Nimba County’s stolen Ebola rice case, which was thrown out of court recently over the prosecution’s failure to present evidence, is said to have resurfaced and the suspects are expected back in court today.
The case resurfaced after the Nimba Legislative Caucus mounted pressure on the Ministry of Justice to re-file the case for prosecution without delay.
Senator Thomas S. Grupee, Chairman of the Nimba Legislative Caucus, told the Radio Saclepea Morning Show last Tuesday that the Nimba County Attorney had been ordered to gather all evidence on the case for immediate prosecution.
He said the act of stealing rice intended for Ebola victims was a very bad thing, and should be considered as “a crime against humanity”. He demanded that those involved in stealing food intended for the sick or people in quarantine, should not go unpunished.
Senator Grupee added that the caucus will not rest until all those involved are brought to justice to serve as a deterrent against such a shameful crime.
On 31st October 2014 the Ganta Magisterial Court threw out the stolen Ebola Rice case involving four Nimba Health Workers and a business woman indefinitely, because the prosecution filed in a motion to have the case “Nulleprosequi” due to insufficient evidence.
The prosecution, represented by Attorney James Boayou, said he could not prosecute the case in the absence of the plaintiff, who is the County Health Services Director Ramsey Leesala.
Ganta City Solicitor, Attorney Boayou, said “I declared the case Nulleprosequi until the complainer can come and explain the details of the case to me.”
But Senator Grupee said they are making sure that the plaintiff, the Health Officer under whose custody the items were stolen, will be present at the court to back the case.
Since the case was thrown out of court, nothing has been heard from the Nimba County Health Team from whose warehouse the items were stolen and who did not turn up for the hearing.
There has been administrative wrangling between the leadership of Nimba and the county caucus over the handling of funds intended for the fight against Ebola.
The tussle led to the subsequent dismissal of Teeko Yorlay from the post of Assistant Superintendent for Development after the case reached the plenary of the parliament where a vote of no confidence was imposed on him and Supt. Fong Zuagele.
The County Health Team has come under criticism recently for what was alleged as single handedly managing the budget allotted by the government for the Bahn Health Center.
The issue of the single handed management of the budget led the Bahn Health Board, headed by one Joseph Menlor, to resign because of what it claimed as non compliance, undermining and ostracizing.
Even though, the County Health Authority said the money had been used to undertake some development projects for the Bahn Health Center, using the funds in the absence of the board with the accountant based in Sanniquellie, still created serious concern and suspicion among the citizens.
The stolen Ebola rice case began on 1st October 2014 when the LNP Ganta Detail arrested a vehicle marked TP. 766 with about 200 bags of 25kg rice, 15 five- gallon containers of vegetable oil and 10 bags of beans. These items were part of the food consignment donated to Nimba by the World Food Program (WFP) for those under quarantine from Ebola.
The bags of rice were loaded on a mini truck headed for Saclepea from Sanniquellie when it was arrested by police in Ganta. It was believed to be without a way bill.
However, those accused of involvement in the alleged illegal removal of the rice, namely C. Paul Nyanzee of County Community Health Service, Director Var Bleh, Ware House Manager, Sarah Lawehyee, Kou Yelibor, County Mental Health Officer and businesswoman Kou Kouh of Saclepea, had all been exonerated by the court and freed to resume their normal activities.
They were arrested by the Liberian National Police on charges including criminal facilitation, criminal conspiracy and theft of property and sent to court.
In the same development, the Karnplay City Mayor was linked to another stolen Ebola food case involving bulgur wheat distributed by the ADRA in Karnplay. She denied any link with the crime, but the stolen food items were discovered outside the ware house.