By Joseph Dumbuya
The Legal Aid Board has secured benefits payment totaling 116 million Leones to a former employee known as one Sheikh of the Sierra Leone Port Authority. Sheikh worked at the Sierra Leone Port Authority as Chief Security Officer for 21 years before his contract was terminated in 2007.
Dissatisfied with the benefits that was paid to him, he decided to lodge a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone in 2008.
Also, he took the parastatal to the Industrial Court in 2011 but the matter was never concluded at that stage. Sheikh reported the matter to the Legal Aid Board in April 2018.
As usual, the Board referred the matter to the Ministry of Labour and Industrial Relations. The Ministry took the matter to the Industrial Court in December 2018 presided over by Justice Jamesina King. This was after it became apparent that the parastatal was not ready to cooperate. Sheikh was represented by Legal Aid Counsel, Mamako Betty Sao Kallon by virtue of the fact that he is a client of the Board.
Even though notices were serviced coupled with a number of adjournments, the defendant Sierra Leone Ports Authority failed to make an appearance in the court. As a result, Justice King decided to proceed with the matter during which Ms. Mamako Kallon lead witnesses in evidence.
The lawyer for the parastatal decided to make an appearance at a time when the matter was being concluded and requested for an adjournment for time to examine the file and advice his client accordingly on the course of action.
He informed the court at the next adjournment date that the Parastatal has agreed to pay Sheikh his benefits in full. He appealed to the court for the payment to be done in installment which was not objected to by Legal Aid Counsel. It was agreed that payment will be done to Sheikh through the Legal Aid Board.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has described the judgment as a major victory for workers in the country. ‘With this ruling we are sending a loud and clear message that the abuse of the rights of workers will no longer be tolerated,’ she said, adding ‘Employers who keep workers as casual workers for months and years be warned.’ The defendant lawyer did not have any objection and decided that the company should pay.
The first installment of 30 million Leones was paid in May 2019 through the Board.