Most, if not all, Sierra Leoneans call on former President Koroma to obey and comply with the investigations of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and respect the rule of law. It goes without saying that the law is supreme; it comes first in whatever circumstance and is no respecter of persons.
The call to respect the law came after ACC officers were stopped from entering the residence of former President Koroma to obtain statements from him. ACC’s move to investigate the former President is closely linked to the findings of the White Paper and the slam of a charge of unexplained wealth.
The scene in Makeni last Thursday was panic stricken and unfortunate as different cults and secret societies converged at the premises of the former President to shield him from the claws of the laws. The attire of the cult members were bizzare and outlandish as some ‘Poro’ and ‘Orjeh’ dancers and ‘egwugwus’ with cutlasses stuck to their backs ferociously displayed in front of ACC investigators.
The outlandish clothing and magical performance of the cult members ultimately generated fear in the minds of the investigating team.
No doubt, it was a threat to their safety and they had no alternative but to embark on a tactical withdrawal. Owing to the fear, pens and papers for the statements became smoking guns in the hands of the investigators. They returned home without achieving the mission for which they went to Makeni.
The fuel, vehicles and other resources used to finance the ACC work became a liability and not an asset on the government.
But, Hope for the ACC team to resurface in Makeni in the not-too-distant future for the interview with the former President cannot be ruled out. Credible insider sources say negotiations are on-going between former President Koroma and the ACC for the investigation to take place.
At the time the cult drama was unfolding in Makeni former President Koroma was in, but he did not come out to halt the magicians so that the ACC could be let in.
As the ACC returned home, a lot of arguments continue to filter through the public about the conduct of the former President. Some sectors of society blame him for allowing the ugly scene to occur saying it was within his power to stop the drama.
A notable civil society activist who heads Heal Sierra Leone, Joseph Sannoh saw the action of the former President as one of disgrace to Sierra Leone. As a former President, he said, he was expected to respect the rule of law and submit himself to the due process.
Sannoh’s stance has been strongly supported by a great many Sierra Leoneans who see the action of the former President as unlawful. The argument holds that the former President is expected to be forthcoming to answer to allegations of corruption on a grand scale.
But, other Sierra Leoneans do not support Sannoh claiming that the President was in, and the ACC ought to have used their professionalism to come in.
Others say it was clear that during ACC’s arrival in Makeni, communication ensued between the former President and the ACC team with the former asking the latter to enter the premises.
Sierra Leoneans sojourning in the diaspora have also added their voice. Some opposed the actions of the former President while others supported it. The support however was not for President Koroma not to submit himself to the law, but the actions of the activist Sannoh who stands accused of bias.
Some diasporans have seriously castigated the activist to show his strength at the time ugly incidents were rearing their heads in most parts of the country. The Sierra Leonean diasporan based in the UK cited a lot of brutal incidents that occurred in the country and Sannoh was mute about it.
However, he also urged the former President to allow ACC to question him on the corruption allegations that have continued to hunt his personality. Some Sierra Leoneans have also anchored ACC investigations on the peace of Sierra Leone. Their argument is that it is better for the country to enjoy peace than to enforce the White Paper at all cost using the law.
The stiff resistance put up by the former President was foreseen as coming events cast their shadows. A week after the White Paper was released followed by an ACC invitation of former President Koroma; he issued a stern warning to government referring to their actions as political “harassment” and “intimidation.”
An APC press release of 30th September, 2020 contains the warning. In the Press release, he made it clear that political “harassment” and “intimidation” of his person has reached an unacceptable level.
He also maintains that he has led a clean public life devoid of corruption meaning that he saw no case for him to be compelled by the ACC. The position of the former President was earlier expressed by his lawyers, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara and Ady Macauley who defended him at the Commissions Of Inquiry (COI).
Counsel Kamara who was former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice put it in plain terms that he did not recognise the recommendations in the ‘White Paper.’
The statement of counsel, no doubt, means they would not cooperate with its implementation as they have always referred to it as an illegal entity. Counsel Macauley who also showed his expertise at the COI has proved to be an ardent critic of the ‘White Paper’ as he referred to it the product of an illegal COI.
In an interview, over a week ago, Macauley made no mince of words saying that the COI lacked “functional competence.” The legal phraseology means the COI, by all, legal standards, does not have power and authority to hold persons of interest accountable as it was not subject to rules.
Counsel Macauley had previously challenged the controversial issue at the Supreme Court calling for an interpretation. The defence counsel similarly, legally challenged the constitutional instruments that were used to establish the COI.
Almost invariably, the erstwhile Pubic Secretary of the main opposition, All People’s Congress, Cornelius Deveaux has been highly critical of the COI from its outset.
He is of the firm conviction that the COI is not free from bias as he put it: “sacred cows in President Bio’s government.”
Deveaux’s argument about the absence of rules of evidence to regulate the practice and procedure of the COI was also not let rest. As long as the COI, he says, is not controlled by rules it is “unconstitutional” and the party will not subject its officials to “unconstitutionality.”
Owing to the absence of rules, the runaway Public Secretary referred to the COI as a “Kangaroo-styled” commission tailored to hunt the APC which constituted the previous government. The argument about the necessity of rules of evidence started in the well and rolled to the COI and court.
A member of parliament representing one of the constituencies in Kabala district, northern Sierra Leone, Daniel Koroma too did not restrain himself from the argument on the rules.
To him, the provision on the rules of evidence for all COI’s is compulsory meaning it should not be circumvented. The legal wrangling on the controversial issue, in no uncertain terms, has a bearing on the current stand-off between government and the main opposition. While government is bent on enforcing the White Paper, the opposition is ready to resist at the last drop of their blood.
But, is the resistance lawful? This is a question that is currently popular among members of the public. The relevance of the question is not in doubt in that former government officials participated in the COI throughout its hearings.
The participation portrayed the officials as those ready and willing to accept the outcome of the process. How can you participate in an illegal process? The Public asks, but the answer is left in the hands of the APC.