Sierra Leone law firm calls action taken against their colleagues 'dangerous and unprecedented'


Yada Williams & Associates, barristers, and solicitors in Freetown, Sierra Leone have written a letter to the president of the Bar Association about what they call 'unworthy attack on the persons and integrity of senior legal practitioners in the course of carrying out their duties.' 


Dear Sir,

RE: THE UNWORTHY ATTACK ON THE PERSONS AND INTEGRITY OF SENIOR

LEGAL PRACTITIONERS IN THE COURSE OF CARRYING OUT THEIR DUTIES;

INTRODUCTION:

We refer to the above-mentioned matter and write to convey our dismay and

dissatisfaction with the findings of Honourable Sir Justice Biobele Georgewill against

Ajibola Emmanuel Manly-Spaine Esq. and the firm of Basma & Macaulay, legal

practitioners and members of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, whilst sitting as the

Chairman and Sole Commissioner in Commission of Inquiry No. 1 and to call for

action against the said findings by the Sierra Leone Bar Association.

ACCOUNTABILITY & THE RULE OF LAW:

Diverse occurrences in Sierra Leone confirm with much frequency the reality that

accountability has become a lost principle in the nation, to the extent of becoming in

the minds of some, a luxury. We, therefore, recognise, heartily applaud and support all

proper and well-minded efforts at achieving accountability and ensuring that this

principle becomes a widespread guiding norm in our society. The setting up of the

Commissions of Inquiry was, therefore, a laudable decision by the current

Government. However, we also hold and maintain that such should not involve the

subversion of the rule of law or due process and we would not hesitate to express our

aversion for the sacrifice of one for the other. 

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THE SIERRA LEONE BAR ASSOCIATION AND ITS MANDATE:

The Sierra Leone Bar Association has since its inception tasked itself with being a

watchdog of the legal profession. Specifically, in Clauses 3(a) and (d) of its

Memorandum and Articles of Association it is stated that:

“3. The objects for which the Company is established are as follows:

 (d) To consider and review all matters affecting the interest of the

profession, and if necessary, to petition Parliament or promote deputation

and to procure change of law or practice, and the promotion of

improvements in the administration of the law”.

Echoes of this run throughout the Sierra Leone Bar Association’s website where it

is boldly asserted as follows:

“The Bar Association will promote and protect the interest of its

members and continues to aspire to be what we truly should become – a

beacon of light, hope, and excellence in this land that we love”.

Therefore, suffice it to say that the foremost ambition of the Bar Association is to

concern itself with the management of the fabric of the legal profession in the best

possible form.

In our opinion, the Sierra Leone Bar Association has been presented with an

opportunity to live up to its ascribed mandate from the rather startling/puzzling

findings in the Commission of Inquiry report against two of its members. As the

torchbearer of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, this letter is addressed to your

office with the expectation that the Bar Association would stand behind its own

especially in the face of gross injustice and reputational damage and in doing so take

a stance for the legal profession as a whole.

BACKGROUND:

By Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 dated 1st August 2018 Justice Biobele

Georgewill was appointed to, inter alia, examine the assets and other related matters

in respect of persons who were President, Vice President, Ministers, Ministers of

State, Deputy Ministers, heads and chairmen of parastatals, departments and

agencies within the period from November 2007 to April 2018. In carrying out his

mandate, the Judge conducted an investigation into the activities of the office of the

Attorney General and Ministry of Justice over the same period of time. More

specifically, he investigated the issue of legal fees paid to lawyers that represented

the State in the matter of Alhaji Sam Sumana vs. A-G & Anor (S.C. 4/2015) [2015]

SLSC 1203 (09 September 2015). Justice Biobele Georgewill’s findings and

subsequent recommendation on this particular issue are the following:

On page 165 of his full report, he stated that

“On 21/4/2015, with the approval of the former President, Dr. Ernest Bai

Koroma, the Government paid the sum of Le. 1,326,547,800.00 to some

lawyers to handle the case filed by Sam Sumana, former Vice President 

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against the Attorney General and Victor Foe before the Supreme Court of

Sierra Leone. The fees were made up as follows: i. USD150, 000. 00 about Le.

736,971,000.00 to Ajibola Emmanuel Manly Spain; ii. USD120,000.00 about

Le. 589,576,800.00 to Basma and Macaulay. The sum of Le. 727,651,764.00

could not be traced to the bank account and had remained unaccounted for”.

On page 171 of his full report, he found that

“The evidence disclosed and clearly identified the following Persons as

being responsible for these acts of corruption, abuse of office,

maladministration and lack of accountability: i. Franklyn Bai Kargbo,

former Attorney General and Minister of Justice; ii. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara,

former Attorney General and Minister of Justice; and iii. Arrow Bockarie,

former Deputy Minister of Justice. Other persons mentioned: i. Madam Serray

Kallay, Administrator/Registrar General; ii. Miss Marthina Kargbo, former

Solicitor General; iii. Hajia Kallah Kamara, former Commissioner General of

NRA; iv. Ajibola Emanuel Manly Spain; and v. Basma & Macaulay”.

On page 173 - 174 of the full report, he stated that

“The one - off payment of the huge sum of USD270, 000 about Le1, 326,

547, 800.00 as professional fees for the defense of the case of Sam

Sumana V. AG & Victor Foe before the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone

when the Attorney General, the Chief Law Officer/Consultant to the

Government and the Civil Division is primarily charged with the

responsibility of prosecuting or defending court cases involving the

Government was not only exorbitant but was a subterfuge to launder

money belong to the Government”.

 On page 175 of the Report he recommended that:

“4. The following persons shall jointly and severally refund and pay into

the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Sierra Leone two

thirds of the sum of USD270, 000 about Le1, 326, 547, 800. 00 laundered

under the guise of professional fees for the defense of the case of Sam

Sumana V. AG & Victor Foe before the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone when

the Attorney General is the Chief Law Officer/Consultant to the Government

and they should be referred to the Criminal Jurisdiction and or the Anti -

Corruption Commission for investigation and likely prosecution, namely: i.

Franklyn Bai Kargbo; ii. Ajibola Emmanuel Manly Spain; and iii. Basma &

Macaulay”.

ISSUES WITH THE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

We find these findings and subsequent recommendations to be outrageous,

lacking any support in law, unprecedented and simply vile.

Firstly, paragraph 4 of Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 is as clear as

crystal as to persons who could be investigated by this specific Commission and

it provides, inter alia, as follows:

“The purposes for which the Commission is appointed are to –

(a) Examine the assets and other related matters in respect of-

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i. Persons who were President, Vice President, Ministers,

Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers; and

ii. Heads and Chairmen of Boards of parastatals, Departments

and Agencies within the period from November 2007 to April

2018. [Emphasis ours]

(b) Inquire into and investigate whether assets were acquired lawfully or

unlawfully; -

(c) Inquire intoi. Persons who were President, Vice President, Ministers,

Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers; and

ii. Heads and Chairmen of Boards of parastatals, Departments

and Agencies; [Emphasis ours]

(e)to inquire into and investigate any persons or matters as may from time

to time referred to the Commission by his Excellency the President.”

It was obvious to Justice Biobele Georgewill, to us as members of the legal

profession and to the public at large that Ajibola Emmanuel Manly Spaine esq. and

Basma & Macaulay were private legal practitioners who did not fall within any of the

categories of people to be investigated as per Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of

2018, the document that created the Commission. Therefore rightly, neither A. E.

Manly Spaine Esq. nor the firm of Basma & Macauley were under investigation by the

State as they were not persons of interest.

Even if they were persons of interest, the rudimentary principle of natural justice -

audi alterem partem - was blatantly disregarded by Justice Biobele Georgewill in so

far as these two private legal practitioners were concerned. We spoke to persons in

the firm of Basma & Macaulay on the 28th instant and confirmed to us that they were

never served with notices to attend hearings, nor informed of any wrongdoing on their

parts and neither given an opportunity to inform of their own side of the story, which

is unsurprising as notices were only sent out to persons of interest, which they were

not. However, for the judge to treat them as such and subsequently make adverse

findings against them is a clear manifestation of the fact that either Justice Biobele

Georgewill did not appreciate the remit of his mandate or deliberately chose to go on

a frolic of his own.

In the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone case of ISATU KAMARA V THE ATTORNEY

GENERAL SC. MISC. APP. NO. 4 92 [unreported], a matter that emanated from a

decision of Justice Nylander sitting as Chairman in a Commission of Inquiry that was

set up by the National Provisional Ruling Council (N. P. R. C.) military Government,

the Hon. Justice S. M. F. Kutubu (Chief Justice) in his judgment dated 11th August

1992 opined as follows:

“This brings me to the principles of natural justice, the violation of which was

a ground of complaint. The applicant complained that the procedure adopted

by the Chairman of the Commission in refusing to listen to her before

sentencing her to imprisonment was an infringement of the principles of

natural justice. Indeed, there are fundamental principles which govern

judicial and quasi-judicial inquiries, and one of these is ‘the audi

alteram partem’ rule, that is, a party to judicial proceedings should not

be condemned unheard. No one who has a case or against whom an 

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unfavourable decision is given will believe he has been fairly treated if

in the course of his trial in any quasi-judicial proceedings leading to his

conviction and sentencing is refused hearing. We have carefully read the

records of the proceedings in this matter, and taking all the circumstances

into consideration it seems to us that the procedure, unwittingly no

doubt, adopted by Chairman Nylander in refusing to hear applicant

before sentence, thereby not making it plain and manifest that justice

was done, was bad. A judicial or quasi-judicial decision reached by a

tribunal in violation of the rules of natural justice may be quashed on

certiorari”.

THE PRACTICE OF GOVERNMENT HIRING PRIVATE PRACTIONERS:

It has been a common practice in Sierra Leone spanning decades for successive

Governments to outsource legal matters to private practitioners where they deem it

necessary. At the very Commissions of Inquiry set up by the current Government,

Counsel acting for the State comprised of a host of private legal practitioners –

Robert Kowa etc., your good self, Musa Mewa esq. and Oladipo V. Robin-Mason

esq. to name a few. Your good self and the many other private legal practitioners

were hired by the State to “prosecute” on its behalf and you all were paid, we

presume, handsomely from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. We maintain that this

decision by the Government should not warrant any adverse claims by anybody

against your good self or any of the other private legal practitioners in the future. It is

mystifying that the judge would associate Mr. Manly Spaine esq. and Basma &

Macauley with “acts of corruption, abuse of office, maladministration and lack of

accountability” for receiving what was contractually agreed would be their legal fees.

In our opinion it is an affront to the said legal practitioners for Justice Biobele

Georgewill to have also concluded that receipt of the contractually agreed legal fees

paid to the said practitioners were “a subterfuge to launder money belonging to the

Government”. We cannot fathom how money received from the Government of Sierra

Leone can be “laundered”. If that is the case, then the said judge has in the same

breadth indicted the Government of Sierra Leone of crime. What Justice Biobele

Georgewill said, more or less, was that the monies paid to the two legal practitioners

from the Consolidated Revenue Fund were “proceeds of crime”.

THE COMPORTMENT OF JUSTICE BIOBELE GEORGEWILL:


You need not have attended more than one session of the proceedings at

Commission of Inquiry No. 1 presided over by Justice Biobele Georgewill to conclude

that he lacked the demeanour, temperament, professionalism and decorum expected

of a judge. He ran proceedings as if it was some circus or comedy show. As his

outlandish findings and subsequent recommendations referred to supra show, he

was a showman who did not appreciate the remits of his mandate and hardly had

time to do the work for which he was paid.

CONCLUSION:

It should be obvious from the above, that Justice Biobele Georgewill exceeded the

bounds of his mandate when he made the impugned findings against A. E. Manly

Spaine esq. and Basma & Macauley, both legal practitioners and members of the 

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Sierra Leone Bar Association, who were at no point in time placed before him for

investigation. Whilst we do not seek to dictate to the Sierra Leone Bar Association

what steps should be taken to remedy this depravity, injustice, and perversion we

however, think it nonetheless appropriate that your executive formulates and

disseminates a statement condemning this outrageous overreach by Justice Biobele

Georgewill. Alternatively, you can summon a meeting of the Sierra Leone Bar

Association at which the matters stated herein would be tabled and potential avenues

of redress discussed to relieve these two members of the Bar and the legal

profession of this profound injustice. This is a dangerous and unprecedented action

taken by Justice Biobele Georgewill against our colleagues. Basma & Macaulay,

without a shadow of a doubt, is one of our very best in the legal profession in Sierra

Leone in terms of ability, integrity and comportment. If this perversion is not

condemned by the Sierra Leone Bar Association there will be no protection for you,

Robert Kowa esq., and your other colleagues who were briefed and paid by the

Government to “prosecute” in the just-concluded Commissions of Inquiry. In the

future any errant judge or person presiding in a commission of inquiry could make

similar damning and reprehensible conclusions and recommendations against you

and the others.

FIAT JUSTITIA RUAT CAELUM!!

Yours faithfully,

Yada Williams & Associates.

C. C. 1. The Attorney-General & Minister of Justice.

 2. Sierra Leone Bar Association - members.


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