By Judiciary of Sierra Leone Communications Unit
Appeal Court Judge, Hon. Justice Fatmatta Bintu Alhadi, presiding over two Persons of Interest, Finda Diana Konomanyi (COI. App.11/2020) and Sogefel-Sarl (COI APP.71/2020) who filed in appeals has withdrawn the files for judgement.
Madam Finda Diana Konomanyi appealed against the findings of the Commissions of Inquiry on grounds that “the learned Judge/Sole Commissioner failed to adequately consider all appellant’s property situate lying and being at Adonkia in the Western Area of the Republic of Sierra Leone be forfeited to the State and more particularly on the evidence of a patently discredited valuation and an incompetent witness.”
On his part, Sogefel-Sarl argued on two grounds, firstly that the adverse findings and recommendations of the Honourable Justice Biobele Georgewill (Sole Commissioner) against the Appellant who was not person of interest (as hereinafter defined) expressly or by implication and therefore in excess of his jurisdiction. He finally submitted that the findings, conclusion and recommendations of Honourable Sir Justice Biobele Georgewill sitting as Chairman and Sole Commissioner of the COI held in Sierra Leone pursuant to Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 (hereinafter called the Chairman and Sole Commissioner) contravenes the principle of natural justice to wit, the Appellant was not heard.
The two COI persons of interest argued that the Commission lacked the authority to levy such sanction.
In the Synopsis of the appellant/applicant, Sogefel-Sarl’s lawyer argued that the witnesses provided at the COI were not credible and could have been manipulated.
The defence counsel comprised R.B. Kowa; A. Sheku and T.J. Freeman.
R.B Kowa on behalf of the state responded that, “I rely on my synopsis filed and adopt the contents therein as my argument.”
He said, “I seek your leave to argue all the grounds of appeal and address relevant issues of recommendations. The Appellant I, concede may not have been expressly identified in Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 as person of interest, however Section 4 (d) (iii) which deals with the terms of reference of the Commission provides thus: the purpose for which the Commission is appointed are 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.
“This is omnibus provision that took into consideration those who in one way or another may have collaborated with persons of interest clearly identified in section 4 (a) to (c). The argument that because you were not specifically named in the Constitutional Instrument cannot hold in Law. Anybody ascertained to have collaborated will be liable. An accomplice to the fact is liable to answer for his deeds.
“I therefore submit that the scope of those who collaborated with persons named or identified in the paragraph (a) to (c) of section 4 of Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 is wide as long as they can be ascertained by the Chairman/Sole Commissioner.”
Lawyer Kowa went further to submit that, “there is no wrong done by the Chairman/Sole Commissioner that may amount to an excess of his jurisdictions, the Commission’s findings which according to counsel is appealed against.
“An examination of the findings reveals that they were basically against Dr. Minkailu Bah, who was a person of interest. He was represented at the proceedings but he himself chose not to appear despite he was invited to appear and defend himself.
“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. Those who may have been ascertained to collaborate and benefitted from the fruit of corruption practice cannot be allowed to retreat into their comfort zone under the guise that they were not expressly named as persons of interest.
“The Chairman/Sole Commissioner was able to clearly identify in the testimony before him that ‘rehabilitation and extension of Fourah Bay College, there were no relevant document amounting to Le2,458,576,240.00 were not attached to vouchers before payment were made to T.S & Co. in the sum of Le77,083,516.00 and to Sogefel Sarl in the sum of Le2,381,438,120.00.
“The Commissioner in his findings at page 76 paragraph 13.5 No. 5 found that the said sum has been misappropriated and/or unaccounted for.”
The Commissions of Inquiries were presided over by Justice Biobele Georgewill from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Justice William Anna Atuguba from the Republic of Ghana and Justice Bankole Thompson, a Sierra Leonean judge.
The Commissions of Inquiry were set up to impartially look into erstwhile President Ernest Bai Koroma, led Government especially the financial activities of former Ministers and their Deputies, Heads of Departments and Parastatals.