Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 June 2021:
Sierra Leone’s Bank Governor, Professor Kelfala M. Kallon, the man that many in Sierra Leone had pinned much hope on, of helping the government turn the economy around but has so far failed, is in deep trouble with the judiciary after accusing the country’s Judges of taking bribes in a media report published in the Awoko newspaper.
The Bank Governor has tendered unreserved apologies to all Justices of the Court of Judicature and the Judiciary who describe his media comments as ‘scandalous and defamatory’.
“I am very sorry. My intention was not to paint the Judiciary bad. My comments about the Judiciary were historical interpretation as presented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I profusely apologise and I am very sorry. It was a mistake but let me say that I was misinterpreted,” Professor Kallon said.
The Bank Governor says that the content of Awoko’s publication was a direct misrepresentation of comments he made at the Raddison Blu International Conference Center.
Last Thursday, 10th June 2021, Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards summoned the Bank Governor to a meeting with Supreme Court Justices to discuss his remarks.
The Chief Justice who departed Freetown to attend the 5th High Level Meeting of Chief Justices and Heads of Constitutional Courts in Africa held in Cairo, Egypt, was unable to chair the meeting with the Bank Governor which took place on Friday, 11th June, 2021 to discuss the Bank Governor’s comments published on the front page of Awoko newspaper – Vol. 28 No. 98 with a banner headline: ‘Bank Governor Blames Judges for Non-Recovery of Bad Loans’.
The Wednesday, 9th June, 2021 Awoko edition quoted the Bank Governor, Professor Kallon, as saying: “if you have a private sector that people who go to borrow don’t want to pay, when you put their collateral they go and bribe judges. The Bank of Sierra Leone never wins a case in this country, you know why, because the Bank don’t bribe.”
Denying the newspaper report, the Bank Governor told the Supreme Court Judges: “I am very sorry. My intention was not to paint the Judiciary bad. My comments about the Judiciary were historical interpretation as presented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I profusely apologise and I am very sorry. It was a mistake but let me say that I was misinterpreted.”
But the Judges do not seem to have believed a word that the Bank Governor (Photo) told them in his defence.
Justice Miatta Maria Samba said the Bank Governor’s statement was an incitement to the public against the Judiciary. “Your statement is similar to what the journalists do. You do the harm and apologise but let me say that I feel very hurt by your comments,” she told the Bank Governor, who the Sierra Leone Telegraph understands is now fighting to save his job after this newspaper gaffe.
The President of the Industrial Court, Justice Sengu Koroma said that the Bank Governor’s remarks about the Bank not winning any case were incorrect.
Justices Deen Tarawallie and Alusine Sesay expressed similar sentiments and said they were utterly shocked at the Bank Governor’s remarks.
The Acting Chief Justice – Nicholas Browne-Marke who chaired the meeting with the Bank Governor, said evidence are there to show that about four commercial banks have closed operations not because of the Courts, including ProCredit, IBTI and Meridian Banks.
However, he said that he appreciated the Bank Governor’s immediate apology for his ‘unfortunate statement,’ and encouraged the Central Bank to continue to repose confidence in the Judiciary to build a better Sierra Leone.
Concluding the meeting which was also attended by Justice Eku Roberts, the Supreme Court Judges told the Bank Governor that he will be invited to another meeting at which the Chief Justice would be present, so that the position of the Judiciary will be made clear about any possible line of action or resolution.
Responding to the Bank Governor’s statement that the content of Awoko’s publication was a direct misrepresentation of his comments made at Raddison Blu International Conference Center, this is what Awoko newspaper said:
“Our attention has been drawn to the press release issued by the Judiciary in which the Bank Governor claims that we Awoko Newspaper quoted him out of context. We wish to inform the Bank Governor that we have him on tape and we would have shared the audio publicly on all social media platforms.
“We will however not do that, not because we want to protect the Bank Governor’s integrity which is already soiled, but out of respect for the Judiciary and the work they so selflessly do which most times goes unheralded.
“We reiterate that at Awoko we hold ourselves to the highest standards and we do not publish to destroy people’s character, but we cannot be held responsible for senior government officials who make flippant statements in public forums which might go to harm the country’s image abroad.
“We advise them to engage proper and professional media handlers to guide their appearances and save our country from embarrassing gaffes.”
Political observers are now saying that the Bank Governor’s job is hanging on a thread after this newspaper gaffe, as well as his inability to help stem the declining value of the Leone against major global currencies. The Leone has lost 40% of its value since President Bio took office three years ago.