The Commission of Inquiry, which was established to look into the activities of former Government officials from November 2007 to April 2018, came to an end. Today, 4th February 2020, marks one year since the Commission of Inquiry officially started sitting at the former Special Court compound in New England Ville courtesy of Constitutional Instruments 64, 65 and 67 of 2018 from Parliament. It was tense as the Commission began with legal debates on whether the Commission had the mandate to probe into deeds of the former government officials under the All People’s Congress (APC) Government, if those officials should attend the Commission at all and the discussion around “witch hunts”. The hype was fueled by the Government Transition Team Report which allegedly pointed out massive misappropriations of Government funds by the past Government officials. Three Judges were mandated to look into the activities and assets of the former Ministers, Department and Agencies spearheaded by former Government officials, William Attuguba from Ghana, Biobele Georgewill from Nigeria and Bankole Thompson from Sierra Leone. Over 15 MDA’s were investigated including the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Lands, Petroleum Directorate, Sewa Ground Project, the Youth Ministry, the Ministry of Social Welfare and the assets of the former officials weren’t an exception. Amongst the names investigated were the former President Ernest Bai Koroma, former Vice President Victor Foh, former Minister of Agriculture Sam Sesay, former Minister of Youth Bai Mamoud Bangura, former Health Minister Miatta Kargbo and a host of other officials. The probe was divided into two phases; the activities of former government officials in executing their functions and the assets of these officials. The Commissioners were initially given a three-month mandate but it was later extended to six months. The Commission went far beyond its original mandate.
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The Commission of Inquiry generated a lot of interest at the start, as journalists, civil society activists, lawyers and member of the public flooded the Commission. Others were at home glued to their television sets. But, the tempo of interest dwindled due to exhaustion and the long run of the Commission. Hundreds of witnesses were called by the State lawyers, who tendered thousands of pages of documents to make their case. Top officials from the previous Government refused to attend the Commission with the exception of Sylvia Blyden, Victor Foh and Palo Conteh who went to clarify certain allegations. Biobele Georgewill was the first Commissioner to finish his task, which ended in December 2019. Both other Commissioners, Thompson and Attuguba, finished on the same day after additional weeks into investigations. Top legal practitioners took part in the investigation, amongst which are counsels for the State; Robin Mason, Khadija Bangura, Robert Kowa and Musa Mewa. Whilst the former Attorney General, Joseph F. Kamara, represented Persons of Interest, together with Ady Macauley, Lansana Dumbuya, Africanus Sorie Sesay and Amadu Koroma amongst others. During the closing at Commission No.65, Ady Macauley appreciated the work of Bankole Thompson citing he has been yearning to practice before the Judge for quite a long time and appreciated the opportunity. He however canvassed the Judge for fair recommendations at the end of the process. Thompson closed with the probing of Sylvia Blyden’s submissions, whilst William Attuguba, earlier in the morning, wrapped up his investigations with the National Diamond Mining Company quarters involving John B. Sisay. The work of the three Commissioners is partly finished as they write their final submissions, which will be presented to the Government of Sierra Leone.
By Mohamed J. Bah
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