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President Bio To Withdraw Lois Kawa For Ombudsman… A Legal Commentary By Joseph Abdulai Esq

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President Maada Bio appointed Miss Lois Anita Kawa firstly as acting Ombudsman and then as Ombudsman subject to parliamentary approval, pursuant to the provisions of the Ombudsman Act of 1997. The Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone through a Motion by the leader of government business Hon Sidi Tunis has expunged or otherwise removed Miss Anita Lois Kawa from the list of Presidential nominees , to be approved by Parliament . In a radio program at radio 98.1 , Hon. Tunis said that “issues have come up with regards to the qualifications of Miss Lois Kawa for the position and that is why she was withdrawn from the list of nominees” .

President Bio and the SLPP strongly believe in employing qualified people and so it’s not surprising that such a development has occurred and is viewed by many as a step in the right direction.

The Attorney -General , who is the Principal Legal Adviser to Government may not have been properly briefed about the qualifications of Miss Kawa before she was appointed, but lawyers in Sierra Leone were shocked and spoke in various quarters about the undeniable fact that Miss Kawa is not qualified for the position. Some say the Secretary to the President who issued the letter of appointment may have failed to implement the directive of the President and acted on his own accord without consulting the relevant legal guarantors in government. What an error!

I have now read the sound legal opinion written by Mohamed Tito Kamara (LLB (Hons); LLM (Barristers) from BPP London, presenting that the newly nominated Ombudsman, Miss Lois Anita Kawa is not qualified to be appointed Ombudsman of the Republic of Sierra Leone. That is true and I fully agree .

I have also had the opportunity to read Miss Anita Lois Kawa’s CV and conducted through research on the issues and I can honestly confirm that indeed Ms Kawa is not qualified for such an appointment both in view of her qualifications in the United Kingdom and her qualifications in Sierra Leone as per the requirements for appointment as Ombudsman of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

It should be noted that to be qualified to practice law in the United Kingdom, you must not only hold a practicing certificate as a Barrister after completion of pupillage, but must also continue to practice in accordance with the rules of the Bar Standards Board(BSB), the regulator body for Barristers in England and Wales.

Mohamed Tito Kamara has rightfully dealt with the matter by stating the requirements for appointment as Ombudsman in Sierra Leone and made a strong case to show how Miss Kawa did not meet those requirements, and I fully endorse his submissions as follows:

‘’QUALIFICATIONS FOR APPOINTMENT AS OMBUDSMAN OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE.

Section 4 (A) of the Ombudsman Act of 1997 provides that to be appointed Ombudsman the person must have proven administrative ability and conspicuous probity and MUST have held office as a Judge of the superior court of Judicature or eligible for appointment as a Judge of the superior court of judicature.

This section thus has 3 requirements:

1. Proven Administrative Ability

2. Conspicuous Probity

3. Judge of the superior court of Judicature or eligibility for appointment as such

Section 135 (3) of the 1991 constitution sets out the requirement for appointment of a Judge of the Superior Court of Judicature as follows :

“ a person shall not be qualified to be appointed a Judge of the superior court of Judicature unless he is entitled to practice as counsel in a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in Sierra Leone or any other country having a system of law analogous to that of Sierra Leone and approved by the judicial and legal services commission and has been entitled as such counsel in the case of the high court for not less than ten years .

This provision has 2 major requirements:

1. must be entitled to practice in a court having unlimited jurisdiction in Sierra Leone for a minimum of ten years . Such court will include the high court, court of Appeal or Supreme Court and only a lawyer who have completed pupilage can have such rights of audience in courts of unlimited Jurisdiction .

2. Must be entitled to practice as counsel in a court having a system of law analogous to Sierra Leone for a minimum period of ten years.

Lois Anita Kawa does not fulfill the requirements for appointment as a Judge of the superior court of Judicature and as such cannot be appointed as ombudsman of the republic of Sierra Leone .

MISS KAWA’S QUALIFICATIONS IN SIERRA LEONE

As the Public Relations Officer at the Office of the Ombudsman rightly maintained in his public statement, Miss Lois Kawa did the Sierra Leone Bar and was called in November 2008 but was only enrolled in the permanent register in Sierra Leone in January 2011 and as such she has only been entitled to practice as counsel in a Court of unlimited jurisdiction in Sierra Leone for only 7 years. And so, with regards to her qualifications in Sierra Leone, she does not have a minimum of 10 years as a counsel to be eligible for appointment as a judge which will qualify her for appointment as Ombudsman.

It is surprising to note that Miss Kawa who did not graduate with a full LLB law degree was allowed to enter the law school in Sierra Leone. She should not have been allowed to enter the Sierra Leone Law School as she clearly did not hold a full law degree with required subjects. No wonder she was required to undertake the Bar Conversion Course in the United Kingdom before being called to the Bar there. The same requirement should have been applied by the Sierra Leone Law School. Miss Kawa has a Bachelors degree in English and Law ( BA ) instead of a full Bachelors Degree in law ( LLB ) which is the requirement for admission into the Sierra Leone Law School with specific law subject requirements.

I note that having failed to fulfill this requirement, Miss Kawa surreptitiously want to rely on her qualifications in England.

MISS KAWA’S QUALIFICATIONS IN ENGLAND

Miss Lois Kawa merely did the English bar and nothing more. Her conversion course does not give her an entitlement to practice law in Sierra Leone otherwise she would not have done it after completing the Sierra Leone Bar since she was already entitled to Practice law in Sierra Leone.

Miss Kawa ( otherwise known as Mrs Anita Kawa ) is an UNREGISTERED Barrister in England and never did pupilage in England and has never been entitled to practice law as counsel in England nor does she hold a VALID practicing certificate in England. More information on the English Bar Standards Board (BSB) handbook.
https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/…/bsb_pupillage_handbo…

It is important to note that Miss Kawa is an UNREGISTERED Barrister in the UK and as such she is not allowed to practice law in the English courts despite her being called to the English Bar.

There is a clear distinction between UNREGISTERED barristers and PRACTICING barristers in the English Legal System:

UNREGISTERED BARRISTERS
A person may become, and remain, an unregistered barrister without undertaking pupillage. The Qualification Rules allow a student to be called to the Bar after completing the Vocational Stage of training, without having commenced pupillage. As an unregistered barrister, you can provide any legal services that are not reserved legal activities. However, there are some important rules in the BSB Handbook which you need to follow in doing so.
Further guidance about unregistered barristers is available on the BSB website.

PRACTICING BARRISTERS
A person practises as a barrister if either they hold themselves out as a barrister or exercise a right that they have by reason of being a barrister, in connection with the supply of legal services. A practising certificate is required to practise as a barrister. In order to become qualified to take up a practising certificate as a barrister, and so become a practising barrister, a person must complete (or be exempted from) the Professional Stage of training, which includes pupillage, and satisfy such further requirements as are set out in the BSB Handbook. Lois Kawa has not fulfilled these requirements hence does not hold a practicing certificate. Abdulai Senesie might want to ask Lois to provide her practicing certificate to parliament. The truth of the matter is that Lois does not hold a valid certificate.

When challenged to present her valid practicing certificate, the Public Relations Officer at the Office of the Ombudsman, albeit not speaking on behalf of Miss Kawa, confessed that Miss Lois Kawa was also referred to as Mrs Lois Anita Walker in the United Kingdom, under which name she was practicing in England. I have now checked the BSB register for all authorised Barristers in England, but unfortunately the name of Miss Walker is missing from the register.

Her Public Relations Officer had argued that Miss Kawa was issued a practicing certificate under the name of Mrs Anita Lois Walker (not Kawa) from England valid up to 2007 (even if that was the case), but such a certificate has no relevance in the current circumstance. Her practice in England may have been suspended and should not count or be added to her practice in Sierra Leone. The records in Sierra Leone are very clear, she has only practiced law in Sierra Leone for seven years. That is what matters, nothing else.

What happened after her alleged practice in England in 2007 ? Why did she not record the change to her name with the relevant legal authorities in England and Sierra Leone through a deed poll ? This behaviour seems very strange and undermines the credibility of Miss Kawa. It would be nice if Miss Kawa could share details of her Chambers in England where she completed her Pupilage, as there is no record of her pupilage or previous chambers in the UK on her CV. See copy of her CV attached.

Miss Lois Kawa or Mrs Lois Walker’s name could not be found on the list of registered Barristers in the United Kingdom . Here is a the BSB register of all Barristers in England and Wales.
https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/…/the-barristers’-reg…/

For argument sake, let’s assume Miss Lois Kawa completed her Pupillage and had a practicing certificate in England, albeit her name could not be found on the register of Barristers in the United Kingdom., then she must have committed a serious crime to be excluded or otherwise any certificate issued then is invalid as she is not currently a practicing barrister in the United Kingdom.

Years spent practicing in the United Kingdom cannot be used to add the numbers in Sierra Leone to be appointed as a Ombudsman. Legal practice must be a continuous process without any break. Miss Lois Kawa is simply a failed legal project.

Further, even if Miss Kawa has 100 years practice in England as a barrister, it is not automatic for her to be appointed a Judge or Ombudsman in Sierra Leone . In accordance with the provisions of section 135 of the 1991 constitution, The Legal Service Commission must approve her after doing all necessary eligibility and credibility checks . Unfortunately, the Legal Service Commission has not approved Miss Kawa to serve as a judge in Sierra Leone, in light of her purported practice in England and Wales as she does not have any such certificate of approval .

As such Miss Lois Kawa does not fulfill the requirements under section 135 of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone since she has never practiced as counsel in a court having a system of law analogous to Sierra Leone for a minimum of 10 years.

Parliament was therefore correct in withdrawing Miss Lois Kawa’s nomination from approval proceedings since she will only be qualified for appointment as Ombudsman in 2021.

Parliament in its wisdom has corrected an erroneous appointment and the huge likelihood of proceedings in the courts in Sierra Leone to quash the appointment and parliamentary approval ( if it had occurred ) for been illegal and unconstitutional .

There are many Sierra Leoneans who are qualified to be appointed Ombudsman including all the Judges in Sierra Leone , and I trust President Bio might want to choose from among those qualified Sierra Leoneans and not choose among those not qualified. Miss Kawa is simply not qualified.

And I agree with the position presented by of one of Sierra Leone’s fine journalist and strong supporter of President Bio, Editor of Global Times , Sorie Fofanah who has called on the President and his legal team to look at all the issues and take necessary action. “One of the actions the President might take is to make a fresh nomination for the position of Ombudsman”.

Looking at the CV of Miss Kawa, there’s every reason to suggest that she is fundamentally unqualified for appointment as ombudsman and has no proven administrative ability in addition to failing to fulfill the other requirements . Let’s respect the laws of the land.

You be the Judge

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