On his second appearance before Magistrate Sahr Kekura at the Freetown Magistrate Court No. 1, Honorable Member of Parliament, Emmanuel Saidu Conteh, and three others who were charged in connection with illegal possession of arms and ammunitions were sent back to jail.

According to the police, Nabieu Unisa Raymond Bangura, Hon. Emmanuel Saidu Conteh, and Sheriff Jalloh on a date between Thursday 22nd April Friday 2nd July 2021 and with intent to commit a felony, conspired together with other persons unknown to commit a felony to wit, illegal importation of arms and ammunitions.

Police also alleged the aforementioned accused persons were found in possession of the arms and ammunitions without valid license, among others.

Police slammed four counts charges of conspiracy to commit a felony, to wit, illegal importation of arms and ammunitions contrary to law, illegal importation of arms and ammunition contrary to Section 18(1) of the Arms and Ammunitions Act No. 9 of 2012, unlawful possession of arms and ammunition contrary to Section 11(1) of the Arms and Ammunition Act No. 9 of 2012, and other.

Notwithstanding the spate of Covid-19 in the country, the Court Yard was cramped with so many people including Members of Parliament, relatives as well as well-wishers. One can sense frustration from the crowd.

Led in evidence by State Counsel, lawyer J. A. K. Sesay, prosecution witness, Police Constable, Joseph J. Collins with force number 9268, resident of Goderich, attached to the Major Incident Unit, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters on Pademba Road in Freetown recognized all accused persons in the dock.

He recalled on Sunday 4th July 2021, he was on duty at the CID, when he was officially assigned to a case of unlawful possession of arms and ammunitions. He added that he joined a team of six investigators including him, adding that all accused persons were arrested and brought into the station for further investigation.

He continued that in connection with the matter, the following items were brought to the station and tendered as exhibit. The items include: 7 unassembled pistols, 12 empty magazines, and 100 live rounds of ammunition.

He furthered that, in furtherance of the investigation, the team made request to relevant authorities for expert opinion, namely, Ballistic Expert, and the Cyber Unit. He said following the request, the findings were reduced to a report submitted by the Ballistic Expert on the examination of the exhibit (arms and ammunitions).

He said the Cyber Unit also submitted a report on the mobile phones retrieved from all accused persons. He disclosed that the team visited the scene at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, Cline Town in Freetown, in furtherance of the investigation. He further disclosed that during the visit, statements were obtained from relevant authorities, inclusive a policy statement from the head of the scanning facility at the Quay where it was alleged that the arms and ammunitions were discovered.

He said, in a bid to enhance the investigation, the Commissioner for the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms was contacted on the processes and procedures involved in the acquisition of possessing arms in Sierra Leone. He added that the exhibits mentioned above have been duly registered and retained in the custody of the exhibit clerk at the CID Headquarters.

The witness also indicated that the team was shown a Grey coloured Nissan Pathfinder 2008 Model, in which it was alleged that the arms and ammunitions in question were discovered.

“According to our investigation, the Pathfinder was purchased by the first accused in April this year contrary to his assertion that it was bought in May this year,” PC Collins said.

He added that the first accused further admitted ownership of the vehicle. “The Investigation also revealed that based on the Bill of Laden, the vehicle was delivered to the shipping company by the name United Investment Group owned by a Sierra Leonean based in Maryland in the United States of America. The vehicle in question was among four vehicles shipped into the country by the aforementioned shipping company,” he told the Court.

“Our investigation revealed that based on the Bill of Laden, the consignee of the container is one Arun Rahim, but the ultimate recipient of the vehicles is allegedly, Hon Emmanuel Saidu Conteh (second accused),” he revealed. He told the Court that he was made to understand that the vehicle is in the hands of the relevant authorities for custody.

He recalled that on the 7th July 2021, he and detective Inspector Mary Kanneh, obtained additional voluntary cautioned statements from the 3rd accused person. The written request which was sent to the cyber Unit and the report from the expert were produced and tendered in court.

State Counsel, J. A. K. Sesay requested for an adjournment for certain documents to be brought before the Court, but lawyer for the first accused objected to the request, for he reminded the bench that the prosecution had promised to bring plethora of witnesses to proceed with their case.

Defense lawyer for the 2nd accused, Lansana Dumbuya, noted that the offence for which his client was charged was serious, noting that it is not their problem but the prosecution’s. He told the Magistrate that if the proceedings will be halted, let bail be granted to his client. Counsel for the 3rd and 4th accused persons also urged the Magistrate to consider bail for his clients if there is going to be an adjournment.

On the other hand, lawyer Sesay, referred the bench to Section 99(1) and 113(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act No. 32 of 1965 which states the court may adjourn a matter on reasonable grounds, adding that there are reasonable grounds on which he had asked for an adjournment. He also cited Paragraph 203 of Archibald 36th Edition, page 203.

In this circumstance, lawyer Dumbuya adopted his previous application for bail. He urged the Magistrate to direct his mind to the second accused who is an Honorable Member of Parliament and represents a constituency of thousands of people. He opined that the issue of bail is not to punish.

He vouched that his client will not interfere with prosecution witnesses. Lawyers for the 1st 3rd and 4th accused persons also requested for bail for their clients. Lawyer Jengo for the 1st accused noted that accused persons should be presumed innocent. Lawyer Bittar also mentioned that his clients have a fixed abode and are not flight risks, noting that they are Sierra Leoneans. He added that the 3rd accused person is diabetic.

State Counsel, said he had not been served any medical report of the 3rd accused in respect of his illness. He noted that bail is the discretion of the Court. However, he told the Magistrate that there are certain things the Magistrate should consider before granting bail.

“One of those considerations is not the status of the accused, but the severity of the offence committed,” lawyer Sesay asserted. He said the witness is yet to be cross-examined and is yet to identify the 100 bullets he made mention of when he was testifying. He concluded by opposing bail.

Magistrate Sahr Kekura refused bail for all accused noting the seriousness of the offence. He remanded them and he adjourned the matter to the 19th July 2021.