Sierra Leone’s Court of Appeal upholds commission of inquiry verdict

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 May 2021:

The Court of Appeal presided by Justice Fatmatta Bintu Alhadi, yesterday dismissed all grounds of appeal by SOGEFEL SARL, a construction company; and Mrs. Vicky M. Jusu, a former employee of the Rokel Commercial Bank, against the findings and recommendations of the judge-led Commissions of Inquiry (COI) into corruption by the previous government.

The three Appeals Court Judges – Justices Fatmata Bintu Alhadi (Photo), Komba Kamanda, and Mrs. Tonia Barnett unanimously ordered SOGEFEL SARL to pay the sum of Le100,000,000 as cost for the Appeal.

In his argument, Lawyer L. M Baryoh representing SOGEFEL SARL – the Construction company contracted to rehabilitate and expand Fourah Bay College (FBC), told the Court that the Sole Commissioner acted outside his terms of reference against his Client who was not a Person of Interest and therefore in excess of his jurisdiction.

He further argued that the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the Sole Commissioner of the COI, contravened the Principle of Natural Justice in that he failed to accord his client the opportunity to be heard.

He maintained that the totality of the evidence against his client did not support the findings and recommendations of the sole COI Commissioner.

Representing the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Lawyer Robert Kowa, argued that the Appellant falls within the terms of reference of the Commission, and therefore ascertained as one of those who collaborated with the persons of interest (former government officials and ministers).

He also went on to argue that because an evaluation of the evidence by the Commissioner showed that the State had sufficiently made out a “prima facie” case against only one of the Persons of Interest, Dr. Minkailu Bah and his collaborators, the Commissioner was not obligated to invite the Appellant, and therefore not in breach of the rules of Nature Justice.

In her Judgment, Justice Alhadi stated that even though the Appellant is not a Person of Interest, he was connected to the activities of the Person of Interest, Dr. Minkailu Bah, since he received the sum of Le 2,381,438,126.00 to rehabilitate and extend FBC.

The three Judges concluded that, “the appeal is frivolous and without any foundation. There’s no justifiable ground to reverse the findings and recommendations against the Appellant, SOGEFEL SARL.” Dismissing the appeal, the Justices jointly agreed that the Appellant’s grounds of appeal failed.

With almost similar grounds of appeal made by Counsel representing Mrs. Vicky M. Jusu – regarding the purchase of / and or living in a house belonging to the State, Lawyer H. M Gevao (acting for Mrs. Jusu) had argued that the Sole COI Commissioner erred in law, when he proceeded to make mention of the Appellant’s quarters in his report, having acquired same legitimately.

But the court ruled that, “the public officials who signed these said documents were also either criminally negligent or reckless, since they didn’t do any due diligence to confirm whether she was entitled to a government quarter or not.”

While they held that the Appellant approached the correct forum – the court to appeal and address her grievances, she did not come to equity with clean hands for which her appeal was dismissed.

In other developments, Justices Ivan A. Sesay, Momoh-Jah Stevens, and Adrian J. Fisher, yesterday acquitted and discharged Denis K. Vandy – former Minister of Agriculture (Photo), who was accused and found guilty of corruption by the COI.

Denis K Vandy could be remembered for his appointment as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security after a cabinet reshuffle by President Bio, just months following his sacking as Secretary to the President.

Delivering judgement, Justice Fisher ordered that the former Minister of Agriculture’s appeal is granted, and that all findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry should be set aside as those findings were not supported by evidence, adding that all monies paid by the former Minister of Agriculture – if any, should be refunded accordingly.

The COI corruption case involving the former President Ernest Bai Koroma and the main opposition APC 2018 presidential candidate – Dr. Samura Kamara, opened at the Court of Appeal yesterday and was adjourned to next month without both Kamara and Koroma present at yesterday’s opening.

1 Comment

  1. Interesting verdicts arrived by a trio of 2 distinct sets of judges — (Justices Fatmata Bintu Alhadi, Komba Kamanda, and Mrs. Tonia Barnett) who appear to be toeing the regime’s stance in afflicting mayhem to all former regime officials and any one deemed to be closely associated with them, and (Justices Ivan A. Sesay, Momoh-Jah Stevens, and Adrian J. Fisher) who appears to turning a blind eye to any corrupt official with ties with the current regime.

    With Adrian Fisher alleged to be an ardent supporter of the current regime, and just few days ago, was reported to have delivered a questionable verdict in the case between APC and its disgruntled faction NRM, citizens who have no connections with the current regime must be wary of seeking justice within his jurisdiction.

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