Court Throws Out ‘Stolen Ebola Rice’ Case

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    In the ongoing Ebola rice theft case involving health workers, the Ganta Magisterial Court last Friday threw out the case indefinitely, because the prosecution filed in a motion to have the case declared “Nolleprosequi” due to the lack of sufficient evidence. Their motion was granted by the court.

    The clerk of the court said the prosecution had the right to re -file their claim, whenever they have their entire evidence ready. But, “for now this case is declared Nolleprosequi,” he said.

    Nimba Public Defense Attorney Menwaseh Paybayee argued that the case was thrown out due to the prosecution’s unpreparedness to bring their witnesses.

    “When the case started for the third time, the prosecution filed in a motion for a submission of Nolleprosequi meaning,” he said, “prosecution does not have sufficient witnesses against the accused so the accused must back off and resume their normal duties,” he said.

    “We are prepared at any time to fight this case whenever the prosecution brings in their witnesses and all relevant pieces of evidence to substantiate their case,” he said.

    He threatened to sue those who made accusatory statements, which implicated the accused, but did not call any name.

    Ganta City Solicitor Atty. James Boayou said: “I declare the case Nolleprosequi until the complainer can come and explain the details of the case to me.”

    “I cannot prosecute in the absence of the plaintiff, the County Health Services Director Ramsey Leesala, whose name was mentioned in the writ,” he added.

    One of the health officers who was in charge during the time of the incident and was frequently seen at the Sanniquellie Police Station when the truck containing the rice was arrested, Dr. Loraine Cooper, has now sought another assignment in Grand Cape Mount County as County Health Officer, making it very hard for the prosecution counsel to get plaintiff equipped for the case.

    Efforts to get Ramsey Leesala remain futile as his phone rang endlessly without any response.

    There is great concern across Nimba about how the government downplays such a high profile case almost one month after the incident occurred.

    Musa M. F. Kromah, a resident of Ganta said, “Government downplays such a high profile case by not sufficiently preparing to gather all the necessary pieces of evidence before going to court.”

    “We were hearing some speculations about some high profile county official being behind the rice saga, but the way the case was handled, how will we know the truth,” he asked.

    The issue regarding the stealing of Ebola rice really touched the minds of many Nimbaians, especially those living in Ganta which had been an Ebola epicenter in the county.

    The court room was always packed whenever the case was scheduled for hearing. The throwing out of the case has brought great disappointment to many residents.

    Exhibits of the stolen items, including a  bag of rice, a bag of beans and a container of other items  were seen in court as evidence of something legal minded people said was improper.

    “All of the items alleged to be stolen should have been brought to court as evidence,” said an on looker.

    The case broke out 1st October 2014, when the Ganta LNP Detail arrested a vehicle marked TP. 766 with 200 bags of 25kg rice, 15 five-gallon containers of vegetable oil and 10 bags of beans, which were alleged to have been a portion of the rice donated to Nimba by World Food Program (WFP) for Ebola- quarantined patients.

    The bags of rice were loaded on to a mini truck heading for Saclepea from Sanniquellie when it was arrested by police in Ganta allegedly without any waybill.

    However, the accused, C. Paul Nyanzee of the County Community Health Service Director, Var Bleh, Ware House Manager, Sarah Lawehyee, Kou Yelibor, County Mental Health Officer and businesswoman Kou Kouh of Saclepea have been exonerated by the court and freed to resume their civil liberties.

    They were charged by the Liberian National Police for criminal facilitation, criminal conspiracy and theft of property in the Ebola Rice Case.

    The case was presided over by Stipendiary Magistrate Nyan Meator Ben of the Ganta Magisterial Court.

    The prosecution had failed to present their witnesses three times, beginning Monday 27th,  until they finally asked for nulleprosequai on Friday 31st October bringing the case to what appears to be an end.

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