Amidst concerns raised by various stakeholders in the Sambaia Chiefdom in the Tonkolili District over the attempts by Hon. Alhaji Musa Bambeh-Foray Jalloh aka ‘Musa Bendugu’ of Constituency 056 to contest in the Chieftaincy election in the Chiefdom has come under is questionable mainly on the basis that he must have resigned as a Member of Parliament long ago.
Hon Jalloh seemed undaunted by this concern and is bent on clinching the Chieftaincy by all means, boasting that as a Member of Parliament of the ruling SLPP party, he has their backing to contest the election and after becoming the new Paramount Chief, he will simply deliver the seat he now occupies in Parliament to his hand-picked successor.
In spite of the open violation of the provisions of the Constitution and the fact that he is not eligible to contest the said election, as it has been undoubtedly established that he is not a son of the ruling house, but he is doggedly insisting that he will get the position at all cost.
According to residents in the chiefdom, the known and bonafide members of the family of the late Paramount Chief, Hon. Alimamy Kulio Jalloh II are still alive and have shown intension to contest in the election. They are the direct heirs to the throne according to the Chieftaincy Act of 2009 section 8 (1):
8. (1) A person is qualified to stand as a candidate in a paramount chieftaincy election if-
(a) he was born in wedlock to a rightful claimant in a recognized ruling house in the chiefdom; or
(b) where tradition so specifies, he or she has direct paternal or maternal lineage to a rightful claimant in a recognized ruling house, whether born outside wedlock or not.
Our investigations unearthed that Hon. Musa Bendugu of Constituency 056, is not a member of the ruling house and is not qualified to contest the said elections if it is conducted according to the provisions of the Customary Act of 2009. They stated that according to section 9 (d) of the Act;
9. Notwithstanding the provisions of any enactment, a person is not qualified to stand as a candidate in a paramount chieftaincy election if:
(d) he is the adopted child of the person from whom he claims to be qualified.
Hon. Musa Bendugu is still not qualified even if he claims adoption by the late PC.
Stakeholders interviewed in the Chiefdom say that the Hon. MP has doctored the delegates list in his favour due to his political influence without the consent of the elders. He is alleged to have inflated the Tribal Authority list (list of eligible voters), which is in violation of the Chieftaincy Act of 2009, section 4 (3) & (4):
4 (3) Subject to paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 18, the election of a Paramount Chief shall not be invalidated by any irregularity in the revision of the Gazette List used for the election, but it is an offence for any person compiling that List to knowingly take into account an inflated number of taxpayers.
(4) The revision of the Chiefdom Councillors list shall be undertaken by the office of the Provincial Secretary in collaboration with the Electoral Commission.
They maintained that the Provincial Secretary did not revise the said list as the MP would want to postulate, but rather he simply hand-picked his own loyalists and incorporated them into the list. The family further explained that the MP could not be more SLPP than the late Chief and his family who suffered in the past in the name of the party.
Furthermore, it was also disclosed and confirmed by some members in the community,within Tonkolili, that Hon. Musa Bendugu, during his campaign tour of the various villages in the Chiefdom, has been telling residents that he has appealed for support from the SLPP party to actualise this dream, a clear violation of section 7 (2) of the Chieftaincy Act of 2009 which states:
(2) No government Minister or other official, and no political party, whether collectively or otherwise, shall promote or show support or preference for the candidature of any particular contestant in a paramount chieftaincy election.
The above Act states clearly that there should be no political party influence by way of support for the candidature of any person contesting the chieftaincy election. Thus insinuations of wooing the support of the SLPP for the seat of the Paramount Chief in the Sambaia Bendugu chiefdom is an act against the stipulations of the law enacted by Parliament in 2009 as provided for in section 72 (5) of the 1991 constitution: 72 (5) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and in furtherance of the provisions of this section, Parliament shall make laws for the qualifications, election, powers, functions, removal and other matters connected with the Chieftaincy.
Whilst the constitution prevents a person from vying for the position of Member of Parliament if he is Paramount Chief, the inverse is implied here and legal luminaries have been consulted on their opinion on this matter and their response has been the same. In fact they went further to state that anyone holding such office should resign at least 12 months to the elections. As things continue to unfold, the public is waiting to see if another violation of the constitution will be allowed, especially as the Hon MP is quoted as saying that no law prevents him from contesting the Chieftaincy election whilst he is still a member of Parliament and that after the election results for the chieftaincy is announced, he can then resign his seat in Parliament and not before that.
It should be noted that the Constitution guarantees fair play in all elections and nobody is allowed to have undue advantage over the other. This is why certain restrictions have been put on interested candidates who may want to contest any election. Residents of the chiefdom and even members of that chiefdom living in the diaspora are calling for the intervention of President Bio on the matter. In their submission, they claim that the Honorable Musa Bendugu was brought into the SLPP fold by the late S.B Marah as he was a former APC stalwart and that he should not be making as if he is more SLPP than them. They want the MP to cease from usurping the powers of the District Officer or Local Government Minister to change the legitimate list of Tribal Authority and replacing it with his own without the knowledge and consent of the chiefdom elders, District Office, Provincial Secretary and all stakeholders, as it is a recipe for chaos.
What is now really bothering many is that since Musa Bendugu was found guilty by the Anti-Corruption for untoward actions bordering on fraud and dishonesty such singularly must disqualify him outright as he could not be trusted especially after he converted to own the late Paramount Chief’s assets. It was further alleged by members in the community interviewed and some officials in the Chiefdom that the Honorable Member of Parliament orchestrated the removal of the Mammy Queen of the Chiefdom, Madam Pessie Tarawallie and replaced her with Madam Morie Bamba as the new Mammy Queen without going through the usual protocol of elections done in that regard. He has also been accused of replacing the old Youth Leader, Sheku Thoronka, with his preferred choice Monso Marah and has ordered the cancellation of the existing Tribal Authority list and replaced it with a new list certified by him. This, they say, is a bid to ensure that he gets an unfair advantage over his rival contestants. They are calling on the minister of Local Government to investigate this matter before the election reaches.
Some political analysts say that the MP should have thought carefully about his intentions before going for the seat of Member of Parliament. His actions now will add more financial burden on the government to conduct a by-election when he leaves the seat, an endeavor that could have been avoided if only he had thought well before going for the position of MP.
Hon. Jalloh has been accused of holding meetings in the 4 sections of the Chiefdom, where on all such occasions; he had offered the sacrifice of a cow (Sambaia Section, Buyan Section, Dayie Section and Borowa Section). Chiefdom sources say that he has been instrumental in the appointment of Mines Wardens and a Chairman of Operations, Momodu Kamara, to collect gold carats and levies for black stone minerals mined in the chiefdom and revenue from such transactions have not been made known. To further intimidate his opponents, he is alleged to have formed a vigilante group loyal to him, who are bent to terrorizing his rivals.