Liberia: Nyonblee, Bility to Reconcile LP Constitution at Supreme Court
Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie has ordered Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and Musa Bility to work together and correct issues affecting the Liberty Party’s constitution. The Senator serves as the party’s political leader, and Bility, its chairman.
The order by Justice Wolokolie, who is the current Justice in Chamber of the Supreme Court, means that Senator Karnga-Lawrence and Bility will have to put aside their differences and withdraw the party’s 2021 constitution, correct it, and have it resubmitted to the National Elections Commission in keeping with the Farmington MOU.
The MOU seeks to resolve the internal conflict between the two friends and now political foes. Both Bility and Senator Karnaga Lawrence of Grand Bassa County have, for a considerable period, been engaged in a tit-for-tat battle that has ruined their relationship and the image of the party.
Having failed to end the internal rigmarole, both leaders are expected to have a face-to-face meeting at the Supreme Court on June 3, as mandated by the Justice, to work to correct the party’s contested 2021 constitution, which the Senator claims Bility altered “purposely, criminally, and intentionally.”
The Farmington MOU was signed in October of 2021 and sought to ensure that the different identities in the contested constitution would be rectified and reflected in the party’s constitution as filed with the NEC.
The two major differences were the power of the standard-bearer or political leader and that of the party chairman.
The party’s political leader, among other things, was granted the power to formulate policy and procedures to implement the decisions and the calling of special conventions as well as instituting any measures that he/she may deem as necessary to advance the interest of the Party.
The party chairman, however, was tasked with the role of chief administrative officer, with the authority to act as leader and spokesperson of the party in the absence or incapacitation of the political leader.
But the necessary amendments were not done, forcing Sen. Karnga-Lawrence to file a petition for prohibition against Bility and the NEC, which then led to Justice Wolokolie ruling that the party’s 2021 constitution be withdrawn, corrected and resubmitted in keeping with the MOU.
However, both Bility and the Senator failed to meet; rather, they separately withdrew the constitution, corrected it and resubmitted it to NEC.
And with the two constitutions now at NEC, Bility then filed a bill of information at the Court, seeking clarity from Justice Wolokollie as to who is the rightful person to withdraw the contested constitution and have it corrected.
After the June 3 corrections, Justice Wolokollie said the appropriate signatures recognized by law will sign the Constitution for submission at NEC.
If this is the case, the resubmission has to abide by NEC regulation 3.4, which calls for the submission of a political party’s leadership structure after a convention to be under the signatures of both the chairperson and Secretary-General of the convention committee.
However, Senator Karnga-Lawrence is arguing Bility was not the Chairman of the party’s 2021 convention and should not have signed and submitted the constitution to the NEC and “still has no such authority to sign and resubmit after the alterations are changed to the actual versions.”
Liberty Party, which is the third-largest party in the opposition community, has been split between the Grand Bassa County Senator, who serves as the political leader, and Bility, the party’s chairman.
Bility is on record for having suspended and later expelled his party’s political leader, Senator Karnga-Lawrence, for “unpaid dues.” He then assumed the position of the acting political leader. Sen. Karnga-Lawrence, in turn, nullified Bility’s chairmanship, claiming that her action was based on a report by a Special Investigative Committee, which uncovered that the election that brought Bility to power was “marred by procedural errors.”
She then sought to return the party to status quo ante under the chairmanship of Senator Stephen Zargo of Lofa County and, a few months later, her faction found Bility and others blameworthy for sowing divisions and bringing the party into disrepute. The Senator then moved to expel him from the party along with Secretary-General, Martin Kollah.
Meanwhile, Sen. Karnga-Lawrence has of late appeared to change position on the intra-party conflict — promising to heal the party division and move it forward, while calling on the party leaders to lead and end the internal rigmarole.
“Of paramount importance, those of us who hold leadership roles must take the lead as we endeavor to bring calm to the Liberty Party,” the Grand Bassa County Senator said in a statement on May 3.