Reprisal Replacement?

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The decision by President George Weah (left) means that Magistrate Ernest Bana (right) will no longer have anything to do with the case.

President Weah appoints new Magistrate to replace Monrovia City Court Magistrate Bana, who ruling against gov’t lawyers over Roots FM’s ‘Illegal Closure’.

President George Weah has with immediate effect, replaced Stipendiary Magistrate Ernest F. B. Bana of the Monrovia City Court, whose ruling on November 4, 2019  disagreed with argument by government lawyers in the writ to close-down the Roots FM 102.7 radio station owned by talk-show host Henry Pedro Costa.

Following an order by Magistrate Bana to have the radio station shutdown and its equipment confiscated, which was executed on Thursday, October 10, 2019, Roots Holdings Incorporated, the parent company of Roots FM 102.7, filed a motion before the court asking it to return property and suppress evidence on grounds that these properties were illegally gathered without probable cause.

However, the government lawyers asked that the petition be denied on the basis that Roots Holdings Inc. lacks the legal capacity to sue, because of it did not attach to its application, a notary board resolution to mandate and empower it to sue. The government also argued that Roots Holding Inc, is a separate and distinct entity, and therefore, does not qualify in its capacity to sue on behalf of Roots FM 102.7.

Citing a series of correspondences between Roots Holdings and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) as well as the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT), which are the statutory authorities regulating radio station operations, Magistrate Bana said: “This court is of the view that Roots Holding Inc, is the parent company of Roots FM 102.7. The issue of frequency number 102.7 is never challenged by either party and therefore considered by this court as mute.”

The President’s decision means that Magistrate Bana will no longer have anything to do with the case, though the Magistrate ruled that he would hear the merit and demerit of the case, which decision the government lawyers have resisted.

To make matters worse for Bana, President Weah has named Traffic Court Judge Jomah Jallah to replace him.

Jallah is expected to take his seat at the court on Friday, November 8, 2019, though the President is yet to commission him.

The Constitution

Article 73 of the 1986 Constitution states: “No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace. Statements made and acts done by such officials in the course of a judicial proceeding shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification, no such statement made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding.”

It is not clear whether President Weah’s replacement of Magistrate Bana was due to his judicial indiscretion, but a Supreme Court lawyer refused to rule out the possibility.

In his ruling, which put him in trouble with President Weah, Bana said he had considered all of the ramifications of the interaction between the government and Roots Holdings Incorporated, as well as their respective acquiescence, stressing: “This court strongly believes that the capacity to file a motion by Roots Holdings Incorporated on behalf of Roots FM 102.7 is bonafide, and therefore allowed.”

Immediately afterward, Magistrate Bana ruled that “the application by the government to deny the motion of Roots Holdings Incorporated for lack of standing and capacity is hereby denied, and that the case ruled to trial on the motion to return property and suppress evidence.”

That is to say that the government should return the station’s broadcast equipment which it confiscated.

Magistrate court judge Ernest Bana (Photo_ John Moore, Getty Images)

Further, Magistrate Bana added, “This court, under these circumstances, affirms that Roots Holdings, Inc., has the legal standing to sue on behalf of Roots FM 102.7 as a parent entity, because of its remedial rights affecting the whole of the proceedings.”

However, a Supreme Court lawyer (name withheld) said with the President having replaced Bana, this clearly demonstrates that the Magistrate is completely out of job.

According to the lawyer, the Constitution is silent on a President’s appointment of a magistrate.

“There is nowhere in the Constitution that mentions the President appointing a magistrate,”the lawyer said.

Therefore, the lawyer said since a magistrate’s appointment is not mentioned in the Constitution, a practice of old gives the President the right to appoint and subsequently commission a magistrate.

“That practice does not give the President or the legislature any right to commission the magistrate. This is where the law remains silent,” the senior lawyer said.

Article 68 also provides: “The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court shall, with the consent of the Senate, be appointed and commissioned by the President; provided that any person so appointed shall be: a citizen of good moral character; and a counselor of the Supreme Court Bar, who has practiced for at least five years.”

Article 69 further says: “The judges of subordinate courts of record shall, with the consent of the Senate, be appointed and commissioned by the President; provided that any person so appointed shall be: a citizen of good moral character; and an Attorney-at-Law, who has practiced for at least three years or a counselor of the Supreme Court Bar.”

As for Article 70, the Constitution summed up: “The Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, and all judges of subordinate courts shall, before assuming the functions of their office, subscribe to a solemn oath or affirmation to discharge faithfully and impartially the duties and functions of their respective offices and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic. The oath or affirmation shall be administered by the President or his designee.”

Article 71 further says: “The Chief Justice and Associates Justices of the Supreme Court, and the judges of subordinate courts of record shall hold office during good behavior. They may be removed upon impeachment, and conviction by the legislature based on proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.”

Given these constitutional provisions, the lawyer explained that nowhere is a magistrate mentioned.

He said the President can appoint and commission a magistrate for only two years, and they cannot be confirmed like the judges and justices as mentioned in the Constitution, thereafter, he/she can either choose to replace a particular magistrate or not.

“This is not happening because we do not have many judges or magistrates, so, you can see that many of the magistrates have served their respective posts for over 10 years now,” the lawyer clarified.

It can be recalled that Magistrate Bana issued a search, seizure, and arrest warrant against the management and staff of Roots FM for allegedly preaching ‘hate messages and inciting the public’ against the government.

Based on the writ, court sheriffs with the help of other security personnel, reportedly invaded the station’s premises, taking away two speakers, two CPUs, desktop computers, two chairs, flat screen TV, two head-phones, speaker stamp, microphones, wires and other electronic materials contrary to the instruction as contained in the writ, which action prompted the Roots Holding Incorporated through its manager, Fidel Saydee, to file a ‘motion to return said property and suppress evidence’ that was before Magistrate Bana against the government.

Saydee, through his legal team, argued that the items taken from the station were illegally done by the government, which resulted to the perpetual closure of the station.

Additionally, lawyers representing Roots FM noted that the manner in which the station’s equipment were brought before the court was ‘wrong and criminal in nature.’

They further alleged that during the invasion and subsequent closure of the station, money and other valuables got stolen.

However, the government lawyers argued that Fidel Saydee, by law, is a non-existent individual who lacks the requisite capacity and standing to file an action against the State on behalf of the station.

Prosecution maintained that Saydee did not seek permission from the board of directors of Roots Holdings Incorporated before filing such action, something they said contradicts the laws that control the existence of a corporation.

The government also contended that it did not close down Roots Holdings Incorporated, rather, the radio station, Roots FM; therefore the motion filed by Fidel should be dismissed by the court as there is no authorization or right granted to Saydee to file such motion.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Then when the affected areas of society organize a defense whether a demonstration, go-slow or press release to denounce or decry this level of stupidity by president Weah, his self-serving parrots come out preaching nationalism? But, of course, George Weah cannot be blamed for these ill-advised decisions, after all he lacks the capacity to decipher the chaffs from the kernels in these missteps. So it has to be those numskulls including McGill and Archie Bernard and Emmanuel Shaw, etc, that are surely misleading that boy. And these dictatorial tendencies are exactly what culminated into April 12. 1980 or December 24, 1989. That is, if we sit by idly doing nothing about them as they happen and all because they may be affecting others and not us yet. As adequately underscored in the article above, members of the judiciary are of another branch of government, regardless of whether they were appointed by the president. They are protected by the constitution from any arbitrary reprisals in the discharge of their duties save, for a cause or acts unbecoming of their offices. The judiciary ought to therefore stand up to this obvious abuse of power by president Weah in this instance. We will be anxiously watching how this other lawlessness fares with the other two branches of government. Very anxiously.

    • Good for beautiful commentaries. Your points are genuine and help to maintain our systems. The other Branches of the Liberian Government are no help to meaningful transformation! The Judiciary was manipulated in punishing one of their own colleagues. We know all these things but the Liberians lack the willpower to stand up to abuses. Thanks

  2. President Weah is following the footsteps of the late President Samuel Doe. He is not too far from being that kind of president. Thank you Hon. Magistrate Earnest Bana for standing for justice and fair play. History will never forget about you. In fact, I am appealing and recommending to the Liberian Daily Observer to name you as “The Magistrate Of The Year 2019.”

  3. Very soon they will be blocking the internet to prevent us from expressing our views. Closing opposition radio stations won’t appease anything, deliver on the big promises you made to the Liberian people.
    Hope you continue to replace all those who oppose unconstitutional decisions, don’t stop Mr. Dictator!

  4. This nonsense will continued until something violently happen then Liberians will wake up again to blame themselves. There are 3 branches of government in our republic and this president has again done the wrong thing that dishonour the executive branch. The Kabana Jenneh impeachment was wrong and here again another judge has been dismissed from his seat for doing the right thing so everyone must do just what George Weah wants in Liberia or be fired from your job. The Judiciary is now part of the executive I supposed but this is wrong and president Weah need to stop this madness. And to those that advising him in this dangerous direction, the consequences will wilder and won’t just be limited to the president the next time around. The Liberian people are actively watching and keep matching towards a dictatorship. What is wrong for doing what is right once in your lifetime? So removing Judge Bana says what to the Liberian people? Up to this date, you as the president of our republic, has not giving Liberians one valid reason for dismissing Madam Weeks as president of the university of Liberia and these are key positions in our republic.

  5. This latest news has got to be a joke! If it is true however, at least, Justice JA’NEH was lucky to have been accorded some semblance of due process

  6. Root FM should be restored soon. Everybody should respect the constitution.

  7. One misconception which many of Weah’s blind followers has had of him, and they wish for all other Liberians to do the same, is he is very innocent, and everything that is wrongly occurring within his government is caused by his advisers.

    Although Weah’s advisers are playing an influential role in shaping his decisions, however, he is not an innocent person as his followers would have the public to believe, and this episode is just one revelation that should disabuse them of such thinking.

    Many of the excesses and the abuses of power that Liberians are witnessing today are the making of Weah himself, and his advisers are the tools or the vehicles for getting the job done, while he hides in the background stoking the fire.

    When Weah was inaugurated, he appeared in a white tunic. White is symbolic of peace just like a white dove. In fact, he has a statute of himself shrouded in white in the Doe Community where he is defied as the savior of the people. For me when I saw the statute, I began to query myself about the significance of the monument because in ancient times and even today among the orthodox Christians, the shroud or the tunic is used for the dead.

    Liberians might just be praying to an angel who is prone to reign death and terror on the nation!

  8. Our barely literate womanizer president does not understand that there are three seperate branches of government.The US presidentwas just ordered to pay 2 million by a judge. The men in our country has no balls. The Senate rubber stamp everything this dictator wants. Their brown envelopes are coming to them. What kind os small minded president will run behind a journalist. Weah should be trying to bring investment into the country. Ellen was more a man than he will ever be.

    • Did you men “defined”. Anyway, it is still understood. I absolutely agree with all that you say. We cannot give Weah the benefit of a doubt out and only complain about his advisers. He is as equally guilty as they are or even worse since he is the President. They will not do what he does not want them to do.

  9. Having the same old players on one team over and over can not yield any Tangible results..

    President Weah be watchful of these people you surround yourself with.

    Appoint some New voices that will tell you No, it is not done this way Mr. President..

    These people being sitting down doing nothing, Archie Bernard, Emmanuel Shaw…no contributions to society and they put words in your ears in order to do things contrary..

    The people are watching Liberia is not like before…The people votes count like crazy..

    And no helping in these elections…Deliver to the people your campaign promises..

    Be careful my friend .

  10. This Article is ambiguous in it entirety. The writer of this news article either on drugs, smoking weed, or outright stupid or lack common sense judgement and reasoning. For this to be a News published by the Daily Observer shows that the Organization is bankrupt of publishing meaningful and factual stories that makes commons sense. The writer said that there is no where in the Constitution that gives the president the authority to appoint or dismiss Judges. Went ahead and cited a so called Supreme Court lawyer which I think is a bluff. He can you after saying the Constitution doesn’t, wouldn’t, haven’t given the president the Authority to make Judicial appointments but down few paragraphs you quote Articles 68, 69 Of the Constitution that gave the president the Authority to do exactly what he did? After saying that the president acted outside of the constitution, that there’s no where in the Constitution that gives the president such power, you are stupid enough to quote Articles 68 and 69. What an embarrassment to journalism. Most Liberian journalist are so out of touch with themselves let alone the society and reality.

    • You who are condemning someone, read your own analysis to see if you can make a head or tail of it. In what tense are you writing? What is your message? Or you simply came here to express profanities on people who do their best to keep us informed?
      Submit yourself to a medical test before taking on this medium again Zoawnty.

      • Yes he Zeon needs to go back and read the article. The article says the constitution is mute on “magistrate appointment”. It did not say anything about Justices or Judges appointment; only “Magistrates”. It also says because of practices of old, the President appoints magistrates for two years but the constitution is mute on that topic.

    • Mr. Moore,
      I may add that most Liberians may not know that every rope in the bush has an end, and the Military Coup Detat 1980, saw many people killed by some of the people around them. so let them say yes sir, yes sir, because if anything happen in Liberia today , many of these people rope might come to an end.

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