Mrs. Shirley Gbujama, the erstwhile Minister of Social Welfare, Gender & Children’s Affairs in the former Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Government was visibly shocked last Saturday at the Lungi International Airport when she was molested, humiliated, stopped from travelling and sent back to Freetown.
According to sources at the airport, Gbujama had already checked in, her passport stamped and her luggage was onboard the Belview flight for Lagos when a team of police and ONS personnel stopped her from boarding the flight.
Our sources indicate that Mrs. Gbujama quietly explained to the officers that she was merely going to attend her niece’s wedding in Nigeria and would be back, "in ten days time".
However, the officers were adamant that she would not leave the country and they forced her back out of the airport even though her passport had already been stamped as having departed from Sierra Leone.
Other members of her family who were traveling with her to attend the same wedding including the father of the bride, Mr. Benjamin Blake were all allowed to travel out.
Many eye-witnesses at the airport strongly condemned Ernest Koroma for the molestation of a grandmother like Shirley Gbujama in such a public and humiliating manner.
On the part of the police, when they were accosted by other travelers over the treatment of Gbujama, they explained that they were merely following orders from the Office of Vice President Chief Sahr Samuel Sam-Sumana.
It should be noted that the Sierra Leone Constitution guarantees everyone the right to unhindered freedom of movement. Even in cases where one is supposedly being surreptitiously investigated, the Executive Arm of Government only has the right to restrict a citizen’s movement under a declared State of Emergency.
All efforts to get Mrs. Gbujama on the phone upto press time proved futile. When Awareness Times sent reporters to her house last evening, the in-mates expressed that they were bewildered to hear the news of Mrs. Gbujama being turned back at the airport as she had not returned back home. This heightened some fears that she might have been detained by the police for attempting to leave the country.
However, other competent sources indicate to Awareness Times that Mrs. Gbujama (popularly known as Aunty Shirley) was seen being collected from the airport by a Christian Lady she fellowships with and that she was safely somewhere but away from her house.
When Awareness Times contacted the Inspector General of Police, Brima Acha Kamara on the issue, he declined to comment much, only saying that all former SLPP Ministers were supposed to, in his words, "stay put" and confirming that indeed his men had turned back Mrs. Gbujama.
When it was further strongly put to him by Awareness Times that he was violating Gbujama's constitutional right to freedom of movement especially as we have learnt that she was only going to attend a wedding, Acha Kamara declined to comment further.
Awareness Times has also learnt that when the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Oliver Somassa was contacted over the telephone from the airport, in the presence of several bystanders and police officers, he reportedly expressed that the matter was "above" his head and "out of" his "hands".