Liberia: Sen. Karnga-Lawrence, Musa Bility Present Separate Amended Constitutions to National Elections Commission

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File photo: Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and Musa Bility Sign Farmington Agreement

MONROVIA – The hullabaloo within the opposition Liberty Party (LP) appears to be far from ending as evidenced by the latest failure of the two factions within the party to put aside their differences and finalize the corrections of its constitution as mandated by the Supreme Court of Liberia.

The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of justice in Liberia.

The LP has been split with the embattled Political Leader Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence supporters on one hand and the embattled Chairman Musa Hassan Bility loyalists on the other. The division contributed to the demise of the once vibrant Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).

On Friday, April 29, 2022, the Supreme Court Justice In Chambers, Her Hon. Jamestta Wolokollie, mandated the National Elections Commission (NEC) to return the controversial 2021 Constitution to our party in order to ensure its correction in line with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was  signed by Senator Lawrence and Mr. Bility, and attested to by members of the National Advisory Council.

The court’s action stemmed from a petition for Prohibition filed by Mr. Bility and the National Elections Commission (NEC) restricting further activities of the party as a result of the impasse which is being handled at the level of the NEC.

In a statement issued in Monrovia on Tuesday, May 3, Senator Lawrence pointed out that she and others have communicated with the NEC to again formally withdraw the altered constitution submitted by Mr. Bility and embattled Secretary-General Mr. Martin Kollah.

She noted that on May 1, they communicated with all the signatories to the Farmington MOU including Mr. Bility for a meeting at 9 am on Monday to ensure that the proper corrections in keeping with the MOU are made and signed for resubmission to the NEC.

She disclosed that as the meeting was about to start, she and others attending received a text message from Mr. Bility informing them that he and his team has already worked with the NEC to correct and resubmit the constitution in their absence, in fulfillment of the 72 hours mandate which he thought expired yesterday.

“We informed Mr. Bility that in keeping with the Liberian civil procedure law section 1.7 the 72 hours does not include Sunday and therefore expires today; sent him a copy of the law and encouraged him and his team to attend the meeting. Also, he was informed that NEC has no jurisdiction over our corrections process, and doing it together as a party was in keeping with the mandate from the court, The NEC regulation, and The Liberty Party Constitution. Up to the end of the 72 hours today, there was no response from Mr. Bility.”

Resubmitted corrected version

She noted that as a result of the failure of Mr. Bility to show up, she and the others concluded the process in keeping with the mandate of the court, and have resubmitted the corrected version of the constitution in keeping with the Farmington MOU and the NEC regulation 3.4 (d).

NEC Regulation 3.4 (d) states: “Within 10 days following the convention a political party shall submit to the commission a list of its national and local officials, including those of the national executive committee indicating the political sub-division that each of them represents. The said submission shall be under the signatures of both the chairperson and Secretary-General of the convention committee”.

Senator Lawrence maintained that Mr. Musa Bility was not the Chairman of the convention and should not have signed and submitted the constitution to the NEC.

She added that Mr. Bility has no such authority to sign and resubmit after the alterations are changed to the actual versions.

Senator Lawrence disclosed that “copies of the resubmitted version signed by the Convention Chairperson and the convention Secretary General in keeping with the NEC above regulation, has also been sent to the office of the Justice in chambers”.

“I wish to state that as an institution that was established to play its rightful role in the building of a democratic culture with its attending benefits anchored on good governance and the observance of rule of law, we must keep our focus on those values. We must not fall prey to the manipulation of individuals and institutions that could be promoting external agenda”.

NEC blamed

She blamed the NEC for the current crisis within the LP.

“Let me, therefore, use this occasion to call out the National Elections Commission for the unfortunate role it played and continues to play in fueling our intra-party conflict. The problem we have in LP today may not have reached this far, had NEC acted properly within the scope of its rules and regulations. Today, it remains a searching question why NEC, having received the Farmington Report in which the parties committed to correcting the constitution, insisted on recognizing the instrument as an authentic document, and why The NEC is still getting involved with guiding our corrections process?”

She pointed out that apart from the NEC’s Guidelines that clearly provides how political parties should file convention reports, the NEC’s rules also frown on, and regard as an offense, the submission of false and misleading information to it.

She questioned the rationale behind the decision taken by the commission to “flow” with the 2021 Constitution of the LP, even after the facts were made available to it.

Dishonorable and partial

Senator Lawrence added that by its handling of the matter, NEC has not only proven its “dishonorably and partiality”, but it has also raised the red flag against itself.

“2023 is such a defining moment for the peace of Liberia. We will not leave it to chance. Hence, in the coming days and weeks, wè will engage stakeholders from broad spectra of the society in the view of forming a consolidated position on the NEC, as is currently constituted”.

She, however, assured partisans and supporters of the LP that the actions and efforts applied in the past several weeks and months were not about pursuing the option of a “zero-sum game”.

“With the decision from the Supreme Court, which represents a significant step in the direction of setting Liberty Party on its proper course, I am appealing to all partisans to cease all hostilities, on the social and conventional media as well as in other forms and manners. In the days to come, we will take specific actions intended to heal the Party and move forward”.

Remain calm

Meanwhile, Senator Lawrence has called on partisans and supporters of the LP to remain calm in the midst of the current situation.

“Of paramount importance, those of us who hold leadership roles must take the lead as we endeavor to bring calm to Liberty Party”.

The NEC remains caught between the scissor as to make a decisive determination or which constitution to accept since, in fact, both the Bility’s and Nyonblee’s fractions of the LP have already submitted their version of the party’s constitution to the electoral body.

The possibility of the matter returning to the Supreme Court cannot be overruled as the crisis within the LP is gradually dragging towards the 2023 general and presidential elections.

The once integrity party has been rocked with controversies, including lawsuits since businessman-turned politician Musa Hassan Bility took over its chairmanship.

 Bility, former President of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) was elected to steer the affairs of the opposition Liberty Party at its just ended controversial convention, held in Gbarnga, Bong County on January 23 of last year.

He and other executives of the party were elected unopposed.

Bility, who is the owner of Truth FM 96.1, Real TV and Srimex, replaces Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo who resigned from the LP barely few days to the conduct of the party’s convention.

The Liberty Party, which was once considered as a “party of integrity” in Liberia, received barrage of criticism and condemnations minutes after the election of Bility as the new Chair of the party.

Critics made specific reference to the ban placed on Bility at the time he served as an executive committee member of the Confederation of African Football (Caf), and accusations linking him to the squandering of funds intended for the resettlement of scores of citizens in Nimba County following the conclusion of a land dispute in 2013, among others.

Bility was banned by the football governing body Fifa for 10 years and fined him $500,000 for breaching its code of ethics.

He was found “guilty of having misappropriated Fifa funds, as well as having received benefits and found himself in situations of conflict of interest”. Fifa said it has been investigating the 52-year-old since May 2018 following a forensic audit of the LFA.

The misappropriation of Fifa funds at the time was in relation to those granted under the global body’s “11 against Ebola” campaign and as part of its Financial Assistance Programme. Liberia was one of three west African countries affected by an outbreak of Ebola between 2013 and 2016, when more than 10,000 people lost their lives.

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