This piece is not intended at advising President Ernest Bai Koroma of the Republic of Sierra Leone since he already has a battery of advisers (though they have so far proved not impressive as evident in the current state of affairs in Sierra Leone). My advice in this piece would be directed to the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ); an association of which I have been a proud registered and paid-up member for the past two to three years.
I had earlier vowed not to personally comment on the BBC/Afsatu Kabba brouhaha, but for the sake of posterity, I beg to submit the ensuing comments, that will be in the form of an advice for Mr. Umaru Fofana.
Mr. Fofana is no doubt one of my respected role models in the media world, but his latest approach/attitude in handling the issue under review remains a shock to me. He has proved unprofessionally reluctant to listen to the numerous calls for a retraction and an apology to the Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister for causing the respected BBC to severally air what has turned out to be a false report against the hardworking female minister. It has also been learnt that Umaru Fofanaís report disregarded certain Sections of the 2008 ACC Act with impunity.
I was therefore shocked yesterday to read in the Awoko Newspaper the defence forwarded by SLAJís/BBCís Umaru Fofana for his refusal to retract and apologize.
I was sorely disappointed to read Fofanaís effortless attempt to defend his mess.
"It is evident that on her (Afsatu) arrival there (ACC) she was placed under arrest. Otherwise why was she bailed? You donít bail someone who is not under arrest, do you, not least when the bail conditions are reportedly stiff" Umaru Fofana writes.
I had first wanted to say my role model was ignorant of certain Sections of the ACC Act of 2008, but the respect I have for him abominated me from making such utterance. I ended up perspiring profusely while pondering what was happening with my role model?
"It was an oversight of Section 63(1) of the ACC Act of 2008" I convinced myself.
Section 63(1) of the ACC Act which deals with surrendering of traveling documents has nothing to do with arrest or bail. Afsatu Kabba was served a notice by the ACC to surrender her travel documents to the Commission.
Under the said Section, the ACC can serve a notice to a person that is being investigated to surrender his travel documents and "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" if the ACC is informed that the person wants to travel out of Sierra Leone. This was what the ACC did, Mr. Fofana. Afsatu was never served a notice under Sections 66 and 67 of the ACC Act of 2008 that deals with "arrest" and "bail & procedures after arrest" respectively.
Anyway, I take a pause and refer you to the Awareness Times edition of yesterday and today that reproduces certain sections of the ACC Act.
I pray that Umaru Fofana take a pause and heed to positive sisterly and brotherly advise given to him by Dr. Sylvia Blyden of Awareness Times and Prince Kamara of the Senator.
With all due respect to my cherished SLAJ President, Afsatu Kabba was never arrested nor bailed, as you aired over the BBC and printed in the Awoko Newspaper.
I will want to at this point, join Mr. Umaru Fofanaís numerous well wishers, to prevail on him to do the honourable thing and apologize for his "oversight". To err is human but failure to accept mistakes, especially in the journalistic world, is unprofessional sir. Refusing Afsatu Kabba the right to reply and the right to her own side on such a report that hinge on her reputation is wicked and unprofessional sir. To attack and insult Afsatu Kabba via mobile text message simply because she drew your attention to unprofessional reporting is unethical and impolite sir.
Your reputation is at stake but it can simply be restored if you heed to positive advice and do the honourable thing.
Let me at this point state that Umaru Fofana remains my role model until he gives me cause to think otherwise of him.