By Sorie Fofana……………………………..
President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah inherited the Wanza debt from the NPRC. The NPRC had awarded a contract to famous Lebanese businessman, Mohamed Wanza for the supply of a marine suveillance boat. By the time the NPRC left office in 1996, Mr. Wanza’s company had still not supplied the surveillance boat to the Government of Sierra Leone.
When President Kabbah was elected in 1996, he was confronted with the issue of payment to Wanza’s company. He got the issue to be investigated by the Police and even by Parliament. Both institutions confirmed that, the contract was beyond reproach.
President Kabbah refused to back down!
He decided to set up a Cabinet sub-committee headed by his Vice President, Dr. Albert Joe Demby to investigate the matter. The committee came out with the same findings namely that, the Government of Sierra Leone owes Mr. Wanza’s company, Melborne Enterprises the amount that was being claimed by the supplier.
This writer did an exclusive interview with President Kabbah on the issue. He made it very clear that, he was not going to pay Mr. Wanza for the surveillance boat, because, it was not worth the amount the supplier was claiming.
To be fair with Mr. Wanza, he did not want to go to court in order to force the Government to pay him. He decided to directly contact President Kabbah’s wife (the late Mrs. Patricia Kabbah) to influence her husband to pay him.
President Kabbah got angry when his late wife advised him to pay Mr. Wanza because everybody had said that, the Government of Sierra Leone owed the supplier. President Kabbah said that, by directedly contacting his wife, Mr. Wanza had invaded his bedroom.
President Kabbah was furious also that, the media (or a good section of it) had ganged up against him in favor of a Lebanese businessman. That also hardened his resolve not to pay Mr. Wanza.
President Kabbah’s attempt to get the “Sierra Leone Daily Mail” to write a hard-hitting editorial condemning Wanza’s influence in the media was rebuffed.
To cut a long story short, President Kabbah stood his ground and refused to pay Mr. Wanza for the surveillance boat.
Enters President Koroma
Mr. Wanza fled the country and settled in Nigeria, where he has established a thriving business.
It is reported that, as Majority House Leader, the late Hon. Sewa Bockarie Marah (SB Marah) travelled to Jos, Nigeria and stayed in Wanza’s private house.
He even telephoned President Kabbah (who was still President) and told him that he was staying with Wanza and that he was being well looked after.
By the time S.B. Marah returned home, Kabbah had reviewed his relationship with him. When S.B. Marah decided to drive his car during curfew hours, he was arrested by ECOMOG soldiers and detained for five hours at the Wilberforce Military Barracks. He was only released after he telephoned President Kabbah to intervene and secure his release from open detention.
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma came to power in 2007. He inherited the Wanza debt. Wanza decided to pursue legal action against the Government of Sierra Leone in the ECOWAS Court in Abuja, Nigeria for failure to honor a legitimate debt.
The Government of Sierra Leone, according to the then Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Alhaji I.B. Kargbo was not going to allow the reputation of the country to be besmirched in the international community by going through a senseless legal battle in the ECOWAS Court.
The Government agreed to pay Mr. Wanza in order to avoid a costly legal tussle in the ECOWAS Court.
The Lebanese merchant got paid even before the matter got underway in the ECOWAS Court.
The Plight Of Tayyib Bah
Mr. Mohamed El Tayyib Bah joined the Sierra Leone Police Force as a Cadet Officer in 1984. He was commissioned as Assistant Superintendent in 1987.
Mr. Tayyib Bah was unfairly dismissed from the Sierra Leone Police Force in 1994. He was falsely accused of insubordination and of having links with the then RUF leadership. Both allegations were never proven and Mr. Tayyib Bah was never given the opportunity to defend himself against such unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations.
A Police internal investigation in April 2008 proved that, Mr. Tayyib Bah’s dismissal from the Sierra Leone Police Force was “unprocedural and that he was not even given the opportunity to defend himself when he filed a petition against his dismissal”.
Mr. Tayyib Bah, who fled the country and settled in the United Kingdom, had his entire adult life ruined by his unfair dismissal from the Sierra Leone Police Force.
He was never able to secure a paid job in the UK because of his record as a dismissed Police Officer. His attempt to gain a lucrative job at the Home Office in the UK was turned down because he stated in his application for the job that he was dismissed from the Sierra Leone Police Force.
Mr. Tayyib Bah decided to take the matter of unlawful dismissal and an abuse of his fundamental human rights to the ECOWAS Court in Abuja, Nigeria in 2013.
In September 2015, the ECOWAS Court ruled that, the dismissal of Mr. El Tayyib Bah from the Sierra Leone Police Force was illegal.
The court awarded him US$250,000 (Two hundred and fifty thousand United States dollars) in damages and ordered the Government of Sierra Leone to reinstate him and pay him all backlog salaries and other benefits.
Mr. Tayyib Bah has a serious medical condition that requires urgent treatment in Germany. He underwent a liver surgery in the UK in March 2014.
He is due to undergo a second surgery in Germany this year costing about Euros 7,500,00 (Seven thousand five hundred Euros) and the man cannot just afford it.
This is a Government of law and order. The plight of Mr. Tayyib Bah must be addressed on compassionate grounds. The Government cannot allow one of its citizens to die without receiving his legitimate entitlements.
Mr. Tayyib Bah served the Sierra Leone Police Force diligently for ten years. He was dismissed from the Police Force on trumped up charges. He was never given the opportunity to defend himself.
The man is a member of the ruling party. In fact, he was the ruling party’s candidate in Constituency 074 in the Bo district in the 2012 elections.
He campaigned vigorously for the APC Party in the Bo district in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
In an interview recently, Mr. Tayyib Bah clarified that, he did not take his Party (the APC) to court. He said he took the Republic of Sierra Leone Government to court.
Mr. Tayyib Bah has consistently described President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as a compassionate leader who will never allow the State to trample on the rights of its citizens.
The Government of President Koroma should take a hard look at the plight of Mr. El Tayyib Bah and address it speedily.
The impression should not be created that, Sierra Leone is not worth dying for. The Government should find ways and means to address the plight of Mr. El Tayyib Bah. A stitch in time saves nine!
May common sense prevail!