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Getting to the Bottom of the Dual Citizenship Scandal

Getting to the Bottom of the Dual Citizenship Scandal

On the 9th of January 2018 Cocorioko Newspaper wrote that the “ruling All People’s Congress (APC) will be adhering to Section 76(1), Act No. 6 of the 1991 constitution, in awarding symbols for the forthcoming Parliamentary elections.”

Section 76(1) states that “no person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament, if he is a naturalized citizen of Sierra Leone or if he is a citizen of a country other than Sierra Leone, having become such a citizen voluntarily or is under a declaration of allegiance to such a country.”

Asked by Cocorioko why the APC took the decision only now, Mr. Agibu Jalloh said that the law had always been there and that the decision was taken to avoid petitions against MPs after they would have won the forthcoming elections.

Mr. Jalloh disclosed that even the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party SLPP adhered to the same law in awarding symbols to aspirants for parliamentary seats for the upcoming elections.

“It is a cautionary measure to avoid our MPs being petitioned by the opposition. If any MP holds a dual citizenship, he will have problems with the law and we as the ruling party cannot be found violating the law, ” he explained.

As I felt the pain of disappointment of those vying for Parliamentary seats I could also recall a prediction we made in a past edition of Sierra Eye Magazine. In that edition we cautioned that the 2006 amendments made to the Citizenship laws were not adequate and belie much larger problems. Today we see that those vying to become Parliamentarians are the latest victims of one of the bigger problems we anticipated.

My intention here is not to go into lengthy legal arguments especially when section 76 sub-section 1 of the 1991 constitution is so clear. I will also refrain at this stage from commenting on whether this section must be maintained or amended.

I am however very troubled with the allegations that former Members of Parliament were disqualified because of their dual citizenship. More disturbing is the other allegation that Ministers and Deputy Ministers with dual citizenship are currently serving in this government in blatant violation of Section 56 sub section 2 of the constitution which provides that: “A person shall not be appointed a Minister or Deputy Minister unless, He is qualified to be elected as a member of Parliament.”

If these allegations are true it begs a series of questions: How on earth did it happen? Is it that those who are responsible to uphold the constitution are themselves just ignorant of the constitution or did they deliberately turn a blind eye to it? Why did the numerous Attorney Generals not advise the President against appointing dual citizens where the constitution clearly bars them? Is it that the vetting process that MPs and Ministers go through is so lackluster that not one person bothered to ask them to produce documentary evidence of their citizenship before they were nominated? What about the so-called legal luminaries, civil society and activists that claim they are the watchmen of our democracy, how come they did not pay attention to this?

With regards the legal implications, another set of questions come to mind: What happens now to legislations that former MPs with dual citizenship voted for during their term? Should those legislations be declared null and void? Should the salaries they received from the consolidated fund be reclaimed?  Will they be investigated?

More worrisome and urgent right now are the following set of questions: What about directives, decisions and contracts signed by current-serving ministers who allegedly hold dual citizenship, can they be declared null and void? Can they be challenged in a court of law? How many of those instances exist?

Here is a hypothetical example. Minister A, who carries a dual citizenship, signed a contract or a concession on behalf of the government with a certain Company pursuant to his/her statutory duty. Is that contract valid when in this case the purported Minister is not really a Minister under the constitution? Is the APC government even aware of the potential devastating legal consequences on directions, concessions and contracts that may have been signed and are being signed by these alleged Ministers with dual citizenship?

In sum, if the intention of the government is to obey the letter and spirit of the constitution I move that the office of the AG suspend the duties of all ministers pending a full inquiry to investigate the question of Citizenship of every single Minister and Deputy Minister serving in the current cabinet together with all the Presidential Candidates, otherwise the insinuations of illegality will continue to swirl.

Now that the government has suddenly woken up to section 76, the above step is a must or else we are setting a dangerous precedent that will leave an indelible mark on our democratic process.

By Basita Michael 

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