The eyeball for eyeball scenarios of the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) with regards elections petitions appear to have bleeding nostril on one end and is not a rosy affair. After one year in the well of parliament comes the time for the judiciary to determine the fate of about sixteen Members of Parliament, out of 21, who according to the petitioners were not qualified to occupy their seats because they were receiving salaries from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) and did not resign within the stipulated one-year period as per the country’s 1991 constitution. The plaintiffs were also accused of committing electoral offences. Abu Bakarr Sulaiman Tarawally has been following the story in Freetown as he writes.
There was pandemonium in the Well when the Clerk announced that 21 APC lawmakers that have been petitioned should not take their seats on grounds that the court had slammed injunctions on them. The injunctions eventually elapsed and the petitioned APC MPs continued to sit in Parliament.
Last week, however, Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards sitting as a Judge of the High Court in Freetown dismissed an application for a jurisdictional objection on behalf of Hon. Osman Timbo, one of the 16 Western Area APC MPs petitioned by the SLPP.
Counsel representing the said MP, Brima Koroma Esq., argued that the High Court no longer has jurisdiction to hear the case against his client because, it’s been four months since the stipulated time by the 1991 Constitution elapsed and in his opinion the court should exercise a stay of proceeding.
In his judgment, Chief Justice Edwards overruled the counsel’s application, citing the law that: “The High Court has right to hear election petition cases. Once the petitions had been filed and affidavits received from counsels for the petitioners and the respondents, it would be unjust and unfair for the court to stay proceedings until the petitions are heard.”
His ruling significantly applies to the other 15 election petitions filed by the SLPP against the APC lawmakers.
About sixteen (16) Members of Parliament representing the All People’s Congress (APC) in the Western Area Urban and Rural together with their legal representatives, families and relatives, party members, supporters and sympathizers thronged the Law Court building on Siaka Stevens street in Freetown on Monday. The atmosphere was not friendly in the evening hours as the police had to disperse scores of people outside the precinct of the court awaiting the ruling which was postponed to a later date.
However, Justice Komba Kamanda sat on the following cases: Abdul Muniru Lansana Vs Hon Ahmed Mansaray (constituency 121); Second case: Allieu Ibrahim Kamara Vs Hon Mohamed Sheriff Carew (constituency 122); Third case Benjamin Turay Vs Hon Abu Bakarr Sillah (constituency 128); Fourth case Charles Bio Vs Hon. Chernor R M Bah (constituency 126).
Meanwhile, the Appeals Court sitting in Freetown on Wednesday 10th April, 2019 squashed the application made to it by 5 SLPP and 5 NGC parliamentary aspirants that they filed against 5 winning APC MPs in the North and North/West districts. The judgment was delivered by Justice Monfred Sesay sitting on a three-judge panel with the two judges, Justice Kamara-Taylor and Justice Musu Kamara.
The Court upheld the earlier judgment delivered by the High Court sitting in Makeni against the SLPP and NGC petitioners. According to Section 78 (2) of the 1991 Constitution, the SLPP and NGC petitioners have no further court to appeal to as the Appeals Court has the final say in all election petition matters.