Monrovia – A sensitive internal communication obtained by FrontPageAfrica, within the hierarchy of the National Elections Commission of Liberia suggests that there may have been suspicious activities associated with the now controversial voter roll that is now front and center before the Supreme Court as Liberia awaits a major decision regarding whether or not there will be a runoff or a rerun of this years disputed elections.
The high court is expected to come down with its ruling after hearing arguments on the Liberty Party (LP) and the Unity Party (UP) Bill of Exception, which calls for the reversion of the final ruling of the National Elections Commission (NEC) on the October 10th 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor last Friday placed final ruling into the case to this Thursday, December 7, 2017, adding that the Court has seven days to hear and rule on election cases.
However, it is totally possible that the Court may also decide to hand down its opinion before next Thursday as it sees fit.
In their arguments, the UP lawyers, Cllrs Laveli Supuwood and Benedict Sannoh, said though there was no complaint earlier filed against the NEC on failure of making public the FRR, it does not mean NEC followed the legal process.
Cllr. Sannoh said NEC disregarded Section 22.1 22.2 and 22.3 of the Election Laws but rather regarded 22.4 something he said was illegally done.
“Seven [political] parties were given individual flash drives containing the FRR. But we found out that many names were duplicated with the same numbers.”
Cllrs. Musa Dean and Alexander Zoe, the lawyers representing the National Elections Commission, agreed that there were many challenges, but had taken steps to correct those challenges so that they won’t be experienced in the runoff.
They argued that those challenges are not guaranteed for a rerun of the entire elections.
Cllr. Dean further argued that everyone, who voted was valid, including the chairman of the ruling Unity Party, Mr. Wilmot Paye, whose name wasn’t on the FRR, yet voted.
“Please do not speak with the media or anyone concerning voter’s fingerprint inaccuracy.
I have not seen this from any of the complainant as part of their evidence and we need to make no mention of that.
We will discuss this in our emergency meeting later today” - Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, Chair, National Elections Commission, from email obtained by FrontPageAfrica to members of the Board of Commissioners
The NEC lawyer confirmed that the numbers attached to voters were similar but with distinction on the age, sex and names. He further stated that the entire case is politically motivated and is not in the interest of the country.
The communication in FPA possession is in the form of an email communication sent to Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, chair of the National Elections Commission on Wednesday, July 28, 2017 at approximately 9:19 pm local time in which a staffer notifies the elections chief of some suspicious activity involving the voter roll.
‘I Noticed Changes’: Red Flags Raised to NEC Boss
The communication reads:
Good Morning, Chairman,
I hope all is well with you. Last night while backing up the system database and folders, I noticed that there are changes and addition being made to the parent folder of the final voter roster.
The most significant changes of concern to me is the creation of a new voters file with the same exact name as the previous, and the addition of numbers that were not included on the listing we all signoff on few weeks ago.
Most interestingly, the new folder being created mimics some of the same information in the initial parent folder listing. Going through the new folder, the names, ages, location, sex and location of voters have changed.
Furthermore, the pictures of voters on the new listing do not match what is on the compiled final file of those that registered to vote. I am looking through this more and will provide you with additional information.
A source at NEC confirmed to FPA that once the NEC chair came into possession of the information and the discovery he promised to discuss the matter with the board of commissioners but he reportedly did not.
In a separate communication dated Thursday, November 9, 2017, Chairman Korkoya wrote a letter to the board of commissioners appearing to acknowledge the problem but cautioning against allow the information to get into the public domain.
Korkoya to Board: ‘Make No Mention of That’
From: Jerome Korkoyah
Subject: Internal and Confidential – Fingerprint Issues
“Please do not speak with the media or anyone concerning voter’s fingerprint inaccuracy.
I have not seen this from any of the complainant as part of their evidence and we need to make no mention of that. We will discuss this in our emergency meeting later today.”
Mr. Henry Flomo, Director of Communications at the elections commission, when contacted by FrontPageAfrica said a press conference was scheduled for later today to address the inquiries from FPA. Another official speaking on condition of anonymity claimed that the internal server at NEC may have been hacked.
The issue of the voter roll is a burning issue of contention as the high court deliberates on the fate of Liberia’s political future.
The opposition Liberty Party which is leading the contestation of the election results have charged that the October 10, 2017 was marred by a number of irregularities including the late arrival of materials including ballot boxes at some locations as numerous voters struggled to find their names on voter rolls.
Although there has been no clear evidence of illicit activities presented so far, the communications within the NEC hierarchy appear to suggest that the electoral body was away at least internally that something was amiss.
The dispute over the results is threatening to derail and possibly delay Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in over seven decades in a country haunted by a civil war that ended nearly 15 years ago.
Mr. Mo Ali, National Assistant Secretary General for Press, Publicity and Outreach and also the official spokesperson for the Boakai campaign in a statement recently expressed the party’s concerns even as the National Elections Commission has announced the arrival of IT experts to cleanup what many perceive to be a messy voter roll system.
As Experts come in, UP Demanding Transparency
We have credibly learned about the coming of the IT and database experts to help cleanup the messy voter roll created by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
We commend the ECOWAS and other international partners for this initiative as this is a request we have made on countless occasions.
However, we are calling on ECOWAS and other partners and the NEC to publicly announce to the Liberian people the terms of reference of the IT and Database experts from the international community.
Also, to enhance the transparency of their presence and the nature of work they will be doing, the NEC and ECOWAS as well as any other international partner that have fielded these experts should publicly announce in country their presence in country.
We have argued with preponderance of evidence that the voter roll used for the October 10, 2017 elections is messy and cannot account for the total number of voters that registered for the elections.
The messy voter roll led to multiple voting by thousands of individuals throughout the country and those individuals throughout the country and those individuals are still in possession of multiple voter registration cards.
Consistently, the commission has told Liberia and the world that the Final Registration Roster they have is credible contrary to what we have proved.
It is extremely important that the political parties and the Liberian people to know exactly what nature of work will be done on the voter roll and all such works should be done with openness and transparency.
As the NEC has incessantly denied the messiness of the voter roll even in the face of mounting evidence, it is not advisable for any underhand work to be done on the voter roll as doing such could give the NEC more grounds for denial.
Additionally, the UP is advising that works intended to clean-up the messy voter roll should commence after the Supreme Court’s ruling and any such work must be done in consultations with the political parties.
It is unclear how the latest revelation will affect the outcome of the high court but what remains clear is the fact that the electoral body was aware of the issues now front and center of the elections dispute as far back as July when political parties were raising concerns about the voter roll.
During the same period, Mr. Augustine Ngafuan, former Foreign Minister who is now head of Vice President Joseph Boakai’s presidential campaign, raised an alarm, charging that NEC’s handling of the process was giving him jitters.
“Quite frankly, I am afraid. From what I’ve heard from Chairman Jerome Korkoya, I think we all, political actors and journalists need to sound the alarm and call a state of emergency around this issue because elections are won or lost based on the credibility of the voter roll.”
NEC commenced the Exhibition of the Provisional Voter Roll on June 12, 2017 and ended on June 17 at all 2080 Exhibition Centers (formerly Voter Registration Centers) across the country.
The exercise is a cardinal electoral date as per Article 9.2 of the Voter Registration Regulations and in keeping with section 3.6 of the New Elections Law of Liberia.
High Stakes for High Court
The Provisional Registration Roll is a compilation of names, photos, center codes, ages, among others of individuals who registered during the voter registration from February 1 to March 14, 2017.
Despite the revelation, the electoral process has been declared free and fair by all international stakeholders and international observers.
Last Friday, the heads of United Nations Missions in West Africa, at the end of the body’s 31st High-level Meeting, called for speedy end to the electoral dispute but noted that “compliance with the rule of law and due process is essential for strengthening Liberia’s nascent democracy.”
The body, in a joint communiqué, “expressed hope that the electoral process would be concluded expeditiously, stressing that legal challenges should be legitimate and in good faith.”
The body also “noted the importance of complying with the constitutionally-mandated date for the inauguration of the new government in January 2018.”
As Liberia and international stakeholders await the high court ruling this week, murmurs of how the ongoing saga will end continues to linger with the fate and future of Liberia’s political debacle hinging on a much-anticipated ruling of the high court.