19th November 2017
Is Total Sacking of the Electoral Commission Staff Round the Corner?
By a press release (09/09/17
The Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission (NEC) is facing intense pressure due to the commission’s catalogue of electoral blunders!!!
As the general elections draw nearer, the public is wary of the incompetence shown by the NEC officials in recent times and Sierra Leoneans are worried that if something drastic is not done now to ameliorate the situation at NEC, free and fair elections come March 2018, would be unattainable. (Pictured: NEC chairman Alie Conteh, first on the firing line).
Two leading newspapers in the country, the Awareness Times and the Torchlight have added their voices to this debate. Both newspapers want sanity and public trust return to the beleaguered NEC.
IN COMPLETE CONTRAVENTION OF THE PUBLIC ELECTIONS ACT, NFA ALIE’S POSITION IS NOW UNTENABLE
The contempt with which Nfa Alie Conteh and his caboodle at the National Electoral Commission (NEC) have treated Sierra Leoneans would need a special place in a sociological laboratory to experiment what would have motivated them to behave in such an uncouth manner towards their own compatriots.
At least previous electoral commissioners have had some semblance of national appeal until perhaps after the elections. But Nfa Alie has so quickly fallen from grace (either from one frying pan to another or from one fire to the other) that, way before the elections, almost everybody would be happy to see his back due to his unfathomable and unpardonable blunders. Simple Mathematics the man does not know: he could not calculate correctly to get the right date for the presidential election as stipulated in the Constitution, and he can’t translate figures into words. If an elections officer cannot count, then he is not fit for purpose!
Now Chief Electoral Commissioner Nfa Alie Conteh has reached a point where his blatant breach of the law cannot be overlooked anymore. The fact that so-called civil society activists hailed NEC for releasing ‘the final voters register’ - while in fact all that was issued in the 06 September press release was a table with anonymous figures - has left much to be desired as to their intentions in being accomplices to break the law of the land. The National Elections Watch (NEW) and the Standing Together for Democracy Consortium (STGC) have clearly shown that they can read, but they can’t understand!
Therefore, let us go to what the law says: Section 17 of the Public Elections Act 2012 clearly states that, “The registration of voters, updating and revision of the Voters Register shall be conducted not later than six months before an election…” This was apparently the reason why NEC officials knew and were giving the impression of working towards meeting the deadline of 07 September 2017, as it was very crucial vis-à-vis the conduct of elections on the proposed date of 07 March 2018.
And Section 13 of the same Public Elections Act categorically states that, “The Register of Voters for the time being in force shall be the conclusive evidence for the purpose of determining whether a person is or is not entitled to vote in a public election…”
What this unequivocally means is that every eligible voter must have known and established his or her eligibility to vote in the next election not later than six months before - not five months twenty-something days before, and definitely not on polling day as the criminally-crafted press release issued by NEC on 06 September 2017 insinuated.
Nfa Alie’s NEC apparently has total disregard, if not utter contempt, for the law. They did not make reference to any law when they were revealing knowledge in their press release about 3,735 missing records of voters in Kono and Western Urban districts; they did not refer to the law when confirming that they had not uploaded (not to talk of reviewing) 39,276 of voter records to their server. And in complete violation of Section 17 of the Public Elections Act, the 06 September 2017 contemptible NEC press release stated that, “If there are voters whose data are not fully captured, NEC will come back to these areas to recapture the missing data and this will be publicised in affected areas.” Absolute bunkum.
NEC has no power, no authority, no legality to do any form of registration of voters – whether as a form of correction or not – later than six months before the election!
In a clear admission of failure to produce a complete or final voters register as by law established within the six-month-prior timeframe, Nfa Alie and co ended their infamous and infantile press release by stating that, “NEC is committed to ensuring a complete voters’ register for the March 2018 electors and will use all the information collected through registration forms and other registration records, such as the registration journal, to ensure that all eligible voters who participated in registration will be able to vote.” Can someone please tell Nfa that he is not above the law? That no one is above the law? That the law says six months before elections all voters should know that they are registered to vote? You cannot bend the law to suit your comfort!
Now the people at NEW and STGC are saying NEC has published the final voters register. Where is it? Where is the final voters register? Are they saying the table contained in the disgraceful press release with mere anonymous figures amounted to a publication of the voters register? How men have lost their reason for power! Let’s educate them for free: The Public Elections Act 2012 clearly states in Part 3 (Register of Voters and Registration of Voters) Section 12 (1) that,
“There is hereby established a National Register of Voters in this Act referred to as the ‘Register of Voters’ which shall contain the names of persons who are entitled to vote in public elections…” Where were the names of voters in the apparently cooked-up figures in the scanty NEC press release that only outlined numbers for regions and districts, and not constituencies and wards which are the actual geographical jurisdictional areas of an electoral body?
Beyond that, to make things simple for even the dullest of an electoral commissioner, the drafters of the Public Elections Act went on to give a template of how a voters’ register should look like. Section 12 (2) of the Act did not mince its words: “The Register of Voters shall contain, but shall not be limited to the following particulars: (a) the full name of the voter; (b) the voter’s date and place of birth; (c) the voter’s residential address at the time of registration; (d) the voter’s sex; (e) the voter’s signature and thumbprint; (f) a column to indicate whether or not a voter has voted; (g) date of registration and voting; (h) the form of identification used; and (i) the ward in which the voter is ordinarily resident.”
The ridiculous table of cooked-up figures per district/region entailed in the 6th September NEC press release commended by its surrogates at NEW and STGC does not go anywhere near capturing or meeting any of these legal prerequisites for an acceptable final Register of Voters.
Even the so-called exhibition/verification exercise did not meet the legal requirements! To cut a long and nationally tragic story short, Nfa Alie has lost the legitimacy to continue in office. LONTA!!!
Courtesy: (A Torchlight news analysis)
WHY ATTACK ONLY NFA ALIE CONTEH? THE ENTIRE ELECTIONS COMMISSION NEEDS OVERHAUL OF ITS 5-MAN LEADERSHIP AND A FUNCTIONAL REVIEW OF ITS MIDDLE MANAGEMENT!
Awareness Times Newspaper has been one of the staunch protectors of Nfa Alie Conteh (and by extension, H.E. President Koroma) during the debate over legality of March 2018 elections date.
So to see Awareness Times Newspaper virtually withdraw support for Nfa Alie Conteh on their front pages this morning means Nfa Alie Conteh is in trouble. But let me ask a question of Awareness Times and all those condemning Nfa Alie Conteh singularly.
IS IT ONLY NFA ALIE AT FAULT?
Nfa Alie Conteh is the one signing the final documents and he is visibly leading the bungling but he is merely presenting totality of output from collaboration at various levels of NEC including by his fellow NEC commissioners (4 regional) as well as by the administrative and technical middle management.
This mess is NOT of Nfa Alie Conteh alone but reflects entirety of NEC dysfunctionality. So our calls should be for the entire bungling NEC organisational structure to be dissolved (yes, DISSOLVED!) and subjected to a functional review of its operations.
Let us learn lessons from Kenya. We have been through too much as a Nation to risk unrest over bungled up figures. Scrap the entire NEC now and undertake a review the organisational structure of NEC before it is too late.
And for those like Umaru Fofana who floated that recent nonsense about Parliament/President wanting to declare a State of Emergency in order to postpone 2018 elections, let them know that Sierra Leone has the constitutional legal instruments with which to postpone the March 2018 Elections without going through any State of Emergency.
SLPP-led Government's Constitutional Amendment of December 21st 2001 went on to make following changes to Section 43 of 1991 Constitution:
iii. by the insertion immediately after paragraph (b) of the proviso thereto of the following paragraph:
(c) "Where any proceedings have been lawfully commenced or taken for the purposes of the election and assumption of office of a President, if in such proceedings, due to any exceptional circumstances, a date has been appointed independently of paragraphs (a) and (b) of section 43 for the holding of the elections, such date shall be taken to be included in any period required to enable the President to continue in office as if Parliament has granted an extension of the presidential term of office under section 49(2) for a period of four months commencing from any date on which the presidential term would have otherwise expired, but the foregoing shall be without prejudice to subsection (3) of section 42."
PASSED in Parliament this 21st day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand and one.
Clerk of Parliament
Above was passed into law when current President Koroma was just the ordinary Managing Director of RITCORP Insurance. That was 16 years ago - back in December 2001 by late former President Kabbah and the SLPP-led Parliament - on 21st December 2001.
That foresight of the late President Kabbah is what we should now use to save our country from the unfolding mess by our National Electoral Commission (NEC).
The unprofessional acts at NEC started even under Dr. Christiana Thorpe but she was lucky enough to have been saved from catastrophe in 2012 when Maada Bio's inelectability put a stop to the SLPP gimmicks which almost rigged the 2012 elections in their favour. Who can ever believe that Ernest Koroma only scored 58.7% in 2012? No way! The President scored way above 60% for sure but those middle manpower operatives in NEC, helped to boost SLPP figures.
That 2012 election was rigged by NEC in favour of Maada Bio but their best efforts only gave him 37%. Now Bio no longer has Christiana Thorpe to counter and checkmate the rigging by SLPP agents at NEC. Bio now has Nfa Alie Conteh whose greatest influence is from Maada Bio's greatest stronghold - Kenema district.
Kenema district is where Nfa Alie Conteh was born, Kenema is where he did his kindergarten schooling, did his primary schooling, did his secondary schooling, took his first spouse, a Kenema woman and then left her to marry his second wife who is also a Kenema woman. Kenema is where Nfa Alie Conteh's greatest professional benefactor, the late and well respected SLPP stalwart Pa Morray Lamin of blessed memory, is buried.
If you want to understand why the SLPP is so comfortable with Nfa Alie Conteh, the answer lies above. He is sociologically, one of the SLPP's own who might be willing to do things in favour of SLPP. But the burning issue is whether he is the only one within the NEC?
LET'S IMMEDIATELY POSTPONE THE ELECTIONS AND UNDERTAKE AN OVERHAUL WITH FUNCTIONAL REVIEW OF NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION.
I rest my pen.
Courtesy: John Yoni Yusif Fofanah