Bility and Liberian FA accelerate war on whistleblower Woodson, with second suspension

Liberia

By Paul Nicholson

December 6 – The iron fist of democracy with which Musa Bility rules the Liberian FA (LFA) has once again landed on his arch critic Rochell Woodson who has been suspended for a second time by the LFA from fulfilling her duties as an executive committee member.

The first suspension was overturned as being a fabrication of charges by Bility, the second suspension looks even more dubious being based on three complaints against her, two of which relate to her reporting alleged financial corruption and election rigging in the LFA.

In a letter sent to Woodson by Atty Medina Wesseh, chariman of the LFA Ethics Committee, Wesseh says: “As you are aware, the Ethics committee has three complaints against you before it. These complaints were filed before us and you were promptly notified to respond to them. The cases are 1. A complaint against you from the President of the Sierra Leone Football Association (Isha Johansen) for inferring (probably meant to read interfering) in the affairs of that body 2) A complaint filed by LISCR FC alleging that you publicly stated that you have knowledge of a massive fraud in the last LFA elections held in Buchannan City on March 2014 (3) A complaint from Malcolm W. Joseph LFA Elections Committee Chairman alleging that he received Thirty Thousand United States Dollars (US$30,000) from the hands of Mr Cassell A. Kuoh, Sr to compromise the LFA 2014 elections in Buchanan.”

Wesseh says that the allegations have “serious repercussions on the integrity of the LFA” but that Woodson has refused to co-operate with all attempts to investigate the charges. Hence they have decided to suspend Woodson indefinitely.

Woodson denies that she has failed to respond to the investigation and that in the cases of the second and third complaints against her she was not even aware of them.

“I only received copy of email on October 31, 2016, from you in response to the complaint filed to your committee from the President Musa Bility, on behalf of the President of the Sierra Leone FA. Your response was the committee seized the matter and was going to handle it as sister nations. I received another complaint filed by the President on behalf of Haratio Willie, communication consultant LFA, on November 22, 2016, of which I responded on November 23, 2016, and on November 25, 2016, you email acknowledging my response.

Since then, I have not received any email or letter from you regarding allegations 2 and 3, in your letter of suspension,” Woodson says in her reply to the suspension letter.

Woodson has copied her response to the African confederation (CAF) and FIFA’s general secretary Fatma Samoura, as well as saying she will appeal to CAS.

Woodson, who is in Liberia and would be able to attend the executive committee meeting scheduled for this week, maintains that the Ethics Committee does not have the power to suspend her but can only recommend a sanction to the executive committee and the LFA Congress.

“The Executive Committee haven’t been provided any ethics code from the 7 years, I have been in the LFA,” says Woodson in an email to the LFA. “However, your decision to  prevent me from entering the LFA premises, contraves Article 83.3 in the satutue, that give me rights to appeal decisions. Based on this breach to not seek appeal considering your email, I have no other alternative but to file appeal to the CAS, as my rights to due process have been denied by the LFA.”

Any form of appeal Woodson might have to the LFA would likely be ignored in the way the federation has ignored its own statutes. Ethics chair Wesseh is a business partner of Bility, a clear conflict of interest.

In what is an irony that would be comical if it weren’t true, Wesseh chairs the Truth FM radio station that is owned by Bility.

Why whistleblowing is dangerous in FIFA

As has been recently demonstrated in the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) with the allegations of vote buying and election rigging reported to FIFA of OFC and Papua New Guinea FA president David Chung, reporting corruption can lead to the informant being punished, and that there is no protection of the identity of whistleblowers in FIFA’s world. Indeed, quite the opposite, in the Chung case the identity of the whistleblower (a FIFA development officer) was supplied to Chung and FIFA terminated the whistleblower’s contract.

The common denominator in both the OFC and Liberian cases is the protection given by FIFA’s administration to protect the person at the top – Bility and Chung. Both are strong supporters and lobbyists for FIFA president Gianni Infantino who in 2019 will face FIFA’s membership for the renewal of his presidential mandate.

Infantino’s most vocal football supporters seemingly follow a pattern. Sierra Leone president Isha Johanson and Zimbabwe FA president Philip Chiyangwa – both powerful advocates of Infantino in Africa – are currently being investigated on financial and political corruption charges by public prosecutors in their own countries.

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