By Ibrahim Kabba Turay
The Court of Appeal presided over by Justice Fatmatta Bintu Alhadi (JA), has informed the counsel representing former President Ernest Bai Koroma,Joseph F. Kamara and the State Counsel, R.B Kowa, they will be sent notices for judgement on the COI appeal matter.
Former President Ernest Bai Koroma appealed against the findings of the Commissions of Inquiry on the grounds that the Judge of the Commission failed to adequately consider all the appellant’s property situate lying and being at Semi Turner drive (Adonkia) in the Western Area of the Republic of Sierra Leone, and the house in Makeni be forfeited to the State and more particularly on the evidence of a patently discredited valuation and an incompetent witness.
It was recalled that Justice Fatmatta Bintu Alhadi (JA) directed lawyers representing former President Ernest Bai Koroma and the State counsel to file and serve their written synopsis and appropriate authorities on the registrar and the respondents, and prepare for their oral submission.
Joseph F. Kamara, counsel for the appellant, argued that the Commission lacked the authority to levy such sanctions including the adverse findings and recommendations of the Justice Bankole Thompson’s Commission of Inquiry against the appellant.
He submitted in his oral submission that the COI was mandated to solely investigate and never to indict, but the commissioner in his own free will decided to prefer that the former President forfeit his property at Femi Turner and Makeni respectively
He submitted that Section 48 (4) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone provides that ‘While any person holds or performs the functions of the office of President, no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against him in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him either in his official or private capacity.’
He submitted that the commission’s adverse findings and recommendations were not supported by evidence, and submitted that, the former president before assuming power, was an executive director of an insurance company, and a parliamentarian for ten years.
He further submitted that an enquiry should not duplicate the general criminal process or to draw conclusion and that the commission of inquiry only had adversary powers.
The defence counsel comprised R.B. Kowa; A. Sheku and T.J. Freeman, in reply on behalf of the state, responded that, “I rely on my synopsis filed and adopt the contents therein as my argument.”
“I seek your leave to argue all the grounds of appeal and address relevant issues of recommendations.”
He said the purpose for which the Commission was set up was to ascertain as to whether the persons referred to in sub paragraph (a) to (c) collaborated with any person in respect of such corruption, dishonesty and abuse of office.
Lawyer Kowa went further to submit that, “there is no wrong done by the sole Commissioner that may amount to an excess of his jurisdictions, the Commission’s findings which according to counsel is appealed against.
He submitted that the former president immunity ends the day his tenure in officer as president ends, and further submitted that whatever he might have done will be triable by law.
He submitted that Section 48 (4) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone spelt it clear that the president has immunity only when he is in office and submitted that the executive order as the appellant relied on has effect only when a president is in office.
“The Commission in its adverse findings didn’t name the appellant. The question that is left with the court is to determine whether there was an adverse finding against the appellant,” he argued.
He noted that the Commissions of Inquiry were set up to impartially look into erstwhile President Ernest Bai Koroma’s led Government, especially the financial activities of former Ministers and their Deputies, Heads of Departments and Parastatals.