By Maada Gumbu PV Correspondent……..
The Law School saga has a tendency to spark another civil war if a segment of the media which has played a great role in laying the foundation for the victimization of many people is not restrained at this moment. This could also be attributed to the multiplier effect of the phenomenon itself.
If we go back to history, we would unearth that three- fourths of the contributing factors to the civil war yesterday originated from so-called investigations in which foul became fair and fair became foul. We have to be very careful when certain events have a multiplier effect. This is the first time in history of Sierra Leone and perhaps even in West Africa as a region that fifty- five people out of seventy- one called to the bar are disbarred again by the same authorities who called them to the Bar. There is nothing wrong with conducting an investigation and there could be no denial that some of the allegations are true but some could also be false. When people look at “how” things are done and not “why” they find out that procedures may not have been followed correctly either administratively or based on legal principles. The “why” gives you very good explanation that may convince you but the “how” makes you critical because you
look at procedures and principles that should have been made use of. In such a scenario those of us who have conducted investigation into the matter needs to first of all get the public apprised of the facts of the matter so as not to be misled by paid programmes on radio stations or by journalists who are fighting a cause for one set of people. Over the past few months, the media, especially the electronic, and one or two paid newspapers, with the aid of one set of people have been publishing one- sided reports on what they referred to as “Law School exams fraud”. Not surprisingly, one set of people were allowed to be on air making specific allegations about certain people and the electronic media allowed it to go on with impunity even though it had the tendency of prejudicing any conceived investigation. They know that if allegations are general, a person in a studio or on the line could be allowed to say what he wanted to say, but if they were specific about a particular person or institution, then the person or institution affected should be in the studio together with the person originating the allegation so as to reply simultaneously, which is in consonance with the Independent Media Commission (IMC) code of ethics and the legal principle of ‘hear the other side’. However, in the midst of the mischief perpetrated by a segment of the media, an investigation was instituted at the Sierra Leone Law School albeit the prejudicial broadcasts that preceded it without any restraint either from the Independent Media Commission or the Sierra Leone Bar Association. At last, the investigating committee has come out with its report but certain procedural defects have been observed about it. These are, but may not be limited to;
1. That the investigation was not a conceived idea of the Sierra Leone Law School administration nor the Council of Legal Education but by what has been now commonly known as “aggrieved students” and by a tutor who has lost his job at the Law School. It has now set a precedent that whoever fails in the future would petition those who pass and whoever lost his job would back such aggrieved students . The next thing you see is that if an investigation were to be conducted those affected would not be interrogated, informed or allowed to have knowledge of what is going on until they see a notice that they have been disbarred. Then the aggrieved students who would be called to testify in the investigation, contrary to natural justice principle of hear the other side would then rejoice.
2. That the investigating committee woefully failed or neglected to take into consideration or rejected certain educational principles like ;
a. The right of tutors to determine whether a particular student has satisfied him and therefore should be awarded a passing grade. This right of tutors is also exercised by rounding up figures at meetings scheduled for such purpose, taking into consideration continuous assessment, class participation, academic record and other considerations.
b. The committee also fails to consider or neglected the fact that even after results have been published, if a student has evidence that he should not have been failed, not withstanding that he has been failed, his result could be amended. This is a universal equitable principle which is within the ambit of educational principles and is made use of in schools and tertiary institutions within and without Sierra Leone. There have been instances at Fourah Bay College when after convocation students who have evidence that their results should be amended went there and presented them. A typical case is that of a law student who got an Upper Second Class degree but had evidence that it should be First class. The amendment was done even though he was by then at the Law School already.
c. It has now come out clearly that certain mischievous persons who have just been called to the Bar have been using surreptitious means to send misleading information to the Committee which has a tendency to mislead the committee that ended having misguided judgment of issues.
d. That one set of students was invited by the committee during the investigations but others who were mostly affected by the findings (contrary to the natural justice principle of hear the other side) were never called which raises questions of impartiality and fairness. And don’t forget that it is a precedent if not reviewed now.
e. That not even the tutors were invited for queries to know why they did what the committee perceived to be “wrong” (which is a right they have or a discretion they could exercise as stated in paragraph a in this release).
f. That long before the official report of the committee was deliberated on by the Sierra Leone Bar Association, the set of aggrieved students were already in possession of it and one of them claimed that he got it from one of the committee members (whose name would be released later) which nakedly exposed the biased approach adopted by the Committee and creates a room for suspicion on a plot to victimize certain members called to the Bar.
g. That the committee because of the reasons stated above ended making sweeping allegations irrespective of the fact that there were variations and exceptionalities in the nature of problems being handled at the time.
h. These and many more clearly exposed certain omissions of the committee, and its failure to make use of educational experts to guide it in handling complex issues like those that arose during the investigations. Because of the diversion from the reality itself there is therefore the need for a new impartial and independent committee to be set up not comprising any member of the Bar , Judiciary, General Legal Council, Council of Legal Education or any legal Practitioner as an infighting is surreptitiously going on in the Judiciary. Let not innocent people be made sacrificial lambs by people who think they can climb the ladder or settle old scores through such means.
What analytical minds have discovered is that history is replete with cases in which so-called investigations led to the destruction of people and in extreme cases their execution which were all contributing factors to the civil war in the past. If these ugly issues are rearing their heads again at this time of our history and the press does not restrain itself and tries to be impartial, there is a tendency for the multiplier effect to thrive and plunge this country again into another conundrum. There is therefore a need to appeal to the press to call those affected whenever anybody or group of people want to make use of paid programmes in a radio station. It is good and ethical for an affected person to be in the studio than mischievously allowing someone to talk lengthily and then call those affected to say something on phone for few minutes. Newspapers especially those that survive through the commercialization of issues should also call those affected to have their own side of the story so that we can all enjoy the peace we have been yearning for.
Let us all fight to dig up the truth instead of listening to the officious bystanders and the mischievous propaganda peddlers. Problems like these started yesterday little by little until the country exploded.