‘…It’s a bonafide radio station,’ says Magistrate Bana
Immediately after denying government lawyers’ application not to return the properties it confiscated from the offices of the Roots Holdings Incorporated, a radio station owned and operated by a talk-show host, Henry Pedro Costa, Magistrate Ernest F.B. Bana, strongly believes that the company has the capacity to file any lawsuit on behalf of Roots FM 102.7 against the government.
Roots Holdings Inc. is the parent entity of Roots FM 102.7, which was initially called Voice FM 102.7, which was operating under the name, Sancos Media Group Inc. It was operating with the knowledge of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) when the station changed its name to Roots Holdings Inc (Roots FM 102.7).
However, the government argument was that Roots FM 102.7 is a separate and distinct entity from Roots Holding Incorporated, and to even stand in a capacity on behalf of Roots FM 102.7, Roots Holding Incorporated needed a notary board resolution to qualify it to sue.
They also argued that since it was not done, Roots Holding Incorporated lacks the capacity to bring any lawsuit on behalf of Roots FM 102.7 against the government.
Magistrate Bana, who denied the government lawyers’ application on Monday, November 4, said he has considered all of the ramifications of the interaction between the government and the 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 rule to trial on the motion to return property and suppress evidence.”
That is to say that the government should return the station’s seized broadcast equipment.
In defense of his decision, Magistrate Bana explained that there were “several exchanges of communications between Sanco Media Group Inc, operator of Voice FM 102.7, the original owner of the frequency and the Roots Holding Incorporated, on the one hand, and the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority on the other.
Bana said that that the Sancos Media Group Inc, on June 11, 2018, made a request in a communication to the MICAT for the reassignment of frequency 102.7, which previously operated as Voice FM; a subsidiary of Sanco Media Group.
Bana said that on December 19, 2018, a communication was addressed to Madam Agatha Thompson, director of National Communications Bureau at MICAT by Fidel Saydee, a station manager on the letter head of Roots Holding Incorporated, informing the said authorized division at MICAT of the change of nomenclature from Voice FM 102.7 to Roots FM,” is explicitly cleared without ambiguity.”
Bana also said that the communication between Commissioner Edwina Crump-Zackpah of the LTA and Fidel Saydee, station manager of Roots Holdings Inc, specifically acknowledged the change of name from Sancos Media Group Inc, (Voice FM) to Roots Holding Inc.
“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,” Bana said.
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.”
The case ensued when the lawyers of Roots Holdings, Inc. 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 Holding 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.
Further, the government 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.
Before denying the government’s request, Magistrate Bana earlier had Roots FM 102.7 shutdown and several of the station’s broadcast equipment confiscated on a request prayed for by the government, alleging that the station is in violation of various regulations of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA), specifically under the Liberian Laws.
Bana’s order also mandated that the Sheriff of the Court search (0600 to 1800) in the premises of the management of Roots FM (102.7), 102.5 and 102.1, and those acting under its control located in Monrovia.
According to that writ of search, “The purpose of this request is for the discovery and seizure of mixer, microphones, headphones, computers, stabilizers, cables antennas (amplifiers generators, etc), which are believed to be in these premises.”
Bana further instructed the sheriff to bring all the items to the court in keeping with the laws, but the Ministry of Justice filed a petition seeking to search, seize and arrest any member of the Management of Roots FM 102.7, by and thru its General Manager, Station Manager, and all those acting under its control followed by 102.5 and 102.1.
Magistrate Bana’s action resulted from a request by the government asking the court to deny the Roots Holdings Incorporated’s request on ground that it lacks legal capacity to file ant motion (request) of such magnitude on behalf of Roots FM 102.7.
It was against Bana’s action that lawyers of the Roots Holdings Incorporated, owner of the Roots FM 102.7, filed a motion challenging the government to return property and suppress evidence government claimed to have against Roots FM 102.7.