Truth vs Technicality in Sierra Leone Court of Appeals
More information in the 34-page official judgment of the Sierra Leone Court of Appeals in the case of Miatta Kargbo versus the State has revealed that the motive and conduct of the current SLPP lead Government is to unfairly target past Government ministers who served under former President Ernest Bai Koroma, who are members of the All People’s Congress (APC).
The Sierra Leone Court of Appeals judgment in the appeals filed by Miatta Kargbo (in photo), former Minister of Health, has revealed the apparent bias of the proceedings and the fact that the current SLPP administration’s use of untruths and innuendoes to prosecute former ministers of the former regime. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to tarnish former Ministers’ reputation by ensuring that even genuine attempts to provide all evidence and supporting information to clear their good name are refused and denied, as is evident in the Miatta Kargbo appeals proceeding and judgment.
Legal commentators and political observers are confused about how the Court of Appeals reached its judgment in Miatta Kargbo’s appeal given the preponderance of evidence both in facts and importance tendered by Melron Nicole Wilson, Miatta Kargbo’s lawyer but refused by counsel for the State – Robert Kowa. Sierra Leone legal scholars have intimated that Sierra Leone’s Court of Appeals has provision for a motion for leave to adduce fresh evidence under Order 27 of the Court of Appeal rules of 1985. Melron Nicole Wilson, during court proceedings, made a motion for leave to adduce evidence under Order 27 to produce support documents, bank statements, income, etc. to clarify issues related to two (2) Zenith Bank accounts, which Miatta Kargbo established two (2) years after she left office as Minster. Ironically, these bank accounts have wrongly become the subject of alleged unexplained wealth, which Miatta Kargbo did not have an opportunity to rebut allegation during the Commissions of Inquiry (COI). The counsel for the State in the Court of Appeals refused to accept the evidence that explained all deposits in Miatta Kargbo’s account, objecting on the grounds that it is not the duty of the Court of Appeal to look at new evidence at the Appellate stage, but rather to see if the conclusions arrived at the Commission of Inquiry were just and supported by evidence. But, if the COI conclusions were themselves flawed, unjust, and not supported by evidence, does the Court of Appeals not want to remedy a wrong by a lower court? Is it not what the appeals process is all about, especially for such issues as alleged unexplained wealth, does the State not want to know the truth? Or is the State comfortable with the insinuations and innuendos, NOT facts? After all, there were flawed and unjust conclusions by the COI, which were evident in the judgement about the 20 ambulances.
The Court of Appeals on the issues of the 20 ambulances stated that:
‘We see no reason to interfere with the Sole Commissioner’s Findings, save for the fact that all ambulances procured were delivered. We will not uphold the findings that USD 1,050,000.00 remained unaccounted for in relation to ambulances procured by the Ministry of Health. The ambulances were duly purchased and sent to Sierra Leone’.
Legal commentators have stated that Melron Nicole Wilson, who represented Miatta Kargbo should have won the appeals because one of the major grounds the appeal as per Sierra Leone Appellate rules was accepted in the case of the 20 ambulances. The Court of Appeal indirectly agreed that Justice Biobele Georgewill (COI) erred in law and fact and was wrong in his findings and conclusions when he stated that Miatta Kargbo should refund over One Million US dollars for ambulances that, according to state witnesses, were procured and supplied during Miatta Kargbo’s tenure in Office as Minister. The indictment against the sole commissioner is even stronger when in the records before the Court of Appeal containing the transcript of proceedings at the Commission of Inquiry, witnesses for the states testifying against Miatta Kargbo stated that the ambulances were procured and supplied and used in the fight against Ebola. The Court of Appeals’ acceptance of the 20 ambulances appeal filed by Miatta Kargbo is very revealing and indicative of the motives of the overall judgment against Miatta Kargbo by the Court of Appeal. In some other Ebola matters, why was the State not interested in drilling down the Ebola response leadership, timelines, and specific roles and responsibilities in the appeals? But instead, the State has been eager to levy responsibility on SELECT leaders, excluding the responsible civil servants (e.g., permanents sectaries, finance directors, procurement managers, etc.) who were directly responsible for specific activities like procurement, tax deductions, reporting, etc.
It is expected that Miatta Kargbo will appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone.
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