Commissions Of Inquiry… Judges Arrive Today *Starts Tuesday 29th January

 

By Aruna Rashed Toma Bangura

The three Commissions of Inquiry (COIs) whose constitutional instruments controversially sailed through Parliament late last year in consonant with the Governance Transition Team (GTT) Report’s recommendation for the investigation of erstwhile senior officials of the former All People’s Congress (APC) Government  will reportedly commence formally  on Tuesday 29th January, 2019.

According to sources close to the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, modalities for the commencement of the Commissions of Inquiry have been thoroughly worked out for the investigation of former senior government officials and their cronies as recommended by the GTT Report, including the former President, Vice President, Ministers and their Deputies, and heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), covering the period of November, 2007 to April, 2018.

The Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, according to report, will house the three Commissions of Inquiry in three containers  at the Special Court complex on Jomo Kenyatta Road at Brookfields in Freetown, which are expected to last between three and six months.

The reports furthered that the three Judges that would be sitting on the three COIs are from The Gambia, Federal Republic of Nigeria and a Sierra Leonean jurist resident in the United States of America (USA), Justice Bankole Thompson, are all expected in Freetown today, Thursday 24th January.

It could be recalled that serious controversy swirled over the three constitutional instruments that were tabled in Parliament by the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice authorizing the setting up of the Commissions of Inquiry. Parliamentarians of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), who are in the majority in Parliament, had asked for a debate on the two constitutional instruments that were earlier tabled in Parliament by the Deputy Minister, but the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Abass Chernor Bundu refused to accept any debate in the issue on the grounds that an APC MP that called for the debate had quoted the wrong Standing Order (SO).

When Parliament finally resumed from recess, a third  constitutional instrument was tabled in Parliament by the Deputy Attorney General and  Minister of Justice and the Speaker of Parliament finally encouraged the main opposition APC MPs to debate on the three constitutional instruments before they are passed into law authorizing the setting up of the Commissions of Inquiry. Parliament eventually debated on the three constitutional instruments but since the APC which was in opposition of the government setting up any commission of inquiry did not get the two-thirds majority needed, the instruments became law midnight of the same day of the debate thus authorizing the setting up of the three Commissions of Inquiry.

The main opposition APC has however reportedly protested that the Commissions of Inquiry are targeting their stalwarts that served the Koroma administration and that they lack legality because, according to them, they violate a constitutional provision that all Commissions of Inquiry must have laid down rules of evidence. Their protest was reportedly supported by some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and some members of the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) that petitioned the inquiry in the Supreme Court to judge on the matter, citing Section 150 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone stating that Commissions of Inquiry must have rules of evidence drawn up by the special judicial body for the purpose.

Meanwhile, despite the controversy over the Commissions of Inquiry, President Julius Maada Bio said last week said in Koidu city in Kono District during his thank-you tour visit that nothing would stand in the way of the Commissions of Inquiry and that he was ready to go into war with anybody who dares to scupper those Commissions.