From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Afsatu Kabba
By Wednesday 17th February 2010 (BBC’s Focus on Africa)
Mar 1, 2010, 15:22

HASSAN AROUNI:- One of the most influential Government Ministers in Sierra Leone has been arrested by the Anti Corruption Commission, the ACC. Haja Afsatu Kabba’s current portfolio is Marine Resources overseeing the country’s lucrative coastal waters but in her previous position as Minister of Energy & Power, she was criticised by the ACC for breaching procurement procedures in the awarding of a contract to a Nigerian company. To tell us more about the latest development, here’s our reporter in Freetown, Umaru Fofana.

UMARU FOFANA:- Sources at the Anti Corruption Commission have confirmed that Minister of Marine Resources, Haja Afsatu Kabba was arrested this morning. One of the most powerful members of the governing All People’s Congress party has had her passport seized and granted bail to two sureties. As I file this report, she is still being held at the ACC HQs in Freetown being investigated for allegedly taking bribes and abusing her office.

It is not immediately clear what the details of the offences are but her arrest comes in the wake of persistent press reports alleging that she employed her two sons to work in her Ministry drawing all sorts of inferences. This is not the first time that Mrs. Kabba has had a brush with the Anti Corruption Commission. Whilst she was Minister of Energy & Power in 2008, she was investigated and found wanting by the ACC for what the Commission referred to as, I QUOTE: "fraudulently awarding a flawed and costly contract which served only personal interests".

However, she was not arrested nor indicted let alone sacked at the time. This drew criticism against the ACC and President Ernest Bai Koroma for not sacking her. The President challenged his critics that if evidence was adduced against the minister, he will sack her.

Until today, many had seen Mrs. Kabba as untouchable. With the groundswell of support at the grassroots of her party, she was even touted as a Vice Presidential candidate in the 2007 Presidential Elections.

With the President away attending the regional ECOWAS Summit in Nigeria, many eagerly await his return to see what action, if any, he will take. Coming just months after the indictment of the Minister of Health & Sanitation who was sacked immediately following his appearance in court, many are breathing a sigh of relief that the fight against official graft is gathering momentum with those they refer to as big fish, being netted.

Haja Afsatu Kabba could not be reached for her reaction but a close aide to her told the BBC that she will prove her innocence.

HASSAN HAROUNI: That was Umaru Fofana in Freetown.

- END -

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.