The case between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL), and others, concerning the unfortunate treatment meted out to Ebola Survivors in Sierra Leone has been given the necessary audience or attention it deserves.
The matter which started here in Sierra Leone eventually crossed the borders of Sierra Leone to ECOWAS Court in Abuja, Nigeria, essentially to seek justice for the Ebola survivors in the country, which, according to CARL the lead plaintiff, was a bad decision.
According to the Executive Director of CARL, Ibrahim Tommy, Esq., they decided to take the matter to the ECOWAS as a result of the ‘controversial ruling’ the Sierra Leone Court made against the plaintiffs (CARL, 2 Ebola Survivors & Others) in Freetown.
The highest Competent Court of Jurisdiction in the West African sub-region, known as the ECOWAS Court, has finally granted the plaintiffs audience to lay their case across. The Court, after listening to the content put forward by the plaintiffs, informed the plaintiffs that the matter did have “merit” to be heard; adding that the hearing of the matter is, undeniably, overdue.
The Court affirmed that owing to the long time the matter has been left unattended, would be the basis for this Honourable Court to fast-track or expedite the said matter, for justice to be served accordingly with no favoritism.
A press release from the lead plaintiff (CARL), dated Tuesday, 14th February 2023, stated that after it [Government of Sierra Leone] was elected in 2018, Sierra Leone Government did express willingness to settle the matter out of Court.
The release further added that it had an unfortunate situation in that despite several efforts over the last five years, the Government had failed to demonstrate the required commitment for a settlement agreement.
The Executive Director for the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy, said in the release that: “regrettably, it took so long for the matter to be heard by the Court. I feel let down by the Government’s clear lack of commitment to its publicly stated promise to settle the matter out of Court… I am glad that we are finally making progress.”
The Counsel for the plaintiff, Oludayo Fagbemi, a Senior Legal Officer at the Institute for Human Rights and Development In Africa stressed that Sierra Leone would have faced fewer Ebola deaths had the missing US$14m ( as reported by the Auditor-General) been used appropriately by the Government of Sierra Leone.
He argued that the Government had mismanaged the available Ebola resources, and the infection had increased and resulted in the loss of more lives. He noted that since the disease had long gone, eight years ago, the Sierra Leone Government had yet to prosecute anyone for the theft or mismanagement of the missing funds.
Responding on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone, Osman Kanu Esq., opposed the application of the plaintiffs, claiming that the Anti-Corruption Commission had found nothing unusual concerning misuse of Ebola funds, and thus added that appeals into the Commission of Inquiry (COI’s) findings are still ongoing.
The release stated that the Court would issue a decision by May 10, 2023, and that the presiding Judge indicated that the Court would be willing to recognize and adopt a settlement agreement before a judgment is delivered if the parties present one to the Court.