The letter bearing the signature of Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo on January 7, 2016, as adviser to President Koroma which gives clearance for the Lebanon Garbage deal, for which he has been”invited” by the Police this morning for questioning raises more questions and implicates the Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission (NEC). It must be noted that Hon. Kargbo was pronounced the winner in the Parliamentary bye-election for constituency 30 in Bombali District, held on December 12, 2015.
Immediately following the announcement of the bye-election result, Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) leader who was a candidate in that election questioned the eligibility of Hon. Kargbo and threatened to file a petition in court. According to Mr. Mansaray, Hon. Kargbo did not resign his position as adviser to the president before contesting in that election as required by law.
The Sierra Leone Constitution requires that a civil servants must resign their position a year in advance of the time of contesting in an election for Parliament. Section 76. (1)(b) of the 1991 Sierra Leone Constitution states that no one is qualified to fun for Parliament “if he is a member of any Commission established under this Constitution, or a member of the Armed Forces of the Republic, or a public officer, or an employee of a Public Corporation established by an Act of Parliament, or has been such a member, officer or employee within twelve months prior to the date on which he seeks to be elected to Parliament”.
An opposition SLPP candidate for Parliament, Mr. Ansu Lansana, who had won a seat during the 2012 general elections was petitioned and later disqualified by NEC similar violation. Mr. Lansana had been petitioned by his challenger because the former had not resigned his position as a board member of the Sierra Leone Commercial bank within the time allowed before he contested. The seat was later handed over to the ruling APC candidate who came a distance second The ruling by the High Court reportedly left Mr. Lansana, who got over 11,000 votes disqualified and his main challenger, Ms. Regina Songa of the ruling APC, who got less than 2,000 votes the winner.
Now that Hon. Kargbo appears to have not only remained as adviser to the president at the time of the bye-election, but that he had continued to serve in that capacity even after he was pronounced the winner of the bye-election, as evident in the letter he signed four days ago for the Lebanon Garbage deal, all eyes are on NEC to see if the right thing will be done. The credibility of NEC is on the line on this one.
But as NEC ponders this, many questions have been raised regarding how NEC may have missed this violation. These questions include whether Hon. Kargbo deliberately lied on his candidacy application submitted to NEC that he had resigned his position; whether NEC performed its due diligence by requesting for evidence substantiating the resignation of Hon. Kargbo before clearing him to contest; and whether NEC conducting any corroboration with the President’s Office to ensure that the evidence, if any submitted to substantiate Hon. Kargbo’s resignation is valid. As this event unfolds, many have already begun to congratulate Mr. Mansaray as the rightful winner of the Bombali bye-election.
By Mustapha Wai, MambaTV / January 11, 2016