With just 13 days to the October presidential and legislative elections, people are making frantic efforts through courts to ensure that candidates pay back their debts they owed before the electoral process comes to an end.
One of such tactic was shown on Monday when the Monrovia City Court arrested Dr. Jeremiah Whapoe, standard bearer of the opposition Vision for Liberia’s Transformation (VOLT) Party based on a complaint filed against him to the court by one Abraham Yarmai, a farmer in Gbarpolu County.
Whapoe’s arrest warrant was served on him, immediately after attending the presidential debate that was held on Saturday, September 23, in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. He has returned to the country following a month in the United States of American where he reportedly escaped when the case was reported to the court.
Yarmai accused the VOLT standard bearer of his continued refusal to pay back a debt in the amount of US$1,020, as a balance payment of 90 bags of rice seedlings, each costing US$18, which he reportedly supplied Whapoe for his campaign activities in the county.
Whapoe has initially paid US$600 out of the total amount of US$1,620 for the 90 bags of the rice seeding.
Besides, Whapoe contended he had made additional payment of US$300, summing up his debt payment to US$900, which means that he was still indebted to Yarmai to the amount of US$720, and not US$1,020, as the farmer was demanding.
Whapoe also argued that the additional US$300 was paid to a representative of Yarmai, which payment claimed the farmer denied receiving, although Magistrate Kennedy Peabody has dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.
Dr. Whapoe also argued that he only received 60 bags of rice seeding from Yarmai, instead of the agreed 90 bags, but again, the rice farmer denied that statement, insisting he supplied Whapoe with 90 bags.
At Monday’s hearing, Whapoe sat for hours on the prisoners’ bench in the courtroom, and was only allowed to leave the place when his lawyer intervened.
Magistrate Peabody, who presided over the matter decided to hear the case in his chamber, which did not give journalists the opportunity to attend. However, information from the meeting disclosed that Peabody reportedly dismissed the case, and subsequently dropped his initial criminal charge against the VOLT’s standard bearer.
The magistrate’s justification was that the matter was related to debt, and as such, his court was not clothed with the mandate to hear said issue, rather it is the Debt Court that has legal authority to handle it.
Immediately after dismissing the case and preventing the matter from going to the Debt Court, both lawyers of Whapoe and Yarmai stayed hours in the cafeteria of the Temple of Justice negotiating a peaceful settlement.
The discussion resulted from Magistrate Peabody’s advice for the parties to settle the matter amicably, a source hinted the Daily Observer.
Both Whapoe and Yarmai refused to disclose the outcome of their meeting to journalists.
Dr. Whapoe is one of three candidates in the upcoming elections being taken to court for unsettled debt.
Mr. Simeon Freeman, the standard bearer of the opposition Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) was recently cited by the same court to answer to the allegation that he has refused to pay a balance of US$850 for the printing of 40,000 flyers for his party’s campaign activities. The flyers were allegedly printed by the J. Max Printing Press in Monrovia based on an agreement with Mr. Freeman, of which he had paid US$750, leaving the balance of US$850.
Mr. Freeman argued it was the party that owed the printing press, and not him as MPC’s standard bearer. The matter is yet to be decided by the court.
Another, Montserrado County District#4 Representative candidate, Cecelia Siaway Teah, was sued at Criminal Court ‘C’ for allegedly converting to her personal use the amount of US$72,500 entrusted to her care to purchase materials for Basilia Resource Group (BRG), a company she helped to establish.
Madam Teah’s case has been suspended for two months to enable her raise money to hire lawyer that will defend her interest, because, her current lawyer was demanding a down payment of US$5,000, which she could not afford. Her request was later accepted by the court.