By Abednego Davis
If what lawyers of the Election Commission (EC) of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) were arguing yesterday at the Civil Law Court ‘A’ of the Temple of Justice is anything to go by, the possibility of electing the next president of the football house to replace Musa Bility is far from being over.
The court on April 14 placed a stay order on the run-off election, asked for by one of the three presidential candidates, George Solo, who had argued the LFA’s EC election commission deliberately failed to address his complaint filed against another candidate, Mustapha Raji, where he questioned Raji’s credentials, claiming that Raji was not a college graduate, which is in violation of the elections guidelines.
The run-off election was between Raji and the vice president of administration of the LFA, Musa Shannon, both of whom had obtained 16 and 13 votes respectively during the election, with Solo obtaining 5 votes of the 34 votes out of which a candidate is required to obtain 18 which is an absolute majority.
The court yesterday reserved ruling as to whether or not it has jurisdiction over the matter, though the LFA’s EC lawyer Cllr. Arthur Johnson argued that the court is not clothed with the legal authority to hear and decide the merit and demerit of the case.
At yesterday’s hearing, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, who represented the LFA’s EC, argued that Solo’s petition that resulted to the stay order should be ignored and dismissed as a matter of law on grounds that the court lacks jurisdiction to handle the case.
“The petitioner’s (Solo) stay has a remedy available to him within the LFA and sports structure as provided for in the LFA’s statute,” Cllr. Johnson argued.
Johnson based his argument on Chapter 30, the jurisdiction of the LFA, of 2017, revised statute, Article 85, 86, and Chapter 31, Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), Article 87 and 88.
The legal provision, the LFA’s EC lawyer contended, provides that “all matters or disputes of the LFA shall be heard by the LFA, and if there is a need for review, it shall be heard by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), FIFA or Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.”
“Solo also failed to exhaust the administrative remedy available to him and for the said legal blunder, the entire petition lawsuit should be dismissed as a matter of law,” Cllr. Johnson argued.
However, in counter-argument, Solo’s lawyer Jimmy Saah Bombo said the assertion pushed by the LFA’s legal team about the court lacking jurisdiction was ‘untrue and misleading.”
Atty. Bombo contended that the legal statutes argued by his colleague were misrepresented, because the law cannot operate in the absence of due process, which, according to Bombo, is fundamental to the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
Bombo also argued that Solo was denied due process, which he claimed was provided for in Article 20 (a) of the constitution.
Solo’s lawyer further argued that Johnson’s argument that all of the administrative remedies as provided for by law was exhausted by the EC was not true because he had earlier filed an objection with the Election Commission of the LFA regarding an application by Raji, who he claimed had not met the requirements to contest for the presidency as provided for in Chapter 25, Article 58 of the LFA’s revised statutes of 2017.
Bombo also argued that the hearing committee, without any due process of his objection or protest, qualified Raji against whom his protest was filed.
“Predicated upon the action of the Election Commission, we filed an appeal before the Appeals Committee in keeping with Articles 86 (1 and 2) of the LFA revised statutes of 2017,” Bombo said yesterday.
Bombo also argued that the Appeals Committee failed and refused to have the matter heard, but emailed Solo that they have affirmed the decision of the EC, contrary to the requirements spelled out in the 2017 revised statutes, contending, “considering that the LFA is an administrative agency, the only institution to review its action is a competent court within our legal jurisdiction.”
He argued further that for Solo to vote during the first round of the election does not in any way implied waiver of the right to seek legal redress against action and activities leading to the entire electoral process, as claimed by Cllr. Johnson that by Solo’s participation in the first election means he has waived his right to seek redress against his earlier complaint about Raji.
“Maybe the counsel for Raji is unaware that it is a known practice in the world of football that a team may file a protest or objection and likewise play the identical game under the protest, which he did,” Bombo argued, adding, “It is a practice hoary with age in the world of football that an objection to an action in no way excuses the objector until and unless a determination is made for or against the protester.”
He further argued that the Appeal Committee failed to produce any document to substantiate the allegation that Solo accepted the decision of that committee, contending that his participation in the first round of the election was a waiver of his right against the protest, an argument which Bombo termed as “baseless.”