By Sylvanus FornahKoroma Jr (What A Man!)

The withdrawal of the World Bank’s participation in the disorganized, disputable, non-agreeable, unreliable, the crookedly blatant problematic anomalies, and above all the legally and procedurally flawed midterm digital census, has added credence to the position paper of the European Union Report pertaining to the said census. The European Union (EU) made it abundantly clear that the midterm census should not hold and that it is “unprecedented and unnecessary to conduct a midterm census at this point in time”. The position of the EU was resounded in the position statements of major stakeholders in the country and particularly many political parties and some Civil Society Organizations that are not partisan. Ignoring to look into these concerns would be fatal for a fragile economy like Sierra Leone, because it will have both international and local impact on our economy which is largely donor driven and also a locally politically challenged/tensed society. The Government has to be mindful and look into the bigger picture of either taking into serious consideration the position of both the key international and local stakeholders as against a clearly egotistic professionally dishonest Statistician General!

The withdrawal of the World Bank from this process has already rendered the entire census ineffective and dead even before the said census night of December 9, 2021. And the position of the political parties not to participate in the so called midterm census process, has again greatly contributed to the funeral arrangements of the dead midterm census. To the reasonable and pragmatic person, it is evident that the midterm census is already a dead process, and therefore would expect, and or, advise the Government not to continue to waste resources on such process. The current midterm census scenario provides a classic or perfect example of a case of misleading the principal, wherein Statistics Sierra Leone (Statistician General) has misled the ‘principal’ the Government of President Bio. At this stage and time of the failed and dead midterm census, it is needless to belabour on the fact that nothing productive would come out of it. To continue with it is just an unnecessary self-inflicting punishment and waste of the country’s meagre resources. In fact, a continuation of this dead census can be linked, likened and be perceived as a deliberate waste of State resources like in the case of the pronouncement of the Bank Governor in the wastage of $ 68 million in bribery to correct a failed policy that he conceived and implemented against all other advice. What an affront!

The Statistician General’s professional dishonesty will soon spark trouble in Sierra Leone in many fronts. The first sign of trouble has already surfaced but only the wise have seen it yet. The EU is one of the major funders of the Bretton Woods Institutions. The Bretton Woods Institutions are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and their aim is to help rebuild the shattered post war economy and to promote international economic cooperation using international best practice standards in the execution of their functions. The wise can easily connect and relate the withdrawal of the World Bank to the position statement of the EU pertaining to the unprecedented and unnecessary midterm census that is marred with anomalies that are legally and procedurally flawed. The Bretton Woods Institutions provide the yardsticks by which international best practice standards are determined, and at least the braggart and professionally dishonest Statistician General should know that!

Another sign for a potential spark of trouble has again surfaced after one miscreant made a threatening and pugnacious audio that went viral against Sierra Leoneans that reside in a particular area in Kenema that have northern origin and who choose not to participate in the already controversial and discredited midterm census. That audio was countered by many more audios and some even registered their dissatisfaction of that very audio in print. And some of us in our own ways even advised that the Government should endeavour to look into it, and ensure that such threat is not executed as it has the proclivity to spark an avoidable conflict into a serious crisis. It should be noted that the threat still exist but in different form, and if not handled with caution, it will soon spark legal battle and this will further expose the bad name of both the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and the Judiciary as politically controlled by the Executive Government as per the EU Report. With regards the Kenema threat and its new dimension, the Guardian Post newspaper on Friday December 24, 2021, in that publication there was a story captioned “Census Offenders Charged to Court”. The article reads:” Police attached to Kenema Police Division have on Wednesday 22nd December 2021 charged to court Edward Kargbo and AbibatuKargbo all of 20 F–line Nyadeyama Section in Kenema on two counts. According to the particulars of offence, both Edward Kargbo and AbibatuKargbo were on the 21st December 2021 arrested and brought to the police station for census related offences.

“Preliminary investigation proves that Edward Kargbo and AbibatuKargbo who are a couple living together, have been investigated and charged to court on two counts of failing to answer question(s) from the census officer (Enumerator) contrary to Section 21(3)(a) of the Statistics Act No.13 of 2002 and obstructing the work of Statistics Officer (Enumerator) contrary to Section 21(3)(b) of the Statistics Act No 13 of 2002”

The above excerpt from the Guardian Post must have attracted many investigative journalists, and many must have gone into action covering the development of the matter to showcase the application of the law in this politically sensitive matter. If the investigative journalists prove that the above named people or other people in similar situation were in anyway detained, then, it would be considered as a violation of their rights because the said offence has nothing to do with the Act as quoted. The alleged offences are based on census and there is a specific Census Act No. 14 of 2002 that stipulates the offenders’ penalties, hence, the law should apply the specific penalty to the specific offence! On another note, the Statistics Act is more general and Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) has general functions other than just census, and it therefore applies the general penalties to the general offences. Moreover, the penalties of the two laws conflict, and when this happens, the principle of implied repeal immediately comes into play wherein the later Parliamentary statute is at odds with an earlier one, the judges will deem the earlier one to be impliedly repealed. The Census Act No. 14 of 2002 is the later Act of the two and therefore it should prevail for this purpose. However, this principle is only not applicable in Sierra Leone where the later statute is in conflict with the 1991 Constitution and Section 171(15) of the 1991 Constitution explains it. Certainly, there are marked differences/conflicts in the penalties of both the Statistics and Census Acts No. 13 and 14 respectively of 2002. For instance, the penalties for offences on the Census Act are only limited to fines, whereas offences on the Statistics Act (which are offences of general application) include penalties of fines, or imprisonment, or both fines and imprisonment. Furthermore, the Census Act fines are only limited to individuals, whereas the Statistics Acts fines involve individuals, businesses or other organizations. With these facts in mind and bringing back the aforementioned case as reported by the Guardian Post on Christmas Eve of last year, the law presupposes that Census Act prevails over the Statistics Act. Two Sections of the said Census Act come to play for this purpose, and these are Sections 8 and 15 of the same. Section 8 deals with the situation of obtaining information by an enumerator from an individual, and it reads: “Any person holding a post of an enumerator or above who produces an identification card duly signed by the Chief Census Officer and who is employed in the execution of this Act, shall have authority to ask of any person whom they have reasonable cause to believe to be able to afford the information desired, all such questions as may be necessary for obtaining any particulars required for the purposes of this Act, and every person refusing to answer or who knowingly gives a false answer to any such questions, shall for every such refusal or false answer be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten thousand Leones”. And Section 15 of the same Act deals with ‘Penalty for Obstruction’ and it states: “Any person who hinders or obstruct the Chief Census Officer or any of the persons employed in the execution of this Act in the lawful performance of any duties or in the lawful exercise of any powers imposed or conferred upon him by or under this Act shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand Leones”. More is expected to come out from the discoveries of the investigative journalists on this matter as stated by the Guardian Post and other related matters, and much more revealing stories about the failed and dead midterm census and its proclaimed pioneer the professionally dishonest and incompetent Statistician General.

It has become a glaring fact that the Statistician General’s professional dishonesty has to be stopped now to avoid further wastage of our national resources and prevent economic and political stagnation that are visibly showing and being discussed everywhere in and out of the country. If the Statistician General continues to deceive the Government, and the Government in turn knowingly continues to play along with the obvious deception ignoring the position statements of the European Union, World Bank, political parties and other prominent stakeholders including the appeal of the former President Ernest Bai Koroma on Christmas Eve of last year, it will be a major error for which posterity will judge this generation! The Statistician General has repeatedly failed this nation in the conduct of this failed midterm census, and this clearly explains his proven level of incompetence, unreliableness and dishonesty. The notorious acts of this man has to be stopped, or otherwise it could be a cause for unrest in our seemingly peaceful country, Sierra Leone. The notoriety and braggart nature of the Statistician General is disguised in the cloak of a ‘Learned Professor’, which would soon be brought to light for public scrutiny and determination of his actual professorship. This man’s professional dishonesty manifested in his bogus claim of 60% structural error of the 2015 Census. He deliberately skewed the per centum to attract attention, wherein the actual percentage of the said error in relation to the entire 2015 Census report only constituted about 3%. The dishonest Statistician General has deliberately failed to explain the exact per centum of the different Types of Enumeration Areas as recorded by the 2015 Census, and that the said 60% structurally error was on the Type 3 Enumeration Areas which only constituted about 5% of the entire 2015 census. Thus, the much trumpeted so called 60% structural error means it is 3% of the entire 2015 Census. The dishonest Statistician General misled President Bio to discredit the 2015 Census as a census marred with anomalies, and yet his failed census is a classical case fraught with anomalies right from its inception and up to date. The anomalies are beyond the comprehension of reasonableness and it bemuses many of us why the Government should continue to encourage and allow such a dishonest man to take us down a regretful path. If the Government continues to entertain this dishonest man, then I will say that I fully understand the last sentence of the tweet of ShekaFornah on Sunday January 2, 2022, “It’s almost as though there’s an agenda”. Yes, I will definitely agree with the insinuation of ShekaFornah that the Government has another agenda and not the purported plan of using the census for development planning purposes. Certainly, it is not for that purpose because the vetting and approving partner for an international best practice standard of census that can be used for development planning has already walked out of the process. There is an alterior agenda. No wonder one of the Ministers of Education, Dr David Sengeh, who has been on radio several times talking about how his Ministry has counted all school going pupils, now also joined the bandwagon to make case for the dead midterm census as a tool for development planning. Salone sorry! This was the same Minister that was given the responsibility to conduct the just concluded SLPP national convention in Bo, and was publicly spoken to by Dr Prince Alex Harding (the recently elected Chairman of the SLPP Party) on Wednesday December 29, 2021, in a live televised program saying, “U yeriwatin r tok, U daekam conduct a free and favoured election. R nor say free and fair o!” May God continue to have mercy on us all. Salone is in a mess!!! We have to be resolute to kick out the level of dishonesty that has engulfed our society. The professional dishonesty of this Statistician General cannot go unnoticed. In July 2020, the Statistician General made a lot of noise about the preparedness of Statistics Sierra Leone to conduct the said midterm census for a period of two weeks and the Census Night was slated for December 4, 2020. Close to the set date, Government announced the cancellation of that census and was said to be postponed to a date that would be announced later. This postponement was not unconnected to incompetence. And by the end of March 2021, the President again announced that a midterm census was to be conducted for another two weeks period and that the Census Night was April 19, 2021. By April 3, 2021, some of us challenged the legitimacy of the said midterm census. And on Friday April 16, 2021, Statistics and Government of President Bio made a double announcement of both the withdrawal of the Census (i.e. postponed till further notice) and the President invoked Section 86(1) of the1991 Constitution summoning Parliament for the very first time to do the needful and to lay the statutory instrument in Parlaiment as per law provides and in conformity with Section 170(7) of the 1991 Constitution on April 19, 2021. The said parliamentary session was televised and ended in fiasco. Again with the shortest ever notice for any census in our country’s history, the President announced at about November 29, 2021, that the said Census night will be on December 9, 2021, (and it was so short and looked more or less like an ambush date) and that the counting will start on December 10, 2021 and ends on December 23, 2021. All of these bogus dates were trumpeted by the incompetent and dishonest Statistician General based on his bogus or so called readiness and preparedness to conduct the failed and dead midterm census. The time came and passed but very few people were counted. This was another showcase of the level of incompetence of this Statistician General, and Statistics Sierra Leone announced one week extension called mopping-up that was to last till December 30, 2021. To the surprise of everyone, on New Year’s Eve December 31, 2021, Statistics Sierra Leone and the shameless, incompetent and dishonest Statistician General for the second time announced another extension but this time failed to state the end time of the extension. A little bird said that the mopping-up extension will last for a month! This is just another testimony of how legally and procedurally flawed this so called midterm census is! It is sodisorganized, disputable, non-agreeable, unreliable, discredited, and crookedly fraught with blatant and problematic anomalies that I am tempted to educate the bogus technical expert about the rationale for keeping the census within the two weeks time frame. Mr Bongology and Statistician General, Census nights are kept within a short period (two weeks) so that people would be able to remember who slept in the named places at that time. People will not be able to remember who slept or not slept in a given place beyond certain period. The double extension of time does not only reveal his incompetence, but also adds to the anomalies for which he primarily misled President Bio to discredit the 2015 census which both local and international organizations endorsed with a clean bill of health! My last appeal is to President Bio. Please President Bio, one good reason for setting up a tribunal that many Sierra Leoneans  would applaud you for, is to set it for all those who have misled you into such a wasteful exercise of the country’s meagre resources and unnecessarily risk your relationship with our nation’s credible international partners and as well risk putting the country into avoidable conflicts amongst its citizens and particularly the looming problem that is surfacing in Kenema pertaining this dead midterm census

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