Christian Lawyers Centre (LEGAL LINK) in a press release says it has received a number of complaints from legal practitioners, law students, law graduates and members of the general public over a proposed Bill widely circulated on social media, purporting to introduce two new law schools as well as the continued illegal imposition of entrance requirements on law graduates applying at the Sierra Leone Law School that is not supported by law.
LEGAL LINK stated in the release: “But before delving into the facts and merits of these complaints, let me seize this opportunity to openly commend your leadership over the plethora of reforms and innovations currently being introduced within the judiciary of the Republic Sierra Leone.”
It added: “We note in particular the separation of the inferior courts from the Superior Courts of Judicature, the infrastructural facelift, establishment of specialized courts, beautification of the court environment, restoration of sanity around the precincts of the courts, employment of more magistrates, judges and staff as well as improving access to justice in remote areas of the country.
“While the task of reforming the judiciary may still be far from being accomplished, we however make bold to say that these key reforms you have introduced in your tenure are not only timely but are certainly making significant impacts within the justice system in the republic of Sierra Leone. Kudos to you.”
The release noted further: “But be that as it may however, permit me my lord and Chairman to urgently bring to your attention the twin issues mentioned above for the kind intervention of the Council of Legal Education.
“No doubt, by virtue of the Council of Legal Education Act 1989, the Council of Legal Education serves as the highest decision-making organ of the Sierra Leone Law School.
“It is against this backdrop that we have considered it fit and appropriate to address these concerns to you for the attention of Council.
“Regarding the issue of the proposed draft bill that has been widely circulated on social media, we note that the Bill seeks to amend the Council of Legal Education Act 1989 to provide, amongst other things, for “representation of Njala University and the University of Makeni in the Council of Legal Education, and to provide for the establishment of Njala University Law School and the University of Makeni Law School”.
“As an organization that promotes human rights, the rule of law, accountability and due process in Sierra Leone, we are motivated to ask some fundamental questions:
“Was this proposed Bill an endorsement of the Council of Legal Education? To what extent was the legal community in Sierra Leone consulted before the drafting and circulation of the proposed Bill? What is the true rational and compelling justification for proposing such a Bill that seeks to regionalize Law schools in the country?
“My lord and Chairman, the arguments of LEGAL LINK against the proposed bill are premised on the above rhetorical questions.
“First, we are strongly of the opinion that such a Bill was never an endorsement of the Council of Legal Education in the first place. You will agree with us Mr Chairman that the governing and highest decision-making body of the Sierra Leone Law school is Council. Without the expressed approval of this Bill by that Council, it will be a travesty to proceed with such amendment to say the least.
“Secondly, it is now clear as crystal that the legal community was never consulted over this proposed Bill that is to be enacted. The Public Notice of the Sierra Leone Bar Association dated 16th August 2021 clearly reveals this.
“This nocturnal act in itself underscores the insincerity and unaccountability surrounding the proposed Bill.
“Mr Chairman, we submit that members of the Sierra Leone Bar Association have a moral and legal justification to be consulted on such an issue which has to do particularly with their profession and survival. It is inconceivable and preposterous therefore to learn that they were left out on such an important matter. This Bill must therefore be strongly resisted and disdained in our society.
“Thirdly and most important of all, we are of the strongest conviction that creating new law schools in the South and the North of the country will inadvertently embolden regional and ethnocentric tensions in the legal profession in Sierra Leone.
“And you will certainly agree with us my lord and Chairman that regionalism and ethnic divide has been a major factor responsible for our backwardness as a nation today.
“We don’t want such to be institutionalized in the legal profession and continue to fester in the future unabated. It is highly likely that if the South and North are allowed to have distinct law schools, the East and North-West will also be justified to call for theirs in the future. And this situation will certainly not be good for our noble legal profession in the country!
“It is important to further emphasize that Sierra Leone is not a federal state but a unitary one and it is for good reasons why Parliament passed the 1989 Council of Legal Education Act to create for a unified SIERRA LEONE LAW SCHOOL.
“Amongst other things, it wanted to suppress regionalization, parochial and ethnocentric institutionalization within the Legal profession in Sierra Leone. Usually, the creation of plurality of law schools is more akin to federal systems of government than unitary ones.
“In place of this draconian bill, we strongly recommend to the Council of Legal Education for either an introduction of new Sierra Leone Law school campuses in the provinces where practicable; or embark on a two shift system at the Sierra Leone Law School in Freetown so as to cater for the growing number of law students graduating every year from within and outside of Sierra Leone applying into the Sierra Leone Law school.
“This step, we strongly believe, would be a more measured response in relation to addressing the influx problem at the Sierra Leone Law School rather than creating new Law schools in the provinces, further entrenching regional stereotypes.
“In another development, we note also that the Sierra Leone Law School has introduced new additional subject requirements to form part of its entrance requirements into the Sierra Leone Law School.
“These additional subject requirements are Equity & Trusts, Law of Contract, Law of Tort, Criminal Law, Constitutional Law and Land Law.
“For a student to now be admitted, he or she must be a holder of at least a third-class honours degree in law from a recognized university approved by the Council of Legal Education and must have passed the above additional subjects.
“Strikingly, a cursory look at the Council of Legal Education Act 1989 which governs the Law school reveals that no subject requirement is provided for admission into the Sierra Leone Law School.
“The question that comes to mind is: Why should Sierra Leone Law School amend the Council of Legal Education Act without reference to Parliament? Why should new subject requirements be added without Parliamentary approval? Why should the administrators of the Law School continue to deprived students from access to legal education using illegally imposed requirements?
“Rightly so, the administration of the Sierra Leone Law School tried twice to seek an amendment of the Council of Legal Education Act 1989 through Statutory Instruments for additional subject requirements to be approved by Parliament.
But this proved unsuccessful as Parliament refused such statutory instruments for want of procedure and irregularities.
“With the two attempts to amend the law proving unsuccessful, the administration of Law School decided to now take the law into their own hands by going ahead with the implementation of the additional subject requirements notwithstanding. This behavior we submit is clearly unacceptable in a democratic society that prides on the rule of law and due process.
“No doubt, you will agree with me my lord and Chairman, that it is Parliament that has the sole responsibility to amend the laws of the land. This is so because they were the maker of such laws in the first place.
“But in this exceptional instance, it may appear as though the administrators of the Sierra Leone Law School have transformed themselves into a law making entity, usurping the authority of Parliament.
“We therefore call on your urgent intervention to estop this Parliamentary usurpation and ensure that a statutory instrument be laid correctly by the Council before parliament seeking the approval of the additional subject requirements to form part of the admission requirements into the Sierra Leone Law School.
“A continued denial of students right to access legal education by the administrators of the Sierra Leone Law School through illegally imposed requirements that are not supported by law amounts to a blatant violation of the right to education as enshrined under many of the international and regional treaties that Sierra Leone has Signed and ratified.
“While we anticipate the urgent addressing of these concerns by the Council of Legal Education, please accept the assurances of our highest regards.”
Zenith Bank Staff& AnotherDocked for Fraud
By Feima Sesay
A Zenith Bank Staff Marvin Onyedikacti and one Hassan Morie Yajah were again refused bail and remanded at the male correctional facility in the on-going preliminary investigation into an alleged fraud of over 200 million Leones at the said Bank.
The accused persons made their second appearance before magistrate Sahr Kekura of Pademba road court No 1 on three counts charges ranging from conspiracy contrary to law, Larceny by servant contrary to section 17(1)(a) of the larceny Act 1916 and larceny contrary to section 2 of larceny Act 1916.
According to the particulars of offence for count one, the police alleged that the accused persons Marvin Onyedikacti and Hassan Morie Yajah on on diverse date between 14 March 2021, to 13 July 2021, at Zenith Bank Rawdon street Freetown conspired together with other persons unknown to commit a felony to wit larceny.
The police further alleged on counts two that the first accused Marvin Onyedikacti on the same dates at Zenith Bank Wellington Branch Freetown being a servant employed by Zenith Bank, stole the sum of One Hundred and eighty three million four hundred and forty one thousand six hundred and forty Leones (Le183,441,640) property of the said Bank.
Whiles counts three stated that the second accused Hassan on the aforementioned dates in Freetown did steal the sum of fifty million Leones (le 50 000,000) property of Zenith Bank.
The prosecution witness No 1 Louis Turay Internal Control and Audit Officer Zenith Bank SL led in evidence by ASP Ibrahim Mansaray said he is the Internal Control and Audit Officer of Zenith Bank SL and that his job functions are to investigate loan fraud as well as customers complaint.
He recognized the first accused as a staff and marketer of Zenith Bank Wellington Branch whiles second accused he said is a customer of the bank who owns both Leones and Dollar account.
The witness further recalled a date between1st March 2021 to 13 July 2021, further stating that on 7 July the bank received complaints from one customer that four hundred dollars has been missing from his account and that upon the receipt of that complaint they told the customer to do it in writing which was done. He also told the court that he has a copy of that said complaint at the office.
At this juncture, Magistrate Sahr Kekura advised the prosecutor to take a date to enable the witness come with photocopies of all relevant documents concerning the matter to ensure speedy trial.
A S P Mansaray adhered to the Magistrate and requested for an adjournment.
Defense counsel for first accused Marvin Onyedikacti, Lawyer Sylvanus A.S Kanyako applied for bail on his behalf, adding that his client is not a flight risk and will not jump bail if granted bail, adding that they are ready to see the logical conclusion of the matter.
His application was made pursuant to section 79( 2&3 )of the criminal procedure act No 32 of 1965.
Magistrate Sahr Kekura however refused both accused persons bail and remanded them in prison while the matter was adjourned to Wednesday 24 August 2021 for further hearing.