But parliament had earlier maintained a contrary position that “the instruments are not properly before the House”. They therefore called for the withdrawal of the two instruments pending due process to the followed by the National Electoral Commission and the office of the Minister of Justice, before any approval by Parliament.
The minister called on Parliament not to withdraw the two documents because “it will collapse the entire electoral process”. He pleaded for “the two instruments to remain laid until the issues raised are cleared”.
He agreed that “the arguments put forward by MPs are legitimate,” even though he had the responsibility to examine the validity and correctness of the law.
Section 38(4) of the 1991 constitution mandated the National Electoral Commission to review the division of Sierra Leone into constituencies and ward at an interval of not less than five and not more than seven years.
The statutory instrument in question was only tabled in parliament some four days to the voter registration exercise, a development the leader of the opposition party in parliament, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, said was contrary to what obtained over the years.
NEC chairman, N’fa Alie Conteh, had earlier admitted to “procedural and constitutional breaches,” but MPs had assured him that the process to regularise the breaches would not adversely affect the ongoing registration or alter the rest of the electoral calendar. Elections are slated for 7 March, 2018.
Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Sheku Bashiru Dumbuya, warned that even though a date had been pronounced for the conduct of the elections, the validity of that depended on the outcome of the decision by parliament.
On 4 April majority of MPs present to discuss the issue in question, based on what had been said in previous debates, said they would have to vote in favour of the continuation of the voter registration process in the interest of the public.
For now it is the unanimous belief of MPs that the two statutory instruments stand withdrawn for the purpose of posterity, and were also in disagreement in large part of most of the submissions and opinions expressed by the AGMJ, according to a release from the media unit in parliament.
Deputy leader of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party in Parliament, Hon. Ansu Kaikai, said they blamed the problems on the laziness of the minister of justice and the leadership of NEC.
It was also confirmed that Parliament cannot amend a constitutional or statutory instrument. “It either accepts or rejects it”, the release stated. In view of this Parliament was adjourned to today 5 April 2017, pending the minister’s conferment with NEC on the way forward, subject to the approval by the House.
Concerns around a possible breach of the constitution by the ongoing voter registration were first raised by Hon. Paramount Chief Bai Kurr Kanagbaro Sankro III, but as traditional heads they only there to advise parliament and not to raise a motion.