Following the failed coup attempt in Sierra Leone in November 2023, the Federal Government has granted former Sierra Leonian president, Ernest Bai Koroma, who is being accused of treason by his successor, Julius Maada Bio, temporary asylum in Abuja.
A letter with reference number ECW/PC/DC/2024-001/oat, dated January 2, 2024, which was signed by Omar Alieu Touray and addressed to President Bio of Sierra Leone, said the former president has accepted the offer to be hosted in Nigeria.
The letter read: ‘I refer to the mission to Freetown on 23 December of the high-level ECOWAS delegation led by His Excellency, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, and His Excellency, Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal.
‘I am pleased to inform Your Excellency that as part of the agreement reached during the mission, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has offered to host His Excellency, Ernest Bai Koroma, former president of Sierra Leone, in Abuja on a temporary basis. The former president has accepted the offer to be hosted in Nigeria.
‘Subject to your approval, arrangements will be made to fly former President Koroma out of Freetown on Thursday, 4 January 2024. He will be accompanied by his office manager and personal assistant.
‘In addition to seeking Your Excellency’s approval for the departure from Sierra Leone of the former president on or around the date indicated above, I would like to seek your confirmation that once President Koroma leaves Sierra Leone, the following arrangements (as agreed during the mission) will be put in place.’
Details of the arrangement
The arrangements, according to Touray, were that the government of Sierra Leone would discontinue all legal and administrative procedures against Koroma; the government of Sierra Leone would also continue to disburse to Koroma, his benefits as former president; the government of Sierra Leone would secure his residences in the various locations in Sierra Leone; and that the government of Sierra Leone will consider refunding medical and travel expenses the former president has incurred.
When it all started
Trouble started last November after gunmen broke into a military armoury and several prisons in Freetown, freeing almost 2,000 inmates.
Koroma was charged with four counts of treason in connection with the attempted coup. He has been under house arrest since being questioned over the coup.
He has denied any involvement in the attack that killed about 20 people. The attempted coup came five months after a disputed election that saw President Bio narrowly re-elected for a second term.
Efforts from ECOWAS
ECOWAS leaders had tried to broker a deal for Koroma to go into exile in Nigeria if the charges were dropped.
Koroma had in a letter, agreed to the deal. Koroma was president for 11 years until 2018, when the current President Julius Maada Bio was elected.
On Tuesday, 12 other people were charged over the attempted coup, including one of Koroma’s former bodyguards.