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Sierra Leone Ombudsaman says “President Koroma has no Power”

The nullity of the Justice Edmond Cowan Tribunal is being pampered and kept under the carpet, playing with time, while the fate of three judges continues to hang on a line of uncertainty.

 It would be recalled that Justice Edmond Cowan was appointed by President Ernest Bai Koroma to serve as the country’s Ombudsman and watchdog of the public, thus creating a balance between the governor and the governed.

President EWrnest BAi Koroma is said to have no powers to set up a tribunal

Among the functions of the Ombudsman’s office is to point out the excesses of the governor on behalf of the governed and restore administrative normalcy where it is required. Justice Cowan is currently serving as the Chairman for a Tribunal, a case of clear conflict of interest; that he has criticized, but continues to  cling on to the position of Chairman, irrespective of his criticism against the Legislative Instrument that created the Tribunal, thus bringing the reputation of the President into public disrepute.

The tribunal, it would be recalled came about by President Koroma on the advice of the Legal and Judicial Service Commission to look into the conduct of three sitting Judges who were being accused of gross professional misconduct.

In a letter dated 26th March, 2010 written by the Consultant Master-Registrar Ghanaian born, Mrs. Julia Sarkodie-Mensah who acted as Ag. Secretary to the Commission was sent to the President through the Secretary to the President Mr. Osho Coker “…whichever judge tries the case will be accused of bias and so it will be very difficult to have any judge try the criminal matter” Mrs. Julie Sarkodie Mensah claimed.

President Koroma acting on the advice of the Commission ordered the establishment of the tribunal to examine the allegations levied against the three judges namely, Justices Alusine Sesay, Allan Halloway and Justice Edwards.

The ruling of Justice Cowan dated 29th day of March 2011 in response to some legal arguments proffered by Defence Counsels for the Judges has created more suspicions than expected, which has been perceived by some legal luminaries that the Chairman and some Members of the Commission has an undefined agenda, which is not yet made known to the President “It is therefore my view that any action taken by the President outside of what is contained in Section 137(5)(a) and (b) or in any other section of this Constitution will be ultra vires his powers and therefore in contravention of the Constitution…” “He has no mandate under the Constitution to draw up regulations or make orders for the smooth running of the Tribunal” and went on “As to the validity of the Gazette and the Government Notice, I shall refer to Section 170(7) (a) (b) and (c) which I shall set down as follows. Section 170 (7) any orders, rules or regulations made by any person or authority pursuant to a power conferred in that behalf by this Constitution or any other law (a) Shall be laid before Parliament (b) Shall be published in the Gazette on or before the day they are to be laid before Parliament (c) Shall come into force at the expiration of a period of twenty-one days of being so laid, unless Parliament before the expiration of the said period of twenty-one days annuls any such orders, rules or regulations by the votes of not less than Two-Thirds of the Members of Parliament”

The ruling went further to state that “In light of the above, since the Gazette containing the Government Notice was not laid before Parliament, it therefore has no Legislative effect as would a Constitutional Instrument or Statutory Instrument…”

Chairman Cowan having acknowledged the fact that the Gazette, which is the instrument of the Tribunal has no Legislative effect, means that the Tribunal is illegal and should be considered null and void, continues to preside over illegality and lashed out at the President by stating thus “ There is nothing in Section 137 of the Constitution from which the President derives his power to set up this Tribunal which empowers him to set a time limit within which the Tribunal must present its report”

Points highlighted by Justice Cowan as contained in the ruling has not only pictured President Koroma wrongly, but has showcased him as acting unconstitutionally when it was based on the advice of the Legal and Judicial Service Commission that saw the establishment of the Tribunal.

What Justice Cowan has shed light on is the illegality of the time frame and the President lacking in authority “He has no mandate to do so” and secondly pointed out that the Gazette was not laid before the House of Parliament to attract a Two-Third majority votes and be placed for twenty one days and because of these legal and legislative lapses, which are the pre-requisites for the Tribunal it is therefore illegal.

Unfortunately, Justice Cowan as Chairman, Mr. Wordsworth-Filo Jones and R.A.Ceaser former Registrar and Acting Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission(PPRC)  continue to preside over illegality, creating  false impression to President Koroma that everything is fine.(Question the Supreme Court cannot answer next edition)    

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