The Administrator & Registrar General v Alusine Sumah & Others (SC CIV APP 2 of 2023) [2023] SLSC 2 (20 June 2023)

Did the Susu Tribal Headman act within his statutory authority when he pupated to identify the rightful beneficiaries?

Can a differently constituted Court of Appeal alter, vary, or amend its own orders contained in its judgment or is it bound by its previous decisions?

Was the Appellant bound by the response of the Susu Tribal Headman?


Historical Background
1. Makalay Turay, Susu by tribe and a Muslim died intestate on the 31st  August 1981. She had no natural children and at the time of her death was the freehold owner of 12 Free Street, Freetown. After her death
members of the Sumah family produced a will dated 3™4 January 1981 purported to have been made by Makalay Turay and registered at page 127 in Volume 31 in the Book of Wills kept at the Office of the Administrator and Registrar General. The same family also produced a
Deed of Gift for the same property dated 18 July 1981 and registered as No 21/81 at page 4 in Volume 60 in the Book of Voluntary Conveyances kept in the office of the Administrator and Registrar General. These gifts they claim were in appreciation of their services to
the deceased whilst alive as her wards. The 15t, 274, 3rd and 4% Respondents herein are the members of the Sumah family.

2. On the 3™4 February 1981, Alwalion Nabie Turay the eldest surviving brother of Makalay Turay was granted Letters of Administration to administer the cstate of Makalay Turay in accordance with Cap 96 of
the Laws of Sierra Leone (Mohammedan Marriage Act). He then instituted an action in the High Court challenging the validity of the Will and the Deed of Gift.

3. On the 31st December 1986, the High Court presided by Hon. Justice RJ.B. Thompson gave judgment in favour of Alwalion Nabie Turay and
set aside both the Will and the Deed of Gift. The High Court’s judgment was upheld by the Court of Appeal in a judgement delivered on the 16 July 1991 by Justice E. C. Thompson-Davis:

The road to the present proceedings .

4. With the Letters of Administration having been restored to Alwalion Nabie Turay, he remained the Administrator until he died intestate on the 10% March 2003. After his death, his son Ibrahim Sorie Turay
applied for and was granted Letters of Administration to administer his estate on the 7 July 2003. He further applied for Letters of Administration de bonis non in respect of the estate of Makalay Turay by virtue of that which had been granted to him to administer the estate
of his father, Alwalion Nabi Turay.

5. On the 9th July 2003 Morlai Turay entered the fray. He claimed to be the son of Makalay Turay according to Susu customary law and he was also granted Letters of Administration to administer her estate.

6. The Sumahs (the 1st to 4t Respondents) then instituted an action by Originating Summons in the High Court on the 15 October 2007 against Ibrahim Kamara and Morlai Turay, seeking determination to
the following issues:
i. That the only person entitled to administer the estate of Makalay Turay is the Administrator and Registrar General;
ii. That the Administrator and Registrar General is the only person entitled to receive the proceeds from the property at 12 Free Street, Freetown and distribute the proceeds equally; iii. That the Plaintiffs (The Sumahs) are beneficiaries of the estate of Makalay Turay and as such are entitled to equal portions of the estate; and
iv. That if there is no proven beneficiary of the estate of
Makalay Turay apart from the Plaintiffs then the property at 12 Free Street should be vested in them as sole beneficiaries.

7. Bash-Taqi JA gave judgement on the 8th June 2007. She ruled that:
a. On the facts and circumstances in the case the Administrator and Registrar General was not competent to take over the management and control of the estate.
b. The Administrator and Registrar General should have nothing to do with the said estate.
c. It was for the 1st defendant (Morlai Turay) to determine who the  beneficiaries of the estate were and that the plaintiffs (the Sumah
family) not being the natural children of Makalay Turay could be considered as beneficiaries of the estate of Makalay Turay on equitable and moral grounds.

8. Being dissatisfied with the judgment of the High Court, Morlai Turay appealed to the Court of Appeal on grounds that inter alia the Learned Judge erred when she held that the 1st Defendant, Ibrahim Turay was
the most competent person to take out Letters of Administration, the person to determine the beneficiaries of the estate, and that the
plaintiffs can be considered on equitable and moral grounds as beneficially interested persons.

9. The Court of Appeal in its judgment on the 23"¢4 June 2011, ordered as
i. That the judgment of the High Court dated 8 June. 2007 be set aside
ii. That the Letters of Administration granted to the Appellant Morlai Turay on the 9t July 2003 be revoked
iii. That the Administrator General be granted Letters of
Administration in respect of the estate of Makalay Turay left unadministered.
iv. The Administrator General identify and ascertain the
beneficiaries of the estate of Makalay Turay deceased, in accordance with the provisions of the law.
v. That all rents or monies collected in respect of 12 Free Street, Freetown since the date of judgment of High Court be fully accounted for and paid to then Administrator and Registrar by the person that was in control throughout the period this matter was on appeal.

10. On the 16t December 2011, Letters of Administration were granted to the Administrator and Registrar General (ARG). On the 12% January 2012, the Administrator and Registrar General and Appellant herein, wrote to the Susu Tribal Headman, Alhaji Kandeh Kabiri Sesay (hereinafter the Headman). In that letter she stated “I have been ordered
to ascertain those beneficiaries entitled under her estate. Her estate is being administered under section 9 (2) Cap 96 of the Laws of Sierra Leone.” A second ietter dated 20“ September 2012 was sent to the Headman with the same request.

11. By a letter dated 12 July 2013, the Headman responded. That letter, stated that he had convened a meeting on the 29t May 2013 at his residence to which he invited “both parties.” He also invited the Deputy
Susu Tribal ‘Chief - Chief F. M. Kamara, Alhaji Mustapha Kamara - Chief Imam Boyle Street Susu Mosque and Alhaji Morlai Sillah, Chief Imam Regent Street Mosque. At that meeting the judgment of the Court of Appeal was read out and explained to “both parties” who agreed that they fully understood. The letters from the Administrator and Registrar
General’s office was also read out and explained to both parties and they confirmed that they understood.

12. The Headman stated that the Court of Appeal judgment did not make any reference to the Sumahs and that’s what the meeting looked into. He noted that the High Court had set aside the will and deed of gift and that “the rulings of the Appeals Court the judgment of the high Court was set aside meaning that the Will and Deed of Gift still stand by law.” He concluded as follows: “To the best of my knowledge, the Sumahs should be the rightfully beneficiaries the property situated at 12 Free Street, Freetown.” (sic).

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