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ACC SECURES LANDMARK CONVICTION AGAINST MR JOKO VENN, PRINCIPAL OF RUSSEL TECHNICAL SECONDARY SCHOOL

The Anti- Corruption Commission has always been viewed by critics as an institution set up only for small fishes in the state. But in recent times however, it appears that this allegation has been proven untrue and misplaced. With the Commission’s recent conviction against the Principal of Russell Secondary School, many have now agreed that the Commission truly exists for all and sundry.

It could be recalled that the ACC in 2015 charged Mr. Joko Venn with one count charge of ABUSE OF OFFICE contrary to section 42 of the Anti- Corruption Act of 2008. The particulars of the offence is that Mr. Joko Venn substituted the list of WASSCE students from Russell Secondary School approved by the Ministry of Education for the 2014 Wassce Exams by removing 136 names and replacing them with other 136 students who were never approved by the Ministry of Education. By doing this, Mr. Joko Venn conferred an advantage on students not qualified to sit to the 2014 Wassce exams.

The State Prosecutors for this case were Lawyer Rashid Dumbuya and Lawyer Mohamed Muctarr Sow. The Defence counsel for the Accused was Lawyer Fio Edwards. The Presiding Judge in the case was Justice Alusine Sesay.

After about a year and three months of hearing, judgment was delivered on 8th Dec 2016 and the verdict went in favour of the ACC.  Justice Alusine Sesay ordered the Accused to pay the sum of 30,000,000 Leones and refund all the monies he took from the 136 students (about 400, 000 each) within a period of 30 days. Failing which the accused should serve a jail term of 3 years at the pademba road maximum prisons. According to Lawyer Rashid Dumbuya, Law Lecturer and state prosecutor in this case, this Judgment is very significant in three main ways:

Firstly, it provides a landmark decision showcasing that individuals heading private institutions can commit the offence of ABUSE OF OFFICE. The offence of Abuse of Office is not only for government officers or public servants working in government offices, but persons heading private institutions can also commit such an offence especially where it can be shown that they received monies or assistance from government or the donor community and could not account for it or conferred an advantage on themselves or other persons while carrying out functions as head of such institutions.

Secondly, the judgment sends a strong message to all principals in Sierra Leone that it is only the Ministry of Education that has the exclusive right to approve students for the WASSCE exams and its approval list is final and binding and must never be tampered with by principals.

Lastly, the judgment is also a win for all students and education in Sierra Leone. The 136 students that Mr. Joko Venn deprived from going through their WASSCE exams and those he also took monies from will be happy that justice has been delivered. It further shows that the right to education is being taken seriously by the state and any attempt to deprive students from the enjoyment of this right will be met with stiff resistance. Education is an empowerment right and to deprive anyone is suicidal at the very least.

 

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