Liberia: Liberty Party Nat’l Advisory Council Finds Chairman Bility Liable of Omitting Key Provisions of MoU
MONROVIA – It appears that the internal wrangling and war of words between executives and supporters loyal to the Political Leader and Chairman of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, and Musa Hassan Bility is far from being over as the party’s National Advisory Council (NAC) continues to struggle in mitigating the situation in the midst of stiff resistance and multiple requests from Mr. Bility.
For nearly two months now, the once-integrity LP has been embroiled in a crisis following reports that some provisions of its constitution submitted to the National Elections Commission (NEC) were reportedly authored and changed by Chairman Bility to suit his ulterior motive. But Mr. Bility has denied any wrong doing.
Following the deepening of the controversy, the National Advisory Council (NAC) was mandated to lead the change to return the party to political stability.
But recent exchanges between the NAC and Chairman Bility show that the matter is far from being over.
In a communication dated September 17, 2021 and addressed to Mr. Bility under the signatures of Jacob Smith and Debar Allen, Secretary General and Chairman respectively, the NAC informed Mr. Bility about a mediatory meeting which was held under its auspices to end the internal conflict that has marred the party in recent times.
The meeting took place in the office of Chairman Bility on August 26, 2021. The meeting was attended by Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, Mr. Bility and other members of the NAC.
The NAC pointed out that during the meeting, Mr. Bility and Senator Lawrence arrived at an understanding on the way forward.
The Council pointed out that based upon the decision reached by the two high ranking executives of the Liberty Party, it (NAC) prepared a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), incorporating the tenets of the understanding reached and forwarded to Senator Lawrence for her signature and to Mr. Bility subsequently for his execution.
“It is the NAC understanding that the MOU was signed by the Political Leader and forwarded to you for your signature around 3 September 2021. It is also our understanding that the three original copies of the MOU signed by the Political Leader remain in your possession. Regrettably, you did not execute the MOU”.
The NAC indicated that instead of executing the MOU submitted, Mr. Bility on September 8, 2021 returned a “revised version omitting key provisions”, including the exclusion of the provision relating to the temporary suspension of the functions of both the Political Leader and the National Chairman except those relating to the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), pending the report of an agreed Inquiry Committee amongst others.
The Council emphasized that the provisions allegedly omitted by Mr. Bility remain critical due to the fact that the present controversy within the party borders around the allocation of authority to both the Political Leader and the National Chairman of the party.
“The NAC also believed that a one-week suspension, the period in which the Inquiry Committee would have reported once constituted, was necessary and would not be detrimental to the operations of the party”.
Meanwhile, the National Advisory Council (NAC) of the LP has disclosed that it has finally reached a decision on the matter.
According to the communication addressed to Mr. Bility, members of the NAC met on September 16, 2021 and took the decision to review all of Mr. Bility’s revisions against what was agreed upon at the mediatory meeting held on August 26, 2021.
“Sign the MOU”
“The comparison was necessary to avoid opening a Pandora box with a series of revisions with the propensity of aborting its reconciliatory efforts. By a majority of the members, a quorum being present, the NAC resolved that the MOU sent to the Political Leader represents the Agreement made of 26th August 2021and advises that you sign the MOU sent to the Political Leader by the NAC and thereafter signed by the Political Leader and return the copies so that the Inquiry Committee can commence its work”.
But in his response dated September 18, 2021 and addressed to Mr. Debar Allen, Chairman of the party’s NAC, Mr. Bility claimed that the communication from the Council made several “claims that are factually incorrect and relays a sequence of events that does not accurately explain what really happened, but rather seeks to make it appear as though the delay in getting the MOU signed has emanated from me”.
He pointed out that on September 1, 2021, he received a communication from one Counselor Carlos Smith, informing him that the NAC Chairman had instructed him to provide a draft of the MOU for his review and email address, which he provided.
“On the same day Cllr. Smith sent me the draft via email. On September 2, 2021, I immediately contacted the Secretary via text message and informed him that I had indeed received the draft from Cllr. Smith and had made some edits which would be forwarded to you. Immediately afterwards, I sent the revised draft, with my inputs, to him. He acknowledged my text message. In the evening, I received a text message from the Secretary that he had been informed by the NAC Chairman that the issue was resolved”.
“On September 4, 2021, the Secretary sent me a text message asking for my location to bring the MOU for my signature. I informed the Secretary that I had just learned that Cllr. Arthur Johnson would not be able to serve on the Committee and to replace him with Cllr. Yafar Baikpeh, to which he responded it would not be a problem. In the evening, the Secretary called me and said he wanted to send the document for my signature. I informed him of my location. I received the documents from the gentleman sent by the Secretary around 7:30 PM and, upon reading, I sent a message to the Secretary informing him that the Office of the National Chairman MOU he had sent, that had been signed by the Political Leader, was the first draft and had not incorporated any of my inputs sent to him since 9/2/21 and did not represent our agreement”.
Mr. Bility disclosed that he immediately resent, via text, the document earlier sent on September 2, 2021 stating that “the only edit agreed to since that time was the inclusion of Cllr. Carlos Smith as Chaplain, which was done to clearly indicate that Cllr. Smith’s involvement with the NAC was not as a member, as had been stated in the first draft MOU, and informed him that I would sign this version and send to him in the morning as I was in Nimba”.
“I also sent the revised MOU to the Secretary via email. The Secretary acknowledged my message and stated that the document would be reprinted on the following Monday. On the evening of 9/5/21, Chairman Allen sent me a text message informing me that he had asked Secretary Smith to reach out to me regarding the draft MOU. On 9/7/21, Chairman Allen sent me a text message asking me to get in touch with the Secretary to sign the MOU. I informed Chairman Allen that I had tried calling the Secretary all day to no avail and that I was sending him [Chairman Allen] a copy of the revised draft MOU with my inputs that I had sent to the Secretary on 9/2/21. Chairman Allen later acknowledged my text”.
Mr. Bility furthered that on September 7, 2021, Mr. Smith later sent him a message inquiring if he was back in town from Nimba, because he needed to conclude the document signing, to which he responded affirmatively.
“I then signed the revised version and sent to him. Upon realizing that the extensive exchanges between the Secretary and myself regarding my inputs may not have been relayed to Chairman Allen, I informed him of my disagreement with the first draft that was sent to me and, at 12:08 AM on 9/8/21, sent a copy of the revised draft MOU with my inputs to Chairman Allen, to which he acknowledged receipt. He requested for a meeting with the Political Leader and the NAC for the following day at 11AM to discuss, to which I agreed”.
He noted that on September 9, 2021, he showed up for the requested meeting but was told that the Political Leader did not come.
“On 9/11/21, at the NEC meeting, members asked for an update on the progress of the investigation. I informed them that the investigation had not yet begun because the tenets of the MOU, specifically the matters relating to the parameters of the investigation under the authority of the Investigation Committee and that of the Political Leader and myself ceasing to perform our official duties, had not yet been agreed”.
“The NEC noted that the Committee had spent three weeks in this process and it seemed to be going nowhere. It was agreed that I would inform the Committee that if they could not bring this matter to a close by 9/15/21 that the Party’s official internal dispute resolution mechanism, the Claims, Petitions and Investigation Committee (CPIC), would resume jurisdiction over the matter. 10) On 9/12/21, I sent Chairman Allen a message regarding the NEC’s decision. He responded that the version that I signed and sent back was not the agreed version and that I had made changes. He also informed me that he had been ill and unable to convene the NAC but would do so. All of these text exchanges are available for review by the NAC, if necessary. Chairman Allen’s statement that I made changes to the draft MOU is accurate”.
Mr. Bility claimed that all of the changes made were submitted to the Secretary since September 2, 2021 and subsequently to Chairman Allen since September 8, 2021 as his input to the MOU.
He justified that due to the fact that the draft MOU was sent to him on September 1, 2021 and he provided his input which was considered on the next day, does not necessarily mean that the September 1, 2021 draft was the final MOU.
“The fact that a draft MOU was sent to me on 9/1/21, to which I provided input on 9/2/21, which was not considered, does not mean that the 9/1/21 draft was the final MOU. The fact that the NAC did not review my input since 9/2/21 and is rather now, on 9/17/21 wanting to insist that I sign an MOU that does not accurately reflect what was agreed to, is troubling”.
He recalled that at the first meeting held with Senator Lawrence, and members of the NAC, he was very explicit about multiple issues that needed to be given attention.
He pointed out that during the meeting, he agreed for the seven-person investigatory committee to only investigate allegations of “whether or not there was alteration to the Constitution that was not agreed upon at the Gbarnga Convention and whether or not there were procedural errors in the submission to the National Elections Commission”.
He noted that once investigated, the findings and recommendations of the Committee would be binding on all parties.
Mr. Bility added that he also propounded that “outside of the specific allegation, no other part of the Constitution would be reviewed by this Committee as the investigation was not a constitution review body and LP has a legitimate process outlined for such and that this involves a National Convention sitting”.
He stated that “any issue regarding Senator Abraham Darius Dillon’s claims, insults and allegations against my person would be handled by the Party’s internal dispute resolution mechanism, which is the CPIC”.
“Under no condition would I abdicate my functions as National Chairman during the Investigation. As a matter of fact, it is even evident that the Political Leader agrees with me on this position since she is currently in the United States of America representing the Liberty Party at the LP USA Summit as Political Leader”.
“The fact that the draft MOU the NAC wants me to sign ignores all of the above and has a clause calling for this Committee to review the 2021 Adopted Constitution against the proposed constitutional changes recommended by the Constitution Review Committee and approved by the Executive Council setting in Buchanan, Grand Bassa and the Minutes of the Special Convention held in Gbarnga to determine any and all discrepancies, is completely contrary to what was agreed”.
Mr. Bility claimed that there is no contention about the revised Constitution coming out of Buchanan as all pages were initialed and the full document signed by the Political Leader and as such, a review of it is “inconsequential”.
“By this letter, I once again reiterate what was agreed to and advise that the NAC revise the MOU to clearly reflect same. I also reiterate my position that under no condition will I sign the first draft MOU as written because it delves into matters that are clearly not within the purview of the Committee. If the NAC is unable to do such, I once again call its attention to the NEC’s decision to resume jurisdiction over this matter and investigate the explicit allegations as outlined above within the specific parameters set”.
He pointed out that the initial deadline of September 15, 2021 has elapsed and as such, the NAC should take keen note as he awaits an immediate response on the matter.
Is Bility the problem in LP?
Since Mr. Bility assumed the Chairmanship of the LP, the party has not been able to politically sail smoothly.
After acquiring brand new pickups and spacious national party headquarters, many partisans and supporters of the LP saw Mr. Bility as the “transformer” of the LP. But their expectations were short-lived after Mr. Bility, who is considered as a “point man” for former Liberian Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf started to engage into alleged divisive acts.
Mr. Bility has been consistently accused of offering delegates and others huge sum of money to vote him as the party’s recent convention-a claim which was echoed by the former Chairman of the party, Senator Steve Zargo of Lofa County.
Insiders confided that the allegation compelled Senator Zargo to downplay his ambition and boycott the entire process, leaving Mr. Bility to contest the post unopposed.
Due to his strong stance on critical issues within the LP, Mr, Bility canvassed against the election of Attorney Kla Toomey as Secretary General of the party-a situation which constrained Toomey to back off the process. Martin Kollah, who was the choice of Mr. Bility, was elected as the new Chief Scribe of the party.
Another case in point was the dishing up of huge sum of monies to support the senatorial re-election of Senator Dillon in 2020. Mr. Bility has admitted that he provided huge sum of monies to support Senator Dillon and foot his house rental bills.
Political pundits believed that the move was intended for Senator Dillon to play initially support the candidacy of Mr. Bility for the LP Chairmanship, play low or dance to the flute of the party’s Chairman.
Following the move, Senator Dillon was heard on multiple radio stations defending the decision taken by delegates to elect Mr. Bility, who has a tainted character. Mr. Bility was found guilty by Fifa for embezzling funds intended for the development of football in Liberia during his days as President of the Liberia Football Association.
Despite the public outcries, Senator Dillon at the time claimed that Mr. Bility has changed from “Saul to Paul”.
There are reports that the ascendancy of Mr. Bility to the LP is intended to bring about a split or high level of division within the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP). The division will in turn thwart the possibility of a Joseph Nyema Boakai’s presidency come 2023 general and presidential elections.
Bility is said to be in favor of Mr. Alexander Cummings heading the ticket of the CPP come 2023, while bulk of executive committee members, including the party’s Political Leader are possibly considering ex-Vice President Joseph Nyema Boakai, who is the political leader of the former governing Unity Party.
As evidenced of that, the National Executive Committee of the LP recently wrote the Unity Party (UP), informing that body that the LP tenure to serve as Chairman of the CPP has since elapsed and the party remains fully prepared and ready to transition leadership to the UP.
The LP’s decision comes barely few days after leaders of three of the parties met, to agree forn Senator Lawrence to hold until the CPP Chairman and take the body to convention since in fact, the Political Leader of the UP cannot ascend to the position because, he’s one of those contesting in the primary process.
Alexander Cummings, Political Leader of the ANC walked out of the meeting on grounds that the decision taken was in clear violation of the framework document of the CPP.
The CPP convention is expected to be held in December 2021.
It remains unclear whether or not the controversy that has rocked the once-integrity Liberty Party will be settled in a timely manner, as the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) continues to hold closed door talks with executives of the CPP in amalgamating ways and means to ensure a split of the collaboration before 2023 for a second term of President George Manneh Weah.