What does Maada Bio have to hide?

What does Maada Bio have to hide?


By Jarrah Kawusu-Konte

Ceaseless and tireless enquiries about corruption have thrown up inevitably paradoxical results in present day Sierra Leone. When corruption is allowed to thrive with impunity and reckless abandonment, it’s the people who suffer most.

Richard C. Crook and James Manor have maintained in their work “Democracy and Decentralization in South Asia and West Africa” that, “if politicians and/or bureaucrats steal money from the development programmes, citizens receive fewer benefits. If they demand bribes before delivering goods and services, citizens gain less”. This situation is not right, and the current government has made commendable efforts in trying to turn around the country for the better. In 2007, President Ernest Bai Koroma declared zero tolerance against corruption. He followed it up with the implementation of the 2008 Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Act that sought to educate, investigate, prevent, prosecute and punish law breakers.

According to Section 89 (1) of the ACC Act of 2008, “where the Commissioner is of the opinion that the findings of the Commission on any investigation warrant a prosecution under this Act, he shall do so in court.” This is an unmistakable indication that the Commission needs no fiat to prosecute cases as it used to happen prior to the promulgation of the 2008 Act.”

Furthermore, the 2008 Act goes further to empower the ACC “to take all steps as may be necessary for the prevention, eradication or suppression of corruption and corrupt practices” (Section 7 (1) (a), Anti-Corruption Act 2008). In manifestation of government’s commitment in mitigating corruption in Sierra Leone, the 2008 ACC Act also assured and enhanced the independence of the Commission in the following lines: “The Commission shall act independently, impartially, fairly and in the public interest…subject to this Act, the Commission shall not in the performance of its functions, be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority” (Section 9 (1) and (2), Anti-Corruption Act 2008).

President Koroma’s government has gone down in the history of Sierra Leone as the first government to support the declaration of not just the property of all public officers but also their liabilities, be it bank loans, mortgages etc. “Every public officer shall, within three months of becoming a public officer, deposit with the Commission a sworn declaration of his income, assets and liabilities and therefore not later than 31st March in each succeeding year that he is a public officer, deposit further declarations of his income, assets and liabilities and also while leaving office” (Section 119 (1), Anti-Corruption Act 2008).

In all of this, the question that remains glued on the lips of the people is what does Maada Bio have to hide with respect to the allegations about corruption when he served as Head of State for three months (from January 1996 to March 1996)? What has Maada Bio done to dispel allegations of theft and corruption when he served as head of state during the NPRC era?

My personal take is that Julius Maada Bio who sat in the same class with my elder brother, Mohamed Kawusu-Konte, is a cool guy. As a teenager during the NPRC coup in 1992, my observations were that Maada Bio was one of the coolest and calculated officers of the NPRC. It is believed that he handed over power willingly to the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. I wish that was all that was told about Maada Bio’ contributions to the democratization process as well as the effective management of our resources under his watch.

The man who the SLPP presidential aspirant handed over power to (Ahmad Tejan Kabbah) 1996 has said that Maada Bio handed over power rather reluctantly and grudgingly “as a result of the resistible and overwhelming desire and determination of the population for an elected civilian Government.” But Maada Bio and his SLPP caboodle continue to claim that he handed over power willingly, and therefore regard it as a goose that lays golden eggs. Maada Bio can do the people of Sierra Leone much good by commenting on this allegation made by no less a person than an SLPP kingpin like Tejan Kabbah.

Additionally, the SLPP through its presidential aspirant, Julius Maada Bio has spewed many allegations against the government, especially bordering on corruption and violence. Much as I agree that free speech should be guaranteed in post-war Sierra Leone, I equally believe that politicians MUST step up the plate in terms of transforming the country by saying the truth at all times.

Immediately Maada Bio won the SLPP flag bearership position, questions about his role during the NPRC took centre stage in discussions about the way forward for Sierra Leone. The questions many citizens continue to ask about Maada Bio’s role in the NPRC continue to attract different answers. When you add to this the general conviction among the SLPP kingpins of the late 90s that Julius Maada Bio was corrupt (particularly Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and Solomon Berewa) you begin to realize that the SLPP is not serious about the development and transformation of the country.

According to former President Tejan Kabbah, “Another instance of the reckless and irresponsible manner in which the affairs of the state were conducted by the NPRC regime is in the granting of a general power of attorney to Steven Bio, the brother of erstwhile Head of State and government, to conclude all and any defence and military contracts anywhere in the world and at his sole discretion, as the accredited agent of the Government of Sierra Leone. By virtue of such unusual authority, Steven Bio concluded a number of contracts running into tens of millions of dollars. There is no evidence that most of these contracts have been performed but Steven Bio has already been paid millions of dollars on them and he is claiming further amounts as arrears of payments.”

The former president also mentioned that in his capacity as NPRC Chairman and Head of State and Government, “Brigadier J M Bio himself on the 1st February 1996, few days before he left office, caused the Government to pay into the account of his private firm, P Banga Investment Limited the sum of Le.235,000,000 in respect of contracts that that firm had purportedly entered into with Government for the supply of spare parts for the replacement of helicopter engines which did not belong to Government. Incidentally, it was into the account of this same firm in the Channel Islands that Brigadier Bio paid his own share of the US$400,000 from the passport deal which was disclosed recently.”

I am not going to go too deep into this as subsequent articles will throw more light on the issue of Maada Bio’s (mis)behaviour during the NPRC vis-a-vis the management of the scarce resources of the country. The million dollar questions the people want answered right now are: what does Maada have to hide? Why he is silent on allegations of theft of our passports and granting dubious and bogus contracts to his brother while he served as NPRC Chairman? Why is Maada vociferous on so-called violence but silent on corruption? Subsequent articles will dilate on these questions.