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‘Victor Foh occupying an illegal office’

- and ‘President has no legal right to remove his vice’ …submit Sam-Sumana’s lawyers

July 22, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS … Ambassador Foh’s legality as Vice President being challenged

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS … Ambassador Foh’s legality as Vice President being challenged

As the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone yesterday commenced full trial on the constitutional matter between sacked Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana versus the Attorney General and Minister of Justice as 1st defendant and Victor Bockarie Foh as 2nd defendant, lead lawyer for the plaintiff, Charles Francis Margai, submitted in court that “President Ernest Bai Koroma does not have the legal right to remove his vice from office as he did”, citing sections 50 and 51 of the 1991 Constitution as his authority.

In his submission before acting Chief Justice Valesius Thomas, Justices Nicholas Browne-Marke, Eku Roberts, Vivian Solomon and Patrick Hamilton, lawyer Margai said the application before the court was the originating notice of motion dated 20th March, 2015 with a supported affidavit sworn on the above date.

He said on the 3rd March, 2015 the statement of case for the plaintiff was filed together with an affidavit to the statement of case.

He said on the 8th April, 2015 the statement of the first defendant was filed in court together with the statement of case for the 2nd defendant, including the affidavit. He argued that from the face of the notice of the originating motion, the plaintiff had asked questions for the determination of the court and further sought as to whether the Constitution of Sierra Leone empowered the President to remove his Vice from his functions by sections 50 and 51 of the said 1991 Constitution.

He said the relief sought was for the court to determine the constitutionality in the removal of the Vice President and the appointment of the present Vice President, Victor Bockarie Foh.

He argued that sections 50 and 51 are not confided in the President alone but also in the Vice President, adding that Exhibit A was the press release from State House which relieved the elected Vice President from performing his functions.

He cited the State House press release, which he said emphasised that the sacked Vice President sought an asylum, as well as abandoned his office.

“The only way the Vice President can be removed from office is by the constitutional provision, which is clearly stated in section 55 of the 1991 Constitution,” maintained the veteran lawyer-cum-politician and asked: “What was the response of the embassy assuming that an asylum was sought as alleged? Should it have been granted by the embassy? The court does not have any answer to such.”

He said the court does not know as to whether the asylum was granted or considered, thus submitting that the action of the President was grounded on the letter of expulsion of Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana from the APC party dated 6th March, 2015, using sections 40 to 41 of the 1991 Constitution.

Mr. Margai further submitted that the letter of expulsion was not before the court, noting that according to section 51(3), both the President and the Vice President were elected together and that the status quo should continue between both of them till the end of their term of office.

“Except the 1978 Constitution which provided for the appointment of a Vice President by the President, but such provision was repealed and replaced by the 1991 Constitution,” he said.

Margai further submitted that the plaintiff’s originating notice of motion be granted if not for the plaintiff but for the integrity of the Judiciary and the supremacy of the Constitution.

Addressing on the case of the 2nd defendant Victor Bockarie Foh, lawyer Mohamed Pa-Momo Fofanah said they were in court pursuant to sections 134 and 127, which showed that they were properly before the court.

He said there was no evidence before the court that there was a fraction and a gross misconduct of the VP in performing his functions, and argued that even if such were the case, “they should have gone through Parliament and not be done by the President”.

“If a sitting president can remove his vice from performing his duties because he does not belong to a political party, what if the same party expels the president himself, what will be the fate of the sovereignty of the state?” asked lawyer Fofanah.

He therefore submitted that removing the constitutionally elected Vice President and appointing another was unconstitutional, noting that the current VP was occupying an illegal office and called on the judges to uphold the 1991 Constitution for the constitutional liberty of the plaintiff and the people of Sierra Leone.

It could be recalled that Alhaji Sam-Sumana’s lawyers had filed an originating motion at the Supreme Court on 20 March, seeking an interpretation of whether the President can “relieve the Vice President of his office and duties” other than by ways prescribed by sections 50 and 51 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. They also asked that the court interprets whether the President, by way of his “Supreme Executive Authority”, can unilaterally sack his Vice President.