Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 February 2023:
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development – Tamba Lamina has written to all elected Mayors, Chairpersons and Councillors across the country, telling them to leave office on the 1st of March 2023, ahead of general, presidential and local council elections taking place in June 2023. (Photo above: Local Government Minister Tamba Lamina and President Bio).
According to Section 137 of the Local Government Act 2022, “All local councils shall stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of five years commencing from the date of the first sitting after the last General Election, at any date not later than the date of the dissolution of parliament in accordance with the provisions of Section 85 (1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone.”
But according to Freetown City Council records, the five-year anniversary of the first Council meeting is in June 2023, and the first sitting of parliament after the last elections was on the 25th of April 2018.
Therefore, all Local Councils were expected to be dissolved on the 25th of April 2023 the latest, as opposed to the minister’s enforced date – 1st of March 2023 expressed in his letter to councils last week. (Below is Clause 137 of the Local Government Act 2022).
President Bio is now being accused by the opposition and critics of dissolving local councils prematurely ahead of elections taking place in June 2023 contrary to law, so as to gain electoral advantage at the polls.
This accusation comes on the back of criticism of the former military junta leader’s attempt at destroying Sierra Leone’s democratic space and pluralistic values, by coercing and bribing opposition leaders to either join his ruling SLPP party, or form coalition ahead of what is going to be a fiercely contested election in June 2023..
On the 8th of February 2022, just over a year ago, the parliament of Sierra Leone debated and passed into law – The Local Government (Amendment) Act, 2022.
The aim of the 2022 Act is to amend the Local Government Act of 2004 by extending the period for local council elections from four years to five years; extend the tenure of chairpersons, Mayors and elected councillors from four years to five years to reflect the tenure of other elective public offices; and also according to the government, to reduce costs of running local councils.
Presenting the Bill to parliament, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Tamba Lamina (Photo), said at the time that “the Local Government Amendment Act 2022, will make local council elections permanent and conducted in line with the general elections – every five years.”
A year on, it seems the minister under the direction of President Bio is now using his powers to curtail the authority of elected councillors and Mayors, long before elections are held in June 2023.
Speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, a senior official in the Ministry of Local Government said that by dissolving local councils early, opposition councillors and Mayors will not be able to use State resources to campaign.
But critics say that this is hypocritical of the government, as ministers and ruling SLPP politicians will use the power of incumbency to fully gain access to State resources as well as finance, to bankroll their election campaign.
According to the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), a large number of electoral seats will be up for grabs under the new proportional representation system ushered in by President Bio a few months ago: 135 parliamentary seats; 493 local councillor seats; and 22 local council chairpersons and Mayors across the country.
I believe that this notice is not exclusively for the mayor of Freetown. If the notice is unconstitutional, the opposition party can take it to the Supreme Court for interpretation instead of blaming President Bio. Probably it’s poor choice of words by the minister, but the law is the law.
Proportional Representation electoral system is what then Retired Brigadier Maada Bio who is the father of our democracy used to unite our nation after the 10 years civil war. Our citizens sacrificed their hands and limbs for this system. 85 countries around the world already practiced that form of democracy.
Hahaha, this president is too smart, your excellency, how did you learned the expensive politics like this brother? no wonder your public relations studies now paying you heavy, wow. President Bio had put all APCs on defensive line. I can remember yesterday I was in Makeni in APCs meeting when Dr. Samura Kamara was predicted again, as the next nominee for the APC flagbearer comes June, 2023. Folks, RIP to APC on the elections day. The unnamed person asked me if I can help to mobilize my friends people who knew me, my response was as follows; as long as not the real man that I believed even Bio himself scared of him by any chance, that is ” Chief Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana”, without him don’t expect nothing from me and my friends. Trust me, if this one tribe thinks like, presidency in this country is” heritage”, brother it’s going to take over 40 year before APC smells the state house again. Thank you…. I hope my article published. Please brother do that.
This is what with over enthusiastic officials who will go at any length to please the president. Being a local government minister does give you the authority to control councils which are devolved institutions and operate under the laws in this case the local government act.
The minister has clearly acted outside his authority and should publicly withdraw his unprofessionally written letter followed by an apology. Local councils are elected bodies and deserve to be treated with respect especially after they have served their communities for the last 5 years. I am sure there are clear guidelines within council regulations on how they hand over and leave office.
Public officials should always seek professional and not political advice before taking critical decisions or else they become a public embarrassment to themselves and the President.