As High Court Decides… 21 APC MPs In Trouble

 

The fate of 21 lawmakers representing the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party in the House of Parliament was hanging in the balance yesterday as they anxiously waited for the verdicts of the High and Appeals Courts in Freetown to know whether or not they would rule in their favour in the election petitions filed against them by their Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) challengers.

However, to their greatest surprise yesterday, the Appeals Court presided by Justices Monfred Sesay, Taylor Kamara and Musa Kamara ruled in favour of the ruling SLPP pursuant to Section 36 of the Appeals Court Act of 1965.

According to the presiding justices, the court does not have the jurisdiction to look into the APC petition case before it.  Yesterday’s Appeals Court ruling therefore suggests that the petition matter against the 21 APC MPs before the High Court should continue.

It could be recalled that following the announcement of results of the 7th March, 2018 parliamentary election, three political parties – the then main opposition SLPP, APC and the National Grand Coalition (NGC) filed election petitions in the High Court in the Northern Region and the Western Area challenging the winners in several constituencies. Amongst some of the grounds for the petitions were that some winners failed to resign from their positions a year to the 7th March, 2018 as stipulated by the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, many continued to receive salaries from the Consolidated Revenue Fund whilst others were accused of alleged election malpractices.

In the Northern Region, five SLPP candidates that lost to the then ruling APC filed election petitions in the High Court against their opponents. The Judge ruled against the appellants on the grounds that they filed their petitions outside of the stipulate time, and that the petitions lacked certain legal merits. Dissatisfied with the ruling, the five SLPP candidates took an appeal to the Appeals Court in Freetown.

In the Western Area, sixteen SLPP candidates that lost the parliamentary election filed appeals against the APC winners. The list includes Hon. Kemoh Conteh in Constituency 108, Hon. Kadie Davies in 110, Hon. Rugiatu Rasy Kanu in 113, Hon. Hariatu Ariana Bangura in 116, Hon. Isaac Tarawally in 116, Hon. Wurroh Timbo Jalloh in 119, Hon. Lihadi Alhadi in 123, Hon. Chernor Ramadan Bah in 126, Hon. Siraji Rollings Kamara in 127, Hon. Abu Bakarr Sillah in 128, Hon. Emmanuel S. Conteh in 129, Hon. Osman A. Timbo in 130, Hon Sheriff in 131 and three others.

On Thursday 4th April, 2019, Chief Justice Babatunde Edwards in response to objection raised by Hon. Osman Timbo and other APC MPs ruled that the court should entertain the SLPP petitions on grounds that the four-month period within which the petition cases must be dealt with had expired and that the court would now sit on the matter. The Chief Justice quoted several Sections of the 1991 Constitution and judicial precedents, stating that the petitions were filed within the stipulated time.

It could also be recalled that during the controversy swirling over the election of Speaker of Parliament that culminated in a walkout by the main opposition APC lawmakers, an ECOWAS mediation team intervened and after meeting with different political stakeholders, it recommended that in the interest of peace, unity and political inclusiveness, all registered political parties in the country consider papering over the election petitions.