regarded as an additional burden which the ‘greedy two’ think the company cannot bear.
“I can assure you that among the nineteen councils, Koidu City Council is the most transparent. The council has received an endless number of visits from the auditing teams sent by central government, including the Deputy Permanent Secretary who also joined the auditing team, although it is not his job. The ‘minister’ wants to get at the mayor.”
The Sierra Leone Telegraph will bring you more on this development as they happen. But for now, the latest is that the mayor has this afternoon been forcefully removed from his office by heavily armed police officers, firing tear gas at local youths supporting the mayor. The city remains tense.