Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 December 2019:
A few days ago, a press statement was published by Mr Quinton Terry, accusing the President and First Lady of Sierra Leone of breach of property lease agreement and abuse of power (see below).
This statement has gone viral on social media, and has the potential to damage the offices of the president and the First Lady, and by extension – the credibility of the government – especially in the eyes of the international community and foreign investors, if not properly managed with the sense of responsibility the complaint deserves.
While public and elected officials are entitled to their private lives, there is a very thin and slippery line of demarcation between their private lives and the code of conduct which informs their standards of conduct in public life.
And whilst the property lease agreement for which allegations of abuse of office are being made by Mr Quinton Terry against the President and First Lady, took place before the President was elected in March 2018, it is a matter that ceased to be private in March 2018.
If it is therefore the case that the President and First lady purchased the property as alleged from another party, knowing fully well that they could not have received clean title deeds to the property for transfer of ownership, then there is prima facie a case to answer.
Whether it is possible that the President and First Lady may not have been aware that the person selling the property to them, did not, or could not have had the legal authority to sell the property, is itself of no legal standing in law. The principle of ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware) applies.
However, legal experts that have perused the legal documents regarding this case, have concluded that while it is a matter for the Courts in Sierra Leone to determine the facts based on evidence, and arrive at a judgement as to who owns the property – and who is indebted to who, care must be taken by the President and First Lady to comply with the laws of the land so as to avoid being accused of abuse of office for personal gain.
So, what do we know about this case that is now of keen interest to the public, amid growing claims of Krio land and property being grabbed?
This is what Mr Quinton Terry told the Sierra Leone Telegraph (which we understand is consistent with the complaints he filed with the Anti-Corruption Commission for action, and was rejected):
“I, Quinton E. Terry, holder of “Power of Attorney” for Property of the late Mr. Terence M. Terry situated at 32A Juba Terrace, Juba Hill, Freetown, entered into a lease agreement with Mr. Julius Maada Bio and Mrs. Fatima Maada Bio (Tenants) on 20th July 2016. The agreement was to expire on 30th June 2019.
“The Power of Attorney for the said property and Lease Agreement were prepared by Lawyer Yada Williams Esq., and Lawyer Leon Jenkins-Johnson Esq. respectively.
“The first yearly payment of USD 20,000 was paid to me by president Julius Maada Bio and Mrs. Fatima Bio, and USD 5,000 retained by me (the lessor) for yearly repairs to the property as agreed.
“But for whatever reason not made known to me by the president and Mrs. Bio, the second and third payments for 2017 and 2018, were not paid to me in accordance with the signed lease agreement. Numerous attempts to contact the president and Mrs. Bio by phone, messaging and in writing were to no avail. I got no response from them.
“In July 2017, I shockingly received a copy of a receipt of payment from my niece in London by the name of Diane Terry, purportedly being payment for the second year that she received from Maada Bio and Fatima Bio. Upon receiving this receipt, I showed it to Lawyer Leon Jenkins-Johnson who was the preparer of the Lease Agreement to take action.
This was a few months before Lawyer Leon Jenkins-Johnson was appointed as the country’s Ombudsman by president Bio.
“It would appear in my view that this is a fraudulent act between the Tenants and Diane Terry, my niece who is a signed witness to the lease agreement but not authorized to receive payments from Maada Bio and Fatima Bio.
“No action was taken by Lawyer Leon Jenkins-Johnson to address the situation. Eventually, I was advised to write directly to Maada Bio and Fatima Bio, informing them that the second year payment has not been paid to me directly in accordance with the signed lease agreement.
“Since then, I have not received the third and final payment which was due on 1st July 2018, preceding the end of the lease agreement in June 2019.
“Furthermore, the Lease Agreement stated that Tenants wishing to extend the agreement shall do so in writing six months to the end of the lease agreement. No such intent to extend the lease has been received from the president and Mrs. Bio.
“They are still in possession of the property despite the fact that the lease has long expired. All efforts have been made to reach them through third party contacts, but to no avail.
“The president and Mrs. Bio have breached the Lease Agreement after failing to make payments totalling $40,000 for the last two consecutive years. And appears also that they have taken possession of the property. I consider this to be a serious abuse of their powers as Head of State and First Lady of Sierra Leone respectively, and call upon them to settle this unfortunate matter immediately.”
Mr. Quinton Terry has made several attempts to pursue this matter through the Anti-Corruption Commission, but was told that it is a private matter and therefore outside the scope and authority of the Commission.
On the 12th of February, 2019, Mr. Quinton Terry published this Public Notice in Freetown and Worldwide:
Property of Terence M. Terry (Deceased) At 32A Juba Terrace Juba Hill Freetown
Following an audio clip making the rounds on social media insinuating that property belonging to the deceased, Terence M. Terry, situate and lying at 32A Juba Terrace, Juba Hill, in the Western Urban Area of Freetown has been sold or is in the process of being sold, the family of Terence· M. Terry wishes to state categorically that such purported sale or arrangement to sell said property is false, baseless and without merit.
Be it known that said property is under a lease agreement for a period of Three Years ending June 30th, 2019. The family of Terence M. Terry is gravely concerned that misleading and false information about said property is jeopardizing the authority and responsibility placed on the family of Terence M. Terry, deceased.
The public is hereby notified that all and any matter/s regarding the said property should be directed to Mr. Quinton E. Terry (Custodian of Power of Attorney for said property) on +232 76 710095
Dated: February 12, 2019
SIGNED: Quinton Terry
Mr. Quinton Terry also issued this press statement last week, dated 6th December 2019, informing the media about his allegations against president Bio and Mrs. Fatima Bio:
All efforts to get the president’s side of the story have failed. Despite several requests sent by the Sierra Leone Telegraph and phone calls made to senior government officials, including the presidential spokesman to get information from the president’s office about these allegations, there has been no response. They remain quiet.