July 2, 2015 By Oswald Hanciles
CNN is showing a special programme, titled, ‘The Month That Changed America’ – June, 2015: the gunning down of 9 African-Americans inside the A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by the ‘racist-poisoned’ white 21 year old Dylann Roof (June 22); the US Supreme Court’s 6 to 3 decision for ‘Obamacare’ – the ‘Affordable Care Act’; the Court’s recent decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges that ‘same-sex’ marriage is legal in every state in the US (June 29), etc. Roof’s avowed aim was to “start a racist war” in the US – that aim has boomeranged, and, his murder of 9 African-Americans while at prayer meeting inside their church has served as a form of catharsis, apparently kindling the best of human virtues among millions of Americans. There are certain big and small incidences or events that can (or, should!) have profound positive effects on a nation. For Sierra Leone, the Revolutionary United Front’s Foday Sankoh-led ‘rebel war’ should have been one for deep reflection; stimulating our nation away from the vices that had plunged it into the abyss of human experience, and engendering a rebirth – like is happening in post-1994 Rwanda. What the ‘rebel war’ taught us (or, should have taught us!!) is that largely timid rural children and youth morphed into manipulated bestial beings – murdering wantonly; raping their mothers and babies; dropping infants into boiling pots of palm oil to ‘baptize’ them; and amputating their hapless victims with blunt knives…
The inherent propensity of humankind for Great Evil is not an esoteric philosophical abstraction for Sierra Leone – it was made manifest in our country for the ten years, 1991 to 2002. Swinging the pendulum to the other side, the intrinsic trait of mankind for Great Good was made patent when civil society helped to shoo the NPRC junta from power in 1996; was ennobling when civil society in unprecedented civil disobedience to the AFRC junta in 1997/1998 helped to provide the justification for the Nigeria-led ECOMOG troops to boot the AFRC from power. A ‘seed’ of Great Good can be discernible in the teenage technological genius, Kelvin Doe – and innate to this is the meaning in the $100,000 contract that was signed between our Negroid Sierra Leone ‘son’, Kelvin Doe, and the Caucasian, Canadian, Anthony Melhem of “…. Sierra WiFi (SL), subsidiary of World Affinity Telcom Incorporated…..”
The aforementioned contract dated “23 day of May, 2013” referred to Kelvin Doe as an “Independent Contractor”; and then the contract document even defined what an “Independent Contractor” is:….”Someone willing to provide certain skills and abilities to the Company, without working directly for the company. In consideration of the mutual terms, conditions and convenants hereinafter set forth….”
The contract states: “The company hereby employs the Independent Contractor, and the Independent Contractor accepts employment…..”. I find a problem there between “without working directly for the company” and “the company employs the Independent Contractor…”. Should it not have been ‘the company contracts the Independent Contractor’?
The next sentence in the contract states: “The Independent Contractor is non-exclusive, and may work wherever he prefers, as long as his performance at the Company is not affected”. That is another flexibility in the contract that is laudable: “The Independent Contractor is an Independent Contractor and nothing contained in this Agreement shall be deemed or interpreted to constitute the Independent Contractor as a partner, agent or employee of the company, nor shall either party have any authority to bind the other”. The contract was to “design and build some solar solutions for 300 of the company’s Wi-Fi access points…”.
And the sweetener in the contract: “The Company shall pay the Independent Contractor a total of one hundred thousand dollars (100,000) USD; payable over the period of this Agreement, based on deliverables”; including the Company giving to Kelvin Doe “…..a fully furnished laboratory and working materials for the project”.
And, for the then 17 year old Kelvin Doe, there was POWER inherent in the contract: “The Independent Contractor has full autonomy to choose his maintenance team and will jointly (50/50) share the responsibility of paying them”.
And the strength of this contract between the then 36 year old white Canadian and 17 year old black Sierra Leonean would be, according to Article 11 of the contract, this provision: “construed in accordance with and governed by the laws of Sierra Leone”.
Can a “minor” enter into contractual agreement?
I plead with lawyers in Sierra Leone to tell the public what was NOT favourable in this contract for Kelvin Doe that got it to be ‘annulled’, and the contract stopped from being executed. The reason given by local legal ‘experts’, I learned, was that Kelvin Doe at 17, was a minor, and therefore, should not have entered into a contractual agreement. Prima facie, that is true. But, if Anthony Melhem prepared, and have signed, a legal agreement with the minor in 2013, Kelvin Doe – without apparently consulting his own lawyer – then, he would have been the loser, in case of any legal hitch.
Information I have gleaned from the internet on laws on minors in the UK and US informs me thus about contracts with ‘minors’.
The Legal Pitfalls of Contracting a ‘Minor’
In the webpage by legal expert David Baker, (reference: http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_22/b3683155.htm), titled, “The Legal Pitfalls of Doing Business with Teens”, the author explains the risks of inking contracts with minors:
“Contracting with or buying an item from a teenage entrepreneur can put you in a legal minefield. For example, did you know that parents don’t have the right to contract for their minor children without court approval? Or that minors and their parents can void a contract for any reason up until the minor’s l8th birthday and, in some cases, for two years after that?” David Baker asks.
What that should mean for the Doe-Melhem contact was that Kelvin Doe could have signed that contact, get some of the money, and after one month, jets off to Dubai or U.S. for three months speaking tours, would be no legal grounds for Melhem to stand on to seek redess.
The consensus of legal opinion is clear: “….a minor [a person under age l8 in most states in the United States] cannot enter into a contract that is legally binding on the minor and a third party as an adult can. …Therefore, if someone …contracts with a minor, the contract is voidable by the minor or the minor’s guardian before the minor becomes an adult and, in most cases, for a period of two years and sometimes longer [after that]. Voidable means the minor or his guardian can elect, for any reason, not to honor the contract…. There is nothing that [someone contracting with a minor] can do to stop that…” .
A legal expert puts the risk that Anthony Melhem took very succinctly: “If at the time the minor or guardian seeks to void the contract, the consideration has been converted or consumed, the minor doesn’t have an obligation to return the money…”
The aforementioned contract was signed by not only Kelvin Doe, but, by his mother, Ajuah Daniels, and his uncle, Peter Doe. For one, both could lack the ‘intellectual capacity’ to sign for Kelvin Doe, since they stopped their formal schooling in primary school, and lack the capacity to understand a legal document. Importantly, according to ‘English and American law’, they lack the authority to “bindingly contract” the minor, Kelvin Doe. There are no inherent powers in a parent or guardian to sign a contract for a minor. What they should have done would be to go to a court – and ONLY the court would have given them permission to sign that contract on behalf of Kelvin Doe.
A legal expert puts it this way: “There are three relationships at issue in this situation — the court, the minor, and the guardian. The minor is the protected party. The guardian is the implementor. And the court is the safeguard which reviews everything…”
Kelvin Doe has to operate with the ‘spirit’ of internationalism
Kelvin Doe is now an international star; a globally recognized technological whiz kid. Under 18s, or, ‘minors’ coming up with ideas, or, inventions, and establishing businesses in which they often would be CEOs for, is now common place in the developed world. Here are two examples: 1. Ashley Qualls: The founder of WhateverLife.com got her ingenious idea back in 2004 when she was just 14. Meant to showcase her design skills, the site really took off when Qualls started doling out freebie MySpace layouts. An anonymous buyer offered her $1.5 million and the car of her choice, but she declined. 2. Juliath Brindak: She began creating sketched characters at age 10, and then developed a complementary social-media platform at 16. Her Miss O & Friends company is now worth an estimated $15 million, though Brindak gets most of her revenue from ads.
My conclusion is that there should have been more intellectual agility, emotions should have been bridled, and Anthony Melhem should have been encouraged to do a proper contract, going through all the legal procedures – not scared away him to stop the $100,000 contract. Clearly, Anthony Melhem has a ‘Christian Heart’. Before the 2013 contract, he had already spent about $20,000 to construct a two storey white and blue house for Kelvin Doe on her mother’s property in Dwarzack: which would house an Innovative Lab, and a top floor living quarter. During all the one year peak of the 2014 ‘Ebola Year’, Melhem gave a monthly stipend of Le800,000 to Kelvin for ‘learning’ on his WiFi office on Wilkinson Road. Now, Melhem is ready to sign a new contact with Kelvin, after ‘donating’ a three room well-air-conditioned apartment to him in the affluent West-End of Freetown. President Ernest Bai Koroma famously said in 2012 that he would even sacrifice his life for youth, and the Negroid Kelvin Doe – one day, we will write about ‘Kelvin Doe: The Youth that Changed Sierra Leone’ – is inherently one of President Koroma’s ‘blue-eyed boys’. Instead of our nation being world-famous for spawning nauseous child soldiers, Kelvin Doe begins the march for our nation to sprout teenage science and technological geniuses.