By C.F. MARGAI ESQ…
THE SACKING OF VICE PRESIDENT, CHIEF ALHAJI SAMUEL SAM-SUMANA, AS VIEWED BY ME FROM THE CONSTITUTIONAL PERSPECTIVE (ACT NO.6 OF 1991).
By Press Release from the office of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone dated Tuesday, March 17 2015, Vice President Chief Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana was removed as Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone with immediate effect.
The release went on to assure the public that the President would name a Vice President shortly, pursuant to Section 54(5) of Act No.6 of 1991, which he did on Thursday 19th March, 2015 by appointing and swearing in Mr. Victor Bockarie Foh.
His Excellency purports to derive authority for his actions from the following:-
- Letter dated 6th March, 2015 from the National Advisory Committee (NAC) of the A.P.C expelling Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana from the party.
- Section 40(3) of Act No.6 of 1991
- On Saturday March 14th 2015 Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana sought asylum from a foreign Embassy, “demonstrating a willingness to abandon his duties and office as vice president of our beloved Republic”.
- Section 41(b) of Act No.6 of 1991
- Section 40(1) of Act No.6 of 1991.
The expulsion from the A.P.C by the National Advisory Committee (NAC) of Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana on 6th March, 2015, is without doubt. I shall make no attempt to question the correctness or otherwise of that decision, as I consider it an internal party affair.
My concern is referable to Article 8.1.2 under the rubric Appeal at Page 43 of the A.P.C party constitution produced hereunder:-
“Any member aggrieved by a decision of any of the organs of the party, in pursuance of Article 8 of this constitution shall have the right of appeal within 30 days of the decision to the immediate higher organs of the party, in that successive Order, up to the National Delegates’ Conference provided that the decision of the National Delegates’ Conference shall be final”.
Article 8.1.2(ii) stipulates sanctions to be imposed on a member/members who may be disciplined. One of such is expulsion from the party.
Article 8.1.2 is silent on when any imposed sanction including expulsion shall take effect.
By inference under Appeal (1) at P.43 of the party constitution, it seems the door will be closed after consideration by the National Delegates’ Conference.
Based on the premise, it will not be presumptuous to say that the expulsion of Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana will remain open until the expiry of the 30 days allowed for an appeal, subject to confirmation or rejection of the expulsion decision by the National Delegates’ Conference.
Assuming I am right in my analysis thus far, then, I make bold to say that Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana has 18 days still open to him to appeal from NAC’s decision to the NDC of the party.
By reason of the premise, the President’s decision to sack him as Vice President based on Section 41(b) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991 was precipitous.
Constitutionally, (meaning the APC constitution cited herein) Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana remains a member of the A.P.C until the 30 days aforesaid expires.
Even before the expiration of the 30 days, optionally, Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana could do any of the following:-
- he may decide to join any of the existing Registered Political Parties in Sierra Leone, or
- he could opt to found his own party before the 30 days expires.
Section 41(b) of Act No.6 of 1991 will only come into play if the above options are not availed of before the 30 days expires.
Section 41(b) of Act No.6 of 1991 states: No person shall be qualified for election as President unless he:-
- is a citizen of Sierra Leone;
- is a member of a political party
- he has attained the age of forty years; and
- is otherwise qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament
Section 40(1) of Act No.6 of 1991 provides thus:- “There shall be a President of the Republic of Sierra Leone who shall be Head of State, the supreme executive authority of the Republic and the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces”.
Section 40(3) of the said Act provides thus:- : “the president shall be the guardian of the constitution and the guarantor of national independence and territorial integrity and shall ensure respect for treaties and international agreement.”
I sincerely hope the words “the supreme executive authority of the Republic” and “shall be the guardian of the constitution” as used in Sections 40(1) & (3) of Act No.6 of 1991 have not led the President into thinking that he has authority to interpret provisions of the constitution in this case Section 41(b) of Act No.6 of 1991, that Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana no longer fulfils the above Sub-section and could therefore sack him.
With respect interpretation of the Sierra Leone Constitution is exclusively reserved for the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone (See Section 124 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991).
Even if, for the sake of argument, it could be said that Alhadji Samuel Sam-Sumana does not now belong to a party and has thus breached Section 41(b) of Act No.6 of 1991, Mr. President has not the constitutional authority to dismiss him. The authority lies with the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone and Parliament.
If the Supreme Court interprets Section 41(b) of Act No.6 of 1991 in favour of the A.P.C, then the Vice President could be impeached under Section 54(8) of Act No.6 of 1991.
Section 54(8) of Act No.6 of 1991 provides: – “The provisions of Section 50 and 51 of this Constitution, relating to the removal from office of the President, shall apply to the removal from office of the Vice President”.
It is alleged that on Saturday 14th March, 2015, Vice President Sam-Sumana sought asylum from a foreign Embassy, “demonstrating a willingness to abandon his duties and office as Vice President of our beloved Republic”.
In Public International Law, there are two types of asylum:
- Diplomatic Asylum, &
- Territorial Asylum
Request by some individual who fears for his/her safety as a result of political persecution or discrimination to be given shelter in diplomatic establishments viz Embassy, Warships, Aircraft, Military Bases and Consulates.
Is about giving permission to foreigners to enter and stay in the country, since they are persecuted and discriminated against for their religious, political, cultural views or activities. A person is guaranteed that he/she would not be handed back at the request of his/her state.
The main difference between the two is that in the case of the former asylum is provided not on the territory of the state granting the asylum but rather as stated above in the diplomatic establishments. Whereas in the latter case, the asylum provided is within the state itself on fulfilment of certain conditions.
Paragraph 3 of the Press release dismissing Alhadji Sam-Sumana accuses of him having sought asylum thereby “demonstrating a wiliness to abandon his duties and office as Vice President of our beloved Republic.”
Assuming that Alhadji Sam-Sumana did seek asylum (yet to be established), does that by itself amount to a willingness to abandon his duties and office as Vice President of the Republic? The answer is obviously no. One can only assume or come to the conclusion that he has demonstrated a willingness to abandon his duties and office as Vice President if the asylum sought had been granted, which is not the case. I therefore believe that the action of the President is unjustified and unconstitutional.
Sections 40(1) & (3) of Act No.6 of 1991 having been dealt with, I now for the sake of completion, propose to look at Section 40(4) of the Constitution which provides thus: “Notwithstanding any provisions of this Constitution or any other law to the contrary, the President shall, without prejudice to any such law as may for the time being be adopted by Parliament, be responsible, in addition to the functions conferred upon him in the Constitution, for –
(a) all constitutional matters concerning legislation;
(b) relations with Foreign States;
(c) the reception of envoys accredited to Sierra Leone and the appointment of principal representatives of Sierra Leone abroad;
(d) the execution of treaties, agreements or conventions in the name of Sierra Leone;
(e) the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy;
(f) the grant of Honours and Awards;
(g) the declaration of war, and
(h) such other matters as may be referred to the President by Parliament:
It can been seen from the above section which lays out additional functions of the President that nowhere is the President given authority to act as he has done.
In the premise, it is my belief and conviction that the President’s action is unconstitutional, giving rise to the possible invocation of Section 51 of Act No.6 of 1991.
Regarding the choice of Victor Bockarie Foh as Vice President, this appointment clearly breaches Section 41(d) of Act No.6 of 1991 in that, he is not qualified to be elected a Member of Parliament in view of Section 76(1)(b) of Act No.6 of 1991.
It should be remembered that Mr. Victor Bockarie Foh was up to the time of his appointment as Vice President, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. He was a public officer.
Public office is define in Act No.6 of 1991 to mean “an office the emoluments attaching to which are paid directly from the consolidated fund or directly out of moneys provided by Parliament.”
Public officer means “a person holding or acting in a public office”.
C.F. MARGAI ESQ.
20th March, 2015.