By Sorie Fofana.
Several weeks after he was sworn-in as President of Sierra Leone in 1996, a Lebanese businessman reportedly went to see President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah at State House. Without much ado, President Kabbah asked why he wanted to see him. The Lebanese businessman told him that he wanted to be the “eyes and ears” of the President within the Lebanese Community.
Feeling completely embarrassed, President Kabbah told the Lebanese businessman that his request to serve as a spy for him was being actively considered.
A week later, President Kabbah was briefed at a security meeting where he was informed that, that particular Lebanese businessman had grabbed twenty five acres of state land and was selling it at commercial rate.
The Lebanese businessman’s office was raided and fake documents from the Ministry of Lands were discovered and seized.
The Lebanese businessman, in trying to protect his looted property, offered to give five acres of the land to President Kabbah. Angry at the behavior of this crooked Lebanese, the President ordered an investigation into how the piece of land in question came to be acquired by the Lebanese spy. It was later discovered by private investigators that the land in question belongs to the State. The President ordered the land to be returned to the State. The Lebanese crook fled the country and never returned until President Kabbah left office in 2007.
In another instance, President Kabbah had travelled to London to carry out a routine medical check. He was visited by a prominent foreign businessman in Sierra Leone. The man offered to take care of President Kabbah’s medical bill which he had incurred whilst carrying out tests at a private laboratory in London. President Kabbah turned down the offer stating that the State was responsible for his medical expenses.
Later, President Kabbah discovered that this particular businessman had bided for a contract to supply farm tools and equipment to the Government of Sierra Leone. His bid was rejected and President Kabbah asked the Minister of Agriculture to blacklist the contractor.
Such is the determination with which President Kabbah led the fight against corruption. His critics however argued that, he did not allow the ACC to operate freely even though it was established during his Presidency.
Throughout his campaign for the Presidency, Julius Maada Bio promised to tackle corruption root and branch.
Immediately after he was elected in April 2018, President Julius Maada Bio set up a Government Transition Team tasked with the responsibility of taking stock of the state of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies and to submit a report to the President and Vice President on them. The GTT (Government Transition Team) headed by Prof. David Francis took about three months to complete their work.
The team recommended the setting up of a Judge-led special Commission of Inquiry “with a limited timeframe and mandate to recover all stolen or inappropriately converted state funds and other assets, including buildings, quarters, land and the hundreds of vehicles still unaccounted for (presumably stolen by officials of the APC Government)”.
The GTT calls on the special Judge-led Commission of Inquiry to ‘recommend for prosecution former APC officials whose corrupt conduct is found to be particularly egregious. The commission should also seek an explanation from former officials, under Section 26 of the Anti Corruption Act dealing with unexplained wealth, if it determines them to have accumulated such wealth during their time in public office”.
A Statutory Instrument for the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate former public officials in the APC administration between 2007 and 2018 has been laid in Parliament. According to the 1991 Constitution, any Instrument laid in Parliament can become law after twenty one days if it is not challenged.
In an attempt to block the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry, the main opposition APC party (the majority party in Parliament) has called for the Statutory Instrument to be debated openly in Parliament.
The APC party intends to use their majority status in Parliament to block the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry.
The APC party is fighting tooth and nail to frustrate President Bio’s efforts in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. The party is using its majority in Parliament to block the setting up of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate former APC leaders and officials. This attempt to derail justice is completely unwarranted and uncalled for.
The Commission of Inquiry will not be a court trial. Paragraph 5 (2) of the Statutory Instrument for the Commission states that, the proceedings of the Commission shall be held in public unless otherwise decided by the Commission in the interest of public safety or public order. Section 5 paragraph 4 states that, the Commission may in the public interest exclude the public or any particular person from its proceedings”.
These clauses are meant to protect those appearing before the Commission of Inquiry so that they might not be condemned by public opinion even before the Commission’s report is out.
It has to be emphasized that, the Commission will not be a court trial. Its final report will be handed over to the President for further action. It is up to the government to refer certain cases to a court of law or order certain people found to be wanton to refund stolen money or assets to the State.
Support President Bio
The nation is witnessing a sea-change in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. At least, for the first time in the history of post-Independence Sierra Leone, we have a new Head of State that is determined to tackle corruption with all the seriousness that the fight against corruption deserves.
President Bio’s credibility in the fight against corruption has been bolstered especially by the fact that he has shown genuine determination to end corruption in Sierra Leone.
President Bio’s fight against corruption is unstoppable. So, let’s support him to win the war against corruption in Sierra Leone. This is a fight that we must win.
God bless us all!