Salone News

Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone’s Lost Patriots.

6 December 2006 at 03:14 | 1006 views

Commentary

By Alpha Rashid Jalloh, Freetown.

His Excellency president Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has apologised to James Sanpha Koroma(photo), managing director of the Union Trust Bank, for the wrongful accusations levied against him by the Anti -Corruption Commission. But the question many have been asking is: "what does that imply?"

Many have commended the president, as being the first to be so frank as to apologise to a man subjected to nightmarish ordeals and defamation by a government institution. The apology to Sanpha Koroma indicates that there are still upright men in the country, who arduously strive to promote the glory of Sierra Leone.

But they are not identified and motivated and the prevalence of malevolence has militated against them. I could still remember as if it were today when some years ago, Eric James, a prominent businessman in Sierra Leone, showed us an English version of an article headlined "Last of the Patriots," originally published in a German newspaper. Several newspapers in Sierra Leone republished it. It was in praise of Eric James, cataloguing his patriotic deeds in Sierra Leone. But was he the last of the patriots? Were there no more patriots?

There were, of course, and there are, but it was merely a pointer to the fact that identification of patriots in a malevolence ridden country like ours is rare. It’s a country full of bad guys and characterized by so much disparity. And in the midst of poverty and suffering, usually, the big guns are those classed as the bad ones. But what Sierra Leoneans fail or refuse to realize is that among the big guns there are those who honestly and arduously strive to reach the upper rungs of the society’s ladder. They are few, but failing to project their image would be a disservice to humanity and history. It would be a boon to history if we bring to light the achievements of people like the late Abu Noah, Eric James , Alfred Akibo Betts and James Sanpha Koroma.

But one of the phenomena that men who have achieved in Sierra Leone are incessantly grappling with is what is called the PHD (Pull Him/Her Down) phenomenon. It is an acronym for malevolence that has destroyed many innocent people and will destroy more if it continues to prevail in the country; if we fail to identify our patriots and fail to imbibe a national concept , which should be the guiding spirit of the nation. In America, you hear of Americanism, in Europe, you hear of Europeanism and there is Germanism. What about Sierra Leoneanism?

James Sanpha Koroma of the Union Trust Bank is one of the few self- made men in the country. He joined the civil service and rose to a high peak. He rose to the post of deputy financial secretary in the ministry of finance. He left there with an unblemished record and became managing director of the National Development Bank. That bank rose to a high peak during Mr. Koroma’s tenure of office and not surprisingly its success plummeted when he left.

Many Sierra Leoneans keep their wealth abroad and dare not risk investing in malevolence ridden Sierra Leone, but Sanpha Koroma took that risk. He lured other Sierra Leoneans to come together and put up the first truly indigenous Bank in Sierra Leone known as Union Trust Bank. Today, the Bank is spreading its tentacles far and wide in the country. Many banks have collapsed but it has stood the test of time.

By dint of his hard work, probity in service and altruism, he was appointed Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, the country’s central bank. He used his initiatives to lift the once beleaguered economy of the country from the doldrums to a level that reflected signs of hope. But alas, he found himself in a country characterized by malevolence where those who achieve find it difficult to be safe. The PHD syndrome started militating against him. The Anti-Corruption Commission levied allegations against him that were never proved and that caused no less a person than His Excellency Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to recently apologise to him in public. However, no matter what critics say, he is the first President to have done so. It indicates that the spirit of Sierra Leoneanism has started gaining control and has entered into even the highest placed man in our society.

The Anti- Corruption Commission in 2003 accused James Sanpha Koroma of misappropriation of public funds and property, which was a very serious crime. The allegation itself had severe implications for the country and worst of all,the accused, being a Governor of the central bank, portrayed a bleak picture of the country.

Between March 4 and March 13 2003, the ACC under the auspices of its controversial boss Valentine Collier served all the central bank’s directors notices.

Sanpha Koroma was asked to surrender his documents including his passport. But what baffled those who were observing what was going on was that Sanpha Koroma was never interviewed pertaining to the allegations, which runs contrary to the spirit of natural justice; audi ultra partem (the other side should be heard). ACC spent billions both in and out of the country claiming to carry out an investigation.

The ACC even went to the extent of recruiting foreign consultants from Britain to aid in the investigation. It was the biggest investigation in the history of this coastal West African country.

Mr. Tony Robey, who was recruited from London, took three years trying to dig up evidence but could not come up with anything. And then the investigation team was beefed up. When Mr. Andrew Felton, another Brit, was recruited as deputy commissioner of the ACC in Sierra Leone, he joined Tony in the investigation. The search for evidence against Sanpha Koroma continued.

It was the biggest legal man - hunt in Sierra Leone’s history. To get evidence so as to lay hands on this man was like finding a needle in a haystack. The Serious Frauds Office of the UK came to Sierra Leone on several occasions to dig deeper for evidence but none was seen. And that was not all, two forensic auditors were hired in London to travel to Sierra Leone to trace any iota of evidence that would put Sanpha in the net, but like the proverbial saying in Krio, the country’s lingua franca, "fol white ’E’ white" (A white chicken is a white chicken, that is, you cannot change a natural colour.) No evidence was traced. But that did not make the investigation team relent. Like a Hollywood actor looking for what youths in Sierra Leone call "the toughest bad man", so as to end the film, they travelled to New York and Washington DC between March 2003 and June 2005 to peep into certain accounts. No evidence was discovered.There was no toughest bad man in this case, only an innocent victim of tremendous malice and evil.

Back home, contractors, friends of Sanpha Koroma, officials of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, Bank of Sierra Leone , KPMG, First Discount House and Union Trust Bank were all interrogated. Computers were even checked and carted away from some institutions. In all of it, Sanpha Koroma like an valiant warrior coming from a war after subduing other states, stood up with his head held high.

What was the conclusion? No evidence! And what happened? Like a prisoner of war having an advantage and turning against his captor, Anti - Corruption Commission, which was searching for a fugitive called Sanpha Koroma, was itself grabbed by Sanpha Koroma and taken to the High Court to answer a case of misuse of power. The High Court ruled in favour of Sanpha Koroma. The ACC had to pay cost to a former accused. This contradicted the Shakespearean theory that ’justice has gone to brutish beasts’. The failure to prove that Sanpha Koroma was corrupt was an avid pointer to the fact that there are still patriots in Sierra Leone and he is one of them.

Today, whenever he thinks of his victory over the PHD syndrome, he definitely would say ’Veni, Vidi, Vici ("I came, I saw , I conquered). At the time when evidence was searched for like a needle in a haystack so as to nail Sanpha to the accusations against him, some journalists asserted in their headlines , ’This Governor must go to jail’ . But today, what has been proved points to the contrary. They must have a change of heart and eat their words. The message now is, ’This Governor should not go to jail’ . Why ? He is one of the last patriots.

It is time for Sierra Leoneans to identify such people and use them as human examples that symbolise the glory of Sierra Leone.

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