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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Did Abdul Tejan-Cole Abuse Section 63(1) of Sierra Leone's Corruption Act?
By Citizens' Advocate
Feb 22, 2010, 01:00
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It has been said over National Radio and I will write it down again today for Posterity that it is an utter DISGRACE for the Abdul Tejan-Cole led Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) to continue to keep sealed lips over the controversy that has brewed since local journalists, contrary to Section 74(1)(b) of the Anti Corruption Act [2008], were leaked the information that the countrys Fisheries Minister had been invited in for questioning by the Anti Corruption Commission. The silence, when juxtaposed to the recent serious leakages from within the ACC to media houses, is a cause for concern to patriotic Sierra Leoneans who understand the need for an ACC manned by persons of Integrity and Accountability.

How can ACC speak of integrity when everything done within is leaked to the media? Who leaked the March 1st 2010 date of Afsatus next meeting with the ACC to Global Times newspaper? Who has been leaking the names and details of the propertied sureties of Afsatu Kabba to Standard Times newspaper? How secure is information within the ACC such as Asset Declaration Forms? How can the ACC speak of accountability and transparency when they are refusing to explain to the public the true facts over the brewing controversy concerning Hon. Haja Afsatu Kabba? Was she arrested? NO! Then why is the ACC refusing to clear the air?

It is this unacceptable silence from the ACC that has caused State House to be forced to issue a clarifying Press Release last weekend in which the Presidents Office made it very clear that Afsatu Kabba was NEVER ARRESTED and she still enjoys the confidence of the President as his hardworking Minister of Marine Resources & Fisheries.

The integrity, transparency and accountability expected from the ACC has been placed under very serious question. Not only that, what is now clearly emerging is a heavy suspicion that Abdul Tejan Cole might have abused Section 63(1) of the ACC Act of 2008 in order to give the appearance as if Hon. Afsatu Kabba was arrested for serious corruption issues. To the layman, asking for Sureties and Passports is synonymous with an Arrest and arrest is synonymous with culpability of a Crime. Infact, had it not been for the strong stance taken by the Editorial Board of this newspaper to smash the shameful Conspiracy to molest and defame Afsatu Kabba, it might have been a different scenario altogether for the poor harrassed female minister.

Now, please turn to Page 2 of todays Edition where we have reproduced Sections 63, 64, 65, 66 & 67 of the Anti Corruption Act of 2008 and you will see Section 66 [and only Section 66] of the ACC Act empowers the Commissioner to seek an arrest of someone suspected of a criminal act BUT there is a caveat! Abdul Tejan-Cole is restricted by "reasonable suspicion" before he can execute such an Arrest. If the information in front of him is not reasonable to justify an arrest, he would be stupid to arrest only for the person to later not be found culpable! And Abdul Tejan-Cole is not stupid. He is VERY smart & cunning. This is what Section 66 says:

66. (1) An investigating officer authorized in that behalf by the Commissioner may, without warrant, arrest any person upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed or being about to commit an offence under this Act.

So, you see, there was no way Abdul Tejan Cole could have arrested Haja Afsatu Kabba when the investigation was simply at its opening stage. However, if persons were out to satisfy a political vendetta like the one suspected to have been executed by Foreign Minister Zainab Bangura to the cheers of the FISH MAFIA, there is still a way out to humiliate and molest a Cabinet Minister and that is via a shameful abuse of Section 63(1) which when applied in conjunction with actions of unscrupulous journalists, will create a media sensation like the one we are currently faced with. Section 63(1) states as follows:

63. (1) Where the Commission has reason to believe that any person who is under investigation under this Act is about to leave Sierra Leone, the Commission may, in writing under the hand of the Commissioner, serve a notice on such person requiring him-
(a) to surrender his travel documents forthwith to the Commissioner; and
(b) to enter into recognizance with two sureties who are owners of property in Sierra Leone the value of which is not less than fifty million leones, each.

And as can be seen from the document on this page, that is exactly what Abdul Tejan-Cole did to Hon. Afsatu Kabba. He did not arrest her as he had no reasonable suspicion to do so. The Commissioner could have arrested Afsatu Kabba under Section 66 but he was limited because he did NOT have "reasonable suspicion" to do so.

The Summons Notice served under Section 53 (1) was hand-delivered to Hon. Afsatu Kabba at her residence in the late afternoon of 16th February 2010. She obeyed the Summons and drove herself to the ACC the next morning (17th February 2010) by which time Commissioner Abdul Tejan Cole had flown out of the country in the night of Tuesday February 16th 2010.

This is the second of the two Notices served on Hon. Afsatu Kabba. As can be seen neither of the two Notices are Arrest Notices under Section 66 of the Anti Corruption Act. This Notice was served under Section 63(1) of the Anti Corruption Act of 2008

The question now that Abdul Tejan-Cole needs to answer and answer quickly in the public domain is why he executed a Section 63(1) Notice. Did he know that he could not arrest Haja Afsatu Kabba based on the flimsy nature of the allegations but he wanted to please certain persons and so he abused his powers with a Section 63(1) Notice solely to embarrass the Minister? Even if Commissioner Abdul Tejan-Cole is absent from town, the Anti Corruption Commission needs to explain to the public! WHY WAS A SECTION 63(1) NOTICE ISSUED ON HON. AFSATU KABBA?


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