Who’s in charge of the Liberia Football Association (LFA)? Depending on who you are and your look of things, this could be a foolish question.
Logic and reasoning
On May 2, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) banned LFA president Musa Bility for six months from all football activity and fined Liberia US$10,000.
On its website, Caf announced it had taken the decision because Bility violated statutes relating to the use of confidential documents, which include but not limited to, the ‘illegal’ acquisition of its executive committee’s minutes.
Views were split down the middle in Monrovia with those in favor saying the ban was timely while those against argued that the decision was a result of Bility’s fight against Caf’s rule changes to the process that effectively allowed president Issa Hayatou to be re-elected unopposed in March.
This was the same argument reinforced by Bility.
Bility and his buddy, Fifa executive committee member Jacques Anouma, who was aspiring to replace Hayatou, thrice took an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) but were unsuccessful on procedural grounds.
In an interview with FrontPageAfrica (FPA), Bility announced he would take an appeal against the suspension and fine.
“There is no justification for the punishment and it is wrong.
“The only reason why I am being suspended is because I opposed Hayatou in the elections in Marrakech, Morocco in March,” he said at his Rose Garden Plaza office on May 2.
In the same vein, sports minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe said Caf’s decision has no basis under its own statutes and urged the FA to exhaust all legal avenues to have this action reversed.
Nagbe said the decision by Caf, coming weeks after the LFA lodged legal action before Cas, suggests an attempt to witch-hunt and punish Liberia.
“This is unacceptable. I have reviewed all the documents relating to this matter and have concluded that Liberia has a solid case.
“Our country has a history of standing up to tyranny and injustice and we will take a stand again this time.
“As such, I have urged the LFA to utilize all legal processes available and take this matter as far as Cas in Geneva,” Nagbe said in a short statement issued on May 4.
It followed a meeting Nagbe and Information Minister Lewis Brown had with Bility at the LFA on May 4. It was a reaction pundits labeled as government’s interference in sports.
In a calculated attempt, Bility filed a comprehensive appeal on May 8, which was taken to Caf headquarters in Cairo, Egypt by technical director Henry Brown. Mr. Brown was coincidentally attending a Caf seminar for technical directors.
In the brief, the FA argued that article 52 of Caf statutes granting disciplinary powers to the disciplinary committee doesn’t meet the ‘principle of legality’.
The LFA, in defining that principle, said offences and its sanctions must be clearly and previously defined by law and precluding the “adjustment” of existing rules to apply them to situations or behaviors that the legislator did not clearly intend to penalize.
The FA reminded Caf that Cas have consistently held that sports organizations can’t impose sanctions without a proper legal or regulatory basis and that such sanctions must be predictable.
But on May 13, LFA secretary-general Alphonso Armah wrote Caf secretary-general Hicham El Amrani that Bility had agreed to serve the ban while Liberia would pay the fine. Armah also introduced vice president Musa Shannon as acting president in keeping with the LFA statutes.
Although Bility has largely remained silent and refrained from football activities, his frequent visits to the LFA headquarters have been conspicuous. He was in his office to distribute tickets during the Liberia versus Senegal 2014 World Cup qualifier on June 15.
Bility, with the support of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, convened a meeting of concessionaires and business entities on May 22 at the Foreign Ministry’s Cecil A. Dennis auditorium to raise more than US$500,000 for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers with Uganda in Kampala on June 8 and Senegal in Monrovia on June 16.
Liberia lost 0-1 to Uganda and 0-2 to Senegal respectively.
Infact, USA FC board chairman Faustina Doe alleged that Bility convened an executive committee meeting at his residence in Duport Road on June 23.
On the international fronts, Bility has respected the ban, refusing to attend the 63rd Fifa congress in Port Louis, Mauritius from May 30-31 and the trip to Kampala.
That aside, Shannon has been acting in keeping with article 66, section 10, which says ‘if the president is absent or unavailable due to disability, ill health, death or insanity, the Vice President for administration shall act as president until such disability is removed or until a replacement is made at the next congress.’
Shannon, an ex-international with 14 caps, addressed June’s edition of the LFA/Sports Writers Association of Liberia (Swal) monthly press briefing on June 14.
But days after the match with Senegal, Shannon traveled to the United States of America to be with his wife, Idealla Cooper-Shannon, who gave birth to a boy. His departure from the country made vice president Adolph Lawrence acting president.
But Lawrence was controversially suspended by the executive committee on April 18 for walking-off a hurriedly arranged meeting on April 16.
He has since argued that his suspension didn’t meet statutory provisions and claimed that he walked-off the meeting because Bility violated article 57, section three of the statutes.
It reads: “The president shall compile the agenda of the executive committee (EC).
“Each member of the EC is entitled to propose items for inclusion in the agenda.
“The members of the EC must submit the points they wish to be included in the agenda for the meeting to the general secretariat at least 14 days before the meeting.
“The agenda must be sent out to the members of the EC at least seven days before the meeting.”
Lawrence also questioned the legality of the meeting when he left.
Article 55 of the statutes state that for the validity of deliberations, the presence of two-third (2/3) of the membership shall be required but only Bility, Shannon, Ansu Dulleh, Rochell Woodson, Doris Sheba Brown, Wallace Weiah, Abraham Sheriff, Matthew Smith and Samuel Karn of the 18 EC members were in attendance.
With a trip down memory lane, who is charge of the LFA?
“EC Wallace [Weiah] is in charge [of the LFA right now].
“You talked about the ascendency clause, D. Sheba Brown, who is the oldest serving EC member, should have been in charge but she is out of the country.
“So EC Wallace, who is one of the longest serving executive committee members, takes over in keeping with the statutes,” Armah told FrontPageAfrica (FPA) on July 20.
This maybe in keeping with traditions or precedents because FPA has found no provision in the statutes signed by Bility on July 3, 2010 to back this ascendency.
Article 58, section J says the executive committee shall ensure that the statutes are applied and adopt the executive arrangements required for their application.
This is vague and Armah couldn’t point to the ascendency clause in the statutes. “I will give you the information in our subsequent interview,” he said.
To drum-up the fear about who’s in charge of the FA, Armah was tele-guided to postpone the 18th ordinary congress from September 7 to October 5 at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS).
It should have been held in March in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, according to the 2011 congress held in Ganta, Nimba County on July 30. But the FA, in a flagrant disregard for the rule of law, switched the date and venue, citing constraints ‘including cash and delay in the audit process.’
FPA also understands that Bility, who met Hayatou in Yaoundé, Cameroon in July to resolve their bitter electoral row, initiated the postponement of congress. Bility is anticipating that Caf executive committee meeting, which convenes on September 22, will lift the six-month ban.
The committee wants to approve additional regulations for inclusion into the statutes and regulations of member associations. And Bility is desperate to preside over the congress giving that the outcome from that meeting will favor him.
Caf second vice president, Guinea’s Almamy Kabele Kamara, who organized the reconciliatory meeting between Bility and Hayatou, is expected in Monrovia to tell Bility to go and sin no more.
Armah, our reporter understands, was also instructed to suspend the two-day retreat (September 5-6) in which Central Bank of Liberia governor Mills Jones was invited to deliver the opening address on the way forward for football.
Lawrence, a Montserrado County representative (independent, district #15), told UNMIL Radio on August 31 that he will boycott the congress and retreat due to statutory violations.
A major press conference to announce his boycott will be held this week as soon as the National Legislature goes on its annual constituency break on Friday.
So, who’s charge of the LFA?
Remember, the principle of legality says what is not done legally is not done at all.