From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

COMMENTS & OPINIONS
My Brother Umaru Fofana & Section 74 of the ACC Act of 2008
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Feb 22, 2010, 01:01

By Sylvia O. Blyden

One of the reasons why I had found the stance on criminal libel by ACC Commissioner General Abdul Tejan-Cole to be hypocritical is Section 74 of his 2008 Anti Corruption Act which places a restriction on freedom of speech; a violation of which can lead to one being penalised by a twelve months jail term and/or a five million leones fine. According to that section, if a journalist were to reveal that another person is under investigation by the ACC without the ACC issuing a Public Notice to the effect, that journalist could get thrown into jail for a period of twelve months and asked to pay an additional Le5,000,000 fine before he is released after serving

the 12 months! It sounds draconian but there is a reason why that Section 74 was included into the ACC Act by Abdul Tejan-Cole’s draftsmen. The reason is to protect the hard-won reputations of persons who might be complained against but whom would later be proven to have nothing to answer for.

As Unisa Sesay, one of Sierra Leone’s foremost Media Analysts stated during our last weekend Panel Discussion, just the mere news that someone is invited for questioning over allegations of corruption casts a smear on that person for a long time even if the person is later found not to be wanting of the allegations complained about! This is the reason why the likes of Abdul Tejan-Cole made it an offence should anyone reveal that someone else is under Investigation without the ACC first doing so. So, with respect to the reputations of persons in authority, until such time as the ACC decides to publicise such investigations, it is criminal to publicise it! Very Criminal!

Hon. Afsatu Kabba has fallen a victim of the very thing that the ACC Act was trying to prevent when Umaru Fofana decided to ignore Section 74(1)(b) of the ACC Act and blast over the BBC that she was being investigated. There are four caveats under which Umaru could find justification for his criminal action and those are Sections 54(1), 59(1), 63(4), 66 and 67 of the ACC Act but NONE of them applies in this case which means that Umaru can be in hot waters and might be thrown into jail for committing an offence under Section 74(1)(b).

Add to this, the very serious allegations raised against Umaru Fofana in Hon. Afsatu Kabba’s widely circulated Letter of Complaint against him plus the determination of the sons of Hon. Afsatu Kabba to defend their mother’s honour and Umaru might just find himself facing a significant crossroad in his sparkling journalism career. How he navigates from here is what will decide the future path his career will take. I was shown the SMS text currently inside Hon. Afsatu Kabba’s mobile phone sent from Umaru Fofana’s well known Zain line and let me just say I am dismayed and disappointed. No more comments on that. Umaru is a brother.

Meanwhile, Section 74(1)(b) of the ACC Act is reproduced below alongside Section 74(3):

UNLAWFUL DISCLOSURE OF INVESTIGATION:

74. (1)(b) Any person who knowing or being likely to know that an investigation for an offence under this Act is taking place, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, discloses to any other person the identity of the person under investigation or the fact that such person is being investigated or the details of the investigation, including the identity of any informer in the investigation, commits an offence.

74. (3) Any person who commits an offence under subsection (1) shall be liable on conviction to a fine not less than five million leones or to imprisonment for a term not less than one year or to both such fine and imprisonment.

What I am trying to say and what the quoted Sections above means is that the broadcast by Umaru Fofana over the BBC of last Wednesday and which the BBC's Hassan Arouni has strangely found no qualms in repeating over and over again on Saturday 20th February 2010, is a Criminal Act according to the Laws of Sierra Leone. Umaru Fofana, by revealing that Hon. Afsatu Kabba is being investigated for alleged acts of corruption when the ACC did not give him the authority to do so, has committed a criminal offence for which he could get thrown in jail for next 12 months. No Joke!

Add to the above criminal offence is the aspect of Criminal & Defamatory Libel looming in his face and as a sister, I am worried for him. I am especially worried because he has spent the last few days complaining me to journalist colleagues that I was trying to teach him how to practise journalism. No, my brother. I am simply doing what I entered this profession to do. To defend the reputations of others when they find no respite from the forces of arrogant journalists who think they can libel and go scot free simply because they control the power of the pen.

I hope you will do the honourable thing as quickly as possible. We are all humans and prone to mistakes. The honourable thing to do if we are honourable people is that when we find out that we have made a mistake and sullied the reputation of someone else, is for us to apologise, retract and show true contrition. This is what we are all expecting from you and not arrogance and high-handedness. There are many young journalists who look up to you, Umaru Fofana, as a Role Model in Journalism. This is a time for you to impart an important lesson to them; that even the best of journalists can make mistakes but it is how they handle these mistakes that make them professionals. This is not a time for arrogance! You can still come out a winner in all of this mess you are embroiled in. It is certainly not too late to repair your reputation and Afsatu Kabba’s own reputation as well. There is a reason why Abdul Tejan-Cole included Section 74 in his ACC 2008 Act. It is to act as a deterrent for situations exactly like this; situations where allegations are made against someone and with no proof shown, she is hounded and hounded on only allegations. May God Bless President Koroma for resisting the calls of the orchestrated media blood hounds!

Before I end, I really do not understand the gobbledegook that Pa John Baimba Sesay is writing this time that Afsatu Kabba should be relieved of duties. If there is anything that President Koroma has done this year that deserves a standing ovation from me, it is him seeing through the shameful media orchestration to have him relieve his most hardworking minister of her duties based on unsubstantiated allegations. Until such time as ACC presents a prima facie case for the courts, the President should not yield to those who think he is a stupid man who can be manipulated into carrying out unscrupulous actions. Hon. Afsatu Kabba is the Sierra Leonean HEROINE who set in place strategies that raised revenue from the Fishing Sector from 4 Billion leones annually to over 11 billion leones in just nine months!

Maybe the ACC needs to investigate where the 7 billion used to go before Afsatu Kabba was appointed Minister. Not so Mr. Anti Corruption? Hmmmm?

Hon. Afsatu Kabba is the person who is leading the reformation efforts that should see us start to enjoy what we truly deserve to enjoy from our lucrative coastal waters. May God Bless Honourable Haja Afsatu Kabba. Keep your head high sister! As the numerous callers from all over Sierra Leone have been telling the various Radio Live Talk Shows, we the people are standing with you until we see  Evidence that tells us to do otherwise!



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