Abuja-Nigeria, 27thNovember, 2018–The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice sitting in Abuja, Nigeria has declared the removal of Sierra Leone Vice President from office as illegal, null and void.
In a judgement delivered Monday, the court presided over by Justice Hameye Foune Mahalmadane of Mali found that the singular action of Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma in sacking Samuel Sam-Sumana did not follow due process.
It said the 30-day period provision in the regulations of the governing All Peoples Congress (APC) for Mr. Samuel Sum-Sumana to appeal his removal from the party was not accorded the plaintiff, hence his “right to fair hearing and to participate in politics as guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right Articles 7 and 13 was grossly violated.”
Justices Friday Chijioke Nwokeof Nigeria and Alioune Sall of Senegal were part of the three-panel body that delivered the judgement.
The justices have therefore unanimously ordered the government of Ernest Bai Koroma to pay Mr. Sam-Sumana all his salaries, emoluments, perquisites, entitlements and pension from the day of his sacking to the end of the time that his tenure would have expired as constitutionally elected vice president. The defendant was also ordered to pay all costs of plaintiff in gathering evidence, hiring solicitors and prosecuting the matter in court The totality of costs will be calculated by the Registry of the Court.
The court further held that the Supreme of Court of Sierra Leone did not interpret the 1991 Constitution properly bearing in mind that Mr. Sam-Sumana was not accorded fair hearing before he was dismissed from office.
“The court should have upheld the plaintiff’s right to fair hearing in exhausting all procedures in the political party to which he was a member,” the judgement said.
On the argument by the Attorney-General of Sierra Leone Mr. Joseph Fritzgerald Kamara that the ECOWAS Court did have jurisdiction to handle the case of Mr. Sam-Sumana, the Justices dismissed that proposition, insisting that “their arguments are unintelligible, as the Protocol establishing the ECOWAS Court as amended Articles 9(4) and 10(d) is very clear on that and Sierra Leone is a signatory.”
“In so far as human rights violations are alleged to have occurred in any member state, this court has jurisdiction to invoke and we won’t shirk that,” the judges underlined.
However, other reliefs such as reinstatement in office sought by Mr. Sam-Sumana were not granted by the court as they are “either lapsed, predicated on domestic laws of Sierra Leone” and in the wisdom of court “to avoid chaos” in that country.
Mr. Sam-Sumana was represented by 20 multinational lawyers from two firms- Falana & Falana Chambers in Nigeria and Atuguba& Associates from Ghana. They were led by Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Femi Falana and Dr. Raymond Atuguba of Ghana respectively.
The former Vice President of Sierra Leone was sacked by Ernest Bai Koroma on March 17, 2015 on allegations that he had abandoned his job and sought refuge in the American Embassy in Freetown.
Another charge against Mr. Sam-Sumana was that he was no longer a member of the governing All Peoples Congress (APC) as he was expelled for some purported anti-party activities.
He has vehemently denied those allegations and accused President Koroma of mooting an idea to change the Constitution of Sierra Leone to run for a third term. Mr. Sumana said his refusal to agree to that idea created enmity for him for which reason all methods were deployed to oust him fromoffice.
Speaking to local and international media after the verdict, an elated Mr. Sumana dedicated the victory to the people of Sierra Leone who have stood behind him all these years in his attempt to uphold the constitution and the rule of law.
“My country has a post-conflict situation with scars and hurt. I did not want to choose the path of violence for my personal interest. Sierra Leone is bigger than one person.
“That is why I have to sacrifice to make sure that our dignity as a people is restored. Our country should not be like South Sudan and Zimbabwe,” he said.
He thanked all his well-wishers in Ghana, Nigeria, Europe, United States and across the globe for extending courtesies to him during his trying times to get justice.
Mr. Sam-Sumana reiterated his desire to seek the highest office of the land in the March 7, 2018 elections. According to him, plans are far advanced for all the smaller parties in Sierra Leone to come together in wrestling power from the incumbent APC government he described as “overly corrupt.”
He said in galvanizing the people of Sierra Leone under one umbrella for change, a future government should deliver the goodies of good governance, social services and economic enhancement.
Lawyer for Mr. Sam-Sumana, Dr. Raymond Atuguba told journalists that the judgement from the ECOWAS Court has a moral mark since the applicant’s rights as a human being have been upheld.
He said there will be a moral mark on President Ernest Koroma and his APC government forever for doing Mr. Sam-Sumana wrong.
Dr. Atugubavowed that lawyers for the plaintiff will deploy every means possible, legally and politically within the sub-region and the international community to ensure that the judgement is enforced.
Monitoring reports say over three thousand people have gathered on the compound of Mr. Sam-Sumana in the Sierra Leone capital Freetown as well as his native eastern enclave of Kono and are parting away at the judgement of the court.
Political pundits in Sierra Leone have told this reporter that the judgement of the ECOWAS Court will send strong shivers down the spines of Mr. Sam-Sumana’s political opponents. According to them, the quest of the former Vice President to seek the highest office of the land without using the two popular parties will open another chapter in the political history of Sierra Leone.
Currently, the All Peoples Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) are embroiled in internal fighting and petty squabbles.
Mr. Sum-Sumana’s loyalists have maintained that their candidate will seek to cash in on that and win disgruntled elements to his side.
The people of Sierra Leone go to the polls to elect a new president, parliamentarians and local government officials on March 7, 2018 and Mr. Sam-Sumana says he is going back home in December to start work in securing the people’s mandate.