Since 1924, long before Sierra Leone’s independence, Governor, Sir Ransford Slater, introduced a Parliament of 21 members 11 appointed and 10 “unofficial”. In 1951, 12 Paramount Chiefs, one per district, were added to the composition of Parliament. In 1961, upon Independence, Parliament became a completely elected body, which existed till 1978 when a one-party State was declared. In 1996, Parliament was restored in a democratic election with Tejan Kabbah as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Today, there are 112 directly elected Members of Parliament and 12 Paramount Chiefs. Two political parties are represented in Parliament. The All People’s Congress hold 67 seats and the Sierra Leone People’s Party hold 42 seats. Out of the 124 members of Parliament, only 15 are women or 12%. There are 11 political parties registered with NEC.
The 112 Constituencies were delimited in November 2006 and 394 Wards in 2007 for the 2007 Parliamentary and 2008 Local Council elections, respectively. According to NEC, the last delineation of constituencies was done in 2006. Current constituency boundaries may be obsolete.
The primary purpose of delimiting electoral boundaries is to ensure fair representation. Parliamentarians and Councillors represent the people. Since the 2004 census, there has been an increase in population. There have also been shifts in population that might lead to some districts gaining or losing seats. It is therefore prudent for new boundaries to be drawn taking into account population dynamics.
The Electoral Commission has the mandate to review constituencies every 5-7 years and may alter the constituencies in accordance with the Constitution. One of the review criteria is the conduct of a census. When constituencies are altered, a corresponding change in the number of MPs in Parliament usually takes place.
The government of Sierra Leone has conducted, through Statistics Sierra Leone, a census in 2004, a population survey in 2012 and another census in 2015.
The population of Sierra Leone in 2004 was 4,976,871. According to the report by Statistics Sierra Leone, the “Integrated Household Survey, 2012”, released in March 2014, the population of Sierra Leone was 5,865,881. In December 2015, another population and housing census was conducted. In January 2016, the population of Sierra Leone was announced at 7,075,641 up from the 5,865,881 recorded in 2012. And, up from 4,976,871 recorded in the survey of 2004.
According to the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, Chapter 4,
38. (1) Sierra Leone shall be divided into such constituencies for the purpose of electing the Members of Parliament…
38. (2) Every constituency established under this section shall return one Member of Parliament.
38. (3) The boundaries of each constituency shall be such that the number of inhabitants thereof is as nearly equal to the population quota as is reasonably practicable.
38. (6) In this section “population quota” means the number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of Sierra Leone by the number of constituencies into which Sierra Leone is divided under this section.
Summary chart of population and number of people each MP represents.
To figure out the “population quota”, divide the population (7,075,641) by the number of representatives (124). This indicates that the national average of the number of people to be represented in Parliament is 57,061.
Comparing Sierra Leone to other African countries:
? In Ghana, there are 275 Constituencies represented by 230 MPs over a population of 28,033,375.
? Liberia has a population of 4,600,000 and has a total of 73 representatives in a lower chamber.
? Togo has a population of 7,496,833 and is represented by 91 MPs in legislature.
? Benin, with a population of 11,166,658 has 83 members in its National Assembly.
? Rwanda’s population is 11,882,766 and reserves 24 seats of the 80 seats available (30%) in their Chamber for women.
In March 2016, Parliamentarians requested the addition of 20 more MPs from the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
In June 2016, NEC proposed adding 8 MPs to parliament, according to Raymond George, Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, as quoted in a press release from the Clerk of Parliament on June 23, 2016. George said, “The “formulae used by NEC per constituency is 53,600 or the highest remainder of 64,000 population quota, given a total of 132 seats for Parliament provisionally (currently 124 seats). The Districts of Kailahun, Kenema and Kono were identified as needing further representation based on provisional figures from the 2015 Census.” This was noted in Parliament but not acted upon.
Awoko reported, on August 24, 2016, NEC presented a draft Boundaries Delimitation Process 2016, in Bo. And, according to NEC and District Elections Officer, Paul Simbo, “NEC used a deviation range of +/-25%, a population from 40,202 to 67,004 makes a constituency.” This means that each MP in Sierra Leone should represent between 40-67,000 people within their constituencies.
On December 15th, 2016, President Koroma addressed the opening of the Fifth Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone. In his speech, the President said, “We are undertaking preliminary studies for the restoration of the Karene District and the creation of a new Province. We will soon announce the Proclamation for the separation of some of the amalgamated chiefdoms, the restoration of the Karene District, division of Koinadugu into two Districts and the creation of a new province.”
A Member of Parliament, Honourable Foday Rado Yokie, (SLPP) said, “The addition is necessary because there has been an increase in the population. Before this time, each MP would represent approximately 46,000 people. But this has increased to 53,000 per constituency as the population increases.”
Yokie said, “Some Constituencies have expanded (grown in population) and one MP cannot effectively represent that area. The Constitution does not make provision for a reduction in numbers of MPs only increases.”
According to Albert Massaquoi, Director of External Relations of the National Electoral Commission, “Prior to 2016, Members of Parliament represented about 45,000 people in their particular constituency. Following the results of the Census, MPs would be required to represent approximately 57,000 in a constituency.”
In Chapter 6, Part 1, Section 74, of the Constitution, it states,
74. (2) The number of Members of Parliament to be elected pursuant to paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) shall not together be less than sixty.
74. (4) Members of Parliament shall be entitled to such salaries, allowances, gratuities, pensions and such other benefits as may be prescribed by Parliament.
According to Marcella Samba-Sesay, Chair of National Elections Watch, (NEW), “Additional seats means additional budgets and costs and the increase has serious ramifications for the development of the country.” Each Parliamentarian is entitled to Le 62 million per annum for Constituency Development Fund and a salary of Le 16 million per month.
Samba-Sesay added, “Parliamentary costs are huge, as it comprises retirement benefits for MPs and, looking at our system, the turnover of MPs is high so we will have a bulk of MPs that the country has to be supporting. In a situation where resources are scarce this is a problem for the country”.
The Constituency Development Fund allows for a yearly Le62 million payment to each MP. That’s Le,5,167,000 per month. (62,000,000 divided by 12 months). Each representative receives a salary of Le16 million per month. Adding salary and money from the CDF, each MP is to receive Le21,167,000 per month. These are two of the allocations of funds made to each Parliamentarian.
By adding 20 new Parliamentarians, the budget would have to increase by at least 423,340,000 per month, and more than 5 billion Leones per year.
Andrew Lavalie, Executive Director of the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR), echoed the point that an additional 20 seats is “an increase in the budget of government additional salaries, expenses and manpower, which is not necessary. Let’s consider the fact that the country is suffering economically, socially and psychologically. The hills are barren and the living conditions of the people are very difficult.” Lavalie maintained that, “the addition of 20 more seats in Parliament means the country is doing something we cannot afford”.
According to the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance Supplementary to the Protocol relating to the Mechanism For Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.
Article 26: Member States undertake to provide the basic human needs of their populations.
Article 27: Member States undertake to fight poverty effectively in their respective countries and within the Community, especially by creating an environment conducive to private investment and the development of a dynamic and competitive private sector;
? providing the instruments necessary for the enhancement of job creation and for the development of the social sector as a matter of priority;
? ensuring equitable distribution of resources and income in order to consolidate national unity and solidarity;
But, Marcella Samba-Sesay argued further that such funds should not be named Development Fund. “We need to understand the role of Parliament. Development and security are in the hands of the government. The development engine of this country depends on the Local Councils”.
About the Constituency Development Fund, Hon. Yokie said, “The Le62 million is meant for the safety for their Constituency and to do some minor work like digging wells and assisting with funerals or whatever the case may be.” Yokie adds, “The money is very small and can’t do any tangible developmental activity.”
Samba-Sesay, added, “The country has to be divided into Constituencies and each has to return a Member of Parliament. But Parliament must act in a transparent process to determine the number of seats and how they do their calculations. That’s what the people deserve and want.”
Media Foundation For West Africa (MFWA)
with funding from Ibis
By Betty Milton
Monday January 09, 2017