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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

How Not to Help Abdul Tejan-Cole
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Mar 22, 2010, 15:04
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Abdul Tejan-Cole, Commissioner of the Anti Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone has admirers in the media; many of whom have acted as ventriloquists puppets for him. However, whilst some are still blinded to Tejan-Coles arrogant and conceited manner of carrying out his functions, others are now pausing and asking questions about his suitability to wield the tremendous powers conferred upon him. Not just his erstwhile media admirers but all around the country, amongst ordinary citizens, the reaction has been one of abhorrence for unscrupulous tactics like the early morning raid by armed policemen on the residence of Haja Afsatu Kabba to pick up her husband and sons and the arrant refusal to correct from Day 1, the erroneous BBC broadcast concerning the embattled woman. We all know who started the Bullying via Press in this matter and it was not Haja Afsatu Kabba. We all know who started to use the media to demonise another person and it was not Haja Afsatu Kabba.

No amount of Western Embassy Press Releases like the recent one from US Embassy can repair the fading credibility of Tejan-Cole [as an impartial professional] in many social circles all over the country.

Fully realising this fact of the rising abhorrence, a smaller group of Tejan-Coles media friends, have resorted to demonising the other group of right-thinking journalists as being responsible for activating the ego of Tejan-Cole into carrying out his widely condemned actions.


A PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTER:

SO IS ABDUL TEJAN-COLES EGO UNCONTROLLABLE?


As disastrous as it may appear, Tejan Coles media friends believe they are helping him by publishing, as justification for his abhorrent actions, clear information that Tejan-Cole was provoked into a rage! They believe this will buy some sympathy for Tejan-Cole but the effect has been the opposite because by making such assertions, they are simply tattering more and more the formidable stature that Tejan-Cole used to wield in the public domain. Instead of helping, they are unwittingly portraying him out to be a very, very vindictive, spiteful man who acts on malicious impulses and who is prone to rage-filled, inconceivably abhorrent acts.


Many people have expressed to me concern that if Tejan-Coles media friends and ventriloquist puppets can openly state that he only acted in a certain widely condemned manner because he wanted to send out a message that he was not to be messed with!, then it means he is carrying out his duties not out of self-restriction of working within the Law as a decent Officer of the Courts but according to how his apparently overblown ego dictates.


And if the ACC is now being managed by a man whose ego is so uncontrollable as to have him react spitefully against those he is investigating, then this is a DISASTER for this country because given the tremendous powers conferred upon the position of ACC Commissioner which he occupies, it calls for a sedate, matured, cool-headed and calm individual to occupy it. Not one who is prone to maliciously acting because his ego was messed with.


A LITTLE LOOK AT SOME LEGAL ISSUES WITH CPA &ACC


Now, I count myself as one of the very few Sierra Leoneans who has not only read the full 89 pages of the Anti Corruption Act of 2008 but who can cite and freely quote large sections of that Act off the top of my head. I can also cite large swathes of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) of 1965 and the 1991 Sierra Leone Constitution; all of this to amazement of many lawyers.


My aforementioned trait is why I am curious to know if Section 140(a) of the CPA is being adhered to at all times by the ACC! I am also curious to know if persons at the Judiciary understand that Section 89(2) of the Anti Corruption Act of 2008 clearly dictates that the procedure for prosecution of corruption acts MUST follow such procedure as would have been followed for a CPAs Section 136 applied indictment! I want to know if persons at the Judiciary really understand the import of the Judiciary receiving a backdated Notice of Indictment and hurriedly assigning the file for arraignment of the Accused and thus forcing the Accused to take a Plea within one hour or so of the Notice being served on the Accused! It will be even worse if all this happened on the very same date that the Judiciary itself received the Notice of Indictment!


Section 140(a) of the CPA is quite clear on the SEVEN DAYS TIME SPAN before Trial should commence in cases following a matter that did not have a preliminary investigation. Two Corruption Lawyers I held discussions with on this point tried to proffer that arraignment was not a commencement of trial to which I responded a retort that as long as Section 138 of the CPA was followed and such desired annotation was made clearly stating to the Accused that you will be tried on the indictment, whereof this is a true copy, at the Sessions of the High Court being held at....on the day of 2010 at OClock
, then it was duly served as a Notice of Commencement Date of trial and thus Section 140(a) SHOULD apply to all such Indictments by the ACC Commissioner!


If Section 140(a) is breached and an Accused person is forced to take a Plea within ONE HOUR of being served such Notice, Section 133(2) of the CPA virtually makes it impossible for such anomalies to now be raised and an unscrupulous Anti Corruption Boss would have succeeded in intimidating an Accused person into taking a plea whilst ill prepared; and this would be with the help of the Judiciary!


INTEGRITY OR BURST! INTEGRITY OR BURST!


These points I am bringing up serve to illustrate why it is important for persons of Integrity to man sensitive legal positions especially when they are involved in issues that will concern another (wo)mans liberty! There is a reason why Integrity is a prerequisite for Judicial and Anti Corruption positions! Such persons are given very grave and sacred responsibilities and if they are found to have abused their powers, they should be hit with serious penalties and very high financial costs at detriment to their own pockets! When people start to be sued for huge financial damages, they will be less eager to abuse their sacred positions!


SECTION 20 DOES NOT PROTECT ACTS IN BAD FAITH


From my knowledge of the Anti Corruption Act, I know that based on Section 20 of the Act of 2008, it would be quite difficult for anyone accused of corruption under the 2008 Act to sue the ACC Commissioner or any agent of the Commission for any act omitted to be done or committed by them. Thus Abdul Tejan-Cole and his team are protected from liability like paying financial damages in the sense Section 20 says: No action, suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner or any officer of the Commission in respect of any decision taken or any act done or omitted to be done in good faith in the performance of any function under this Act.


Having said that, let me hasten to inform that the ACCs Act is not all that conceited in that Section 138 provides for Costs on Acquittal by stating: Where a person is acquitted after trial before the Court for an offence under Part IV, the court may award costs to that person, such costs to be taxed and paid out of the Consolidated Fund. So it means a person who is wrongfully charged for corruption out of a malicious intent by the Commissioner and who gets to be acquitted can apply for damages to be paid to him or her.


However, although Section 138 makes for costs to be paid to a wrongfully accused person who gets acquitted, the payment will not be out of the pocket of the Commissioner or any ACC agent but out of the Governments coffers.


Now, to summarise the above, any decision taken by Commissioner Tejan-Cole during investigations is protected in the sense that he cannot be sued by an accused person UNLESS it is proven he was acting in bad faith.


The minute an Accused can show Abdul Tejan-Cole acted in bad faith or out of malice, the veil of protection granted to Tejan-Cole, under Section 20 of the Anti Corruption Act of 2008, will be lifted thus exposing him to a serious litigation that could cost him a pretty penny. He is only protected if he acts IN GOOD FAITH.


MEDIA FRIENDS OF TEJAN-COLE ARE DAMAGING HIM!


This is why Abdul Tejan-Coles Media Friends are causing him some serious damage with their published assertions that the reason why he acted in a certain manner towards Haja Afsatu Kabba was because of ego. It will be good for Tejan-Cole to thus publicly distance himself from those stated public positions of people known to be his Media Allies in this matter of his concluded [ongoing?] investigation of Haja Afsatu Kabba.

And whilst I am on this issue, may I remind Commissioner Abdul Tejan-Cole that only an Affidavit can debunk an affidavit. Denying the contents of a Sworn Affidavit over Radio Democracy 98.1 is not enough to make the allegations therein invalid. Only an Affidavit can debunk an Affidavit.

 

As I await some more ventriloquizing, let me quote Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th American President: No man is above the law and no man is below it nor do we ask any mans permission when we ask him to obey it!


We do not need to ask permission for the ACC to obey due procedures.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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