March 22, 2018 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
The High Court in Sierra Leone has set the date of hearing the originating notice of motion filed by one Ibrahim Sorie Koroma, a lawyer and a member of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) against the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Chief Returning Officer and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on Friday, 23 March.
With barely four days to the run-off election, Koroma’s lawyer, Lansana Dumbuya, has asked the court, among other reliefs, to grant him an interim injunction to restrain NEC from conducting the runoff election scheduled for March 27.
Dumbuya had filed an ex-parte notice of motion, but Judge Abdul Rahman Mansaray upheld an objection to the representation of the first and second defendant lawyers, that they lack locus to be heard because the plaintiff was yet to serve them with any document that would inform their representation.
Dumbuya, himself an APC member, told the High Court Judge that they were before him to first seek certain reliefs before they could serve the defendants.
“My Lord, our primary prayer here is relief one which we want you to grant us today. When once that order is granted, we would then move to serve the defendants,” he said.
Relief one in the originating notice states: “An order directing the Auditor-General and or any other competent/qualified Persons/Firm appointed by this Honourable Court within 7 days from the date of the Order to conduct a forensic audit on the internal systems of the 1st and 2nd Defendants, and the entire electioneering system conducted by the 1st and 2nd Defendants on 7th March, 2018, and to prepare a report and make recommendations therefrom within 14 days of such recruitment.”
However, Drucil Taylor, representing the National Electoral Commission and Chief Electoral Officer, who are the first and second defendants respectively, disagreed with his opponent, adding that the plaintiff should have come for a judicial review.
He also submitted that the High Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter on the basis that it falls under the office of the president.
“Therefore, the application made by my learned colleague before this court to grant an ex-parte notice of motion is of no moment. I urge your Lordship to discountenance the submission made by counsel,” he said.
In his ruling, Justice Mansaray noted Order 52, Rule 6 of the High Court Rules contemplates the hearing of a judicial review and that the substantive matter was not a judicial review but one seeking orders from the court to not serve the respondent until the interim orders are granted.
Judge Mansaray said that it was within the court’s discretionary powers to allow the defendants to be heard even in ex-parte (without notice) applications.
“This is an ex-parte notice of motion in which the defendants have shown interest to be heard. It is the discretion of the court to allow or not to allow but in the interest of justice, I am minded to grant audience to the respondents and I shall make the following orders for future deliberation on this matter,” he ruled.
The Judge remained silent as to granting the orders that would order the Auditor-General or any auditing firm to conduct a forensic audit on the commission’s internal system. He however ordered that the plaintiff serve the respondents with the originating notice of motion on or before 5p.m. on Wednesday.
He also ordered that each respondent should serve an affidavit in opposition and that such should be served on the plaintiff by Thursday, 22 March.
Meanwhile, the matter was adjourned to Friday, 23 March.