By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
While going on the main campus of the university of Liberia, I saw broadcaster, “Costa,” as he is popularly called because of his previous program on HOT FM, ahead of a group of people who were shouting, “we want justice; we want justice; we want justice.” With that, I got concerned and began to wonder what was really happening to see this young man, handcuffed, with group of followers. They were moving along the route of TOTAL station in the Bassa Community.
Fortunately for me, just as I arrived on the main gate of the campus, I saw A. Abbas Dulleh, News Editor of THE NEW DEMOCRAT and out of curiosity, I asked him what was really obtaining about “Costa.” It was then he alluded to a situation between Costa and the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Fomba Sirleaf, son of President Sirleaf. Dulleh, himself expressed surprise and shock to see Costa in the streets.
Strangely and unprecedentedly, upon reaching the main campus on Capitol Hill, I gathered that Costa, was taken there, and was not even given the time to address himself on the issue before leaving the campus, moving the Bassa Community route, at which time I saw him. Whether this was planned or not, is not the issue here.
But my concern is that why a man, who placed himself under the jurisdiction of the court, was taken to the main campus of the university, when he should have been taken to prison. Whether this was to the knowledge or acquiesces of the court, or not, is something that I have been pondering or ruminating over because I have not seen this in my many years of practice that an accused would be taken from the Temple of Justice grounds and be allowed to perambulate.
What I do know is that in such a proceeding, if the person is bailed, because it is a bailable offense, he or she is allowed to leave the court to return for further hearing. Conversely, if it is bailable and the person cannot afford to get a bail, and is sent to prison, that person would be taken to prison. But this case was quite different.
My concern is that suppose something had happened to Costa, who was under the court’s jurisdiction after a suit was filed against him by Mr. Sirleaf. Why was he taken to the university, en route to the Monrovia Central Prison? Suppose his supporters, some of whom gathered at the court had said, “’our man will not go to jail, or had caused unnecessary uproar or resistance, thus creating a chaotic situation in the city? However, thank God that nothing happened to him.
As the issue was being discussed, I gathered that Costa was taken to the Monrovia City Court following a lawsuit by Mr. Sirleaf. The writ of arrest, as received said, “You are hereby commanded to arrest the living body(ies) of Henry Costa, to be identified defendant(s) and forthwith bring him before the Monrovia City Court, Temple of Justice Building, Montserrado County to answer to the charge of TERRORISTIC THREATS, MENACING & CRIMINAL COERCION, based upon the oath and complaint of the Republic of Liberia by and thru Fomba Sirleaf, private prosecutor(trix) in which it is substantially alleged as follows to with:
“That on the 26th day of February 2014 the defendant with a wicked intention rendered threat to harm and kill private prosecutor Fomba Sirleaf, the Director of the National Security Agency and son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. “The alleged act of the defendant was unlawful wicked and violated section 11.11 of the new penal law;. That on the 26th of February, A.D. 2014, in the City of Monrovia, Montserrado County, Republic of Liberia, the within named defendant being there and then with malice and wicked intent, purposely did threaten the life of the said private prosecutor using against him death threats, to harm and kill him, and that in the same vein the said defendant on the Costa Show on Radio Hott FM did make a statement challenging the private prosecutor to engage him in a public fight wherein he defendant threatened to fight the private prosecutor to death with the intent to terrorize the said private prosecutor and subject to fear and public ridicule.
The writv went on; “The alleged act of the defendant being unlawful, wicked and intentional is in violation of section 11.116 of the new act amending section 14.24 of the New Penal Law, 14.25 & 14.27 of the New Penal Law of Liberia there and then crimes herein the defendant did and commit. Hence, this Writ of Arrest. Contrary to the form force and effect to the statutory laws of Liberia in such cases made and proven against the peace and dignity for this republic and for so doing. This shall constitute your legal and sufficient authority and have you have there this writ of arrest.”
The situation between the two individuals was published in the FrontPage newspaper sometimes last month. The paper reported that during his last broadcast on Hot FM, Costa threw out an open challenge to the NSA boss to a duel on Broad Street on Friday, February 28 at 4 P.M. in order to afford the NSA boss the opportunity to make good on several threats. The paper said that the NSA boss for his part said at the time that he was in the process of filing a case against the Talk Show host at the Ministry of Justice. Also, the paper said that the Liberian government’s chief spokesman, Information Minister, Lewis Brown at the time confirmed to FPA that he was processing the communication from the NSA boss.
While I do not want to go into the nifty-gritty of this matter that is now before the court, which makes it sub judice, my only concern is the perambulating of the accused from the court to the university campus and then in the street, before being taken to the detention site. WHY WAS THIS SO? This is my concern because many times the judiciary had come under all kinds of criticisms, sometimes misguided or ill-informed; therefore, these little issues should be handled.
I am happy that the Chief Justice is making frantic efforts for proper education on the judicial process, and the functions of the Judiciary, as many of those who raised issues against it, do not really know the modus operandi of the judicial process. These are some of the little things that have the propensity to cause unnecessary problems.
Today, it is Costa who did not do anything to undermine the process; tomorrow, it would be someone else, who could exploit this roundabout situation to either escape, cause unnecessary uproar, or something that could cause serious bodily harm to his person. The court needs to look into this matter. This is no hearsay because I saw the man in the street, with followers shouting, “We want justice; we want justice; we want justice!
Again, why I do not want to go into the matter as to whether justice was done or not in the preliminary proceedings, this matter should claim the attention of those concerned. Later, I gathered from Dulleh that as Costa moved along with his supporters the crowd kept swelling before his detention. Again, why was this so? Until the court, or others concerned can explain, I Rest My Case.