Judiciary of Sierra Leone and the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice have commenced one-week tour across the country to engage key stakeholders in the administration of Local Courts ahead of preparation to fully enforce the Local Courts Act No. 10 of 2011.
Representing the Hon. Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, His Lordship Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards, one of the High Court Justices, Hon. Justice Aiah Simeon Allieu said the power in the administration of Local Courts was transferred to the Judiciary immediately the Act was legislated by the House of Parliament.
Referencing Section 5 of the Local Courts Act of 2011, Justice Allieu stated that it spelt out qualifications for appointment and appointment of officers.
According to him, the administration of Local Courts was purely the affairs of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, but because of the many challenges that confronted the Local Courts, there was urgent need to bring it under the supervision of the Hon. Chief Justice.
Among the reforms he highlighted were the establishment of Local Courts Committee; Qualification for the appointment of Local Courts Chairmen and the creation of new positions such as Vice Chairman, Account Clerk, Finance Clerk and Bailiff among others. He said when the new Act was legislated, they held trainings and public education to educate all stakeholders in the administration of justice at local level.
“We are here to also identify those challenges and how to address them,” Hon. Justice Allieu said, adding that, “the administration of justice cannot be complete if the Local Courts are not reconstituted.”
Shaid Korgie, the National Coordinator-Justice Sector Coordination Office explained that the purpose of the visit was to engage, assess and give clarity on the status of Local Courts administration.
He went on to state that the Sierra Leone 1991 Constitution made it clearly that the administration of Local Courts should be under the Judiciary and all functions performed thereto are Judicial functions. He said the Attorney General’s Office is providing the support to enhance justice delivery.
Outlining some of the key challenges, the Paramount Chief of Gbane Kandor Chiefdom in Kono District, PC Edward Saa Mbawa III, said the Local Courts hasn’t got the much needed attention from the central Government, stressing that they have not received salaries for more than a year now. He stressed that nothing has been done to address those challenges.
PC Tamba E.T. Foyoh IV of Sao Chiefdom who doubles as Chairman Council of Paramount Chiefs in Kono District commended the move, noting that this confusion among stakeholders affected the smooth administration of Local Courts.
The team from the Judiciary comprised of the Court Operations Manager-Mrs. Olayinka Laggah and the Head of Communications, Elkass Sankoh. The team is travelling today to engage stakeholders in Makeni City before moving to Port Loko