Massive Jubilation at Newark Airport for Henry Costa arrival to America

IPNEWS-MONROVIA: Thousands of Liberians living in America,mainly in the state of New Jersey, have stormed the  Newark Liberty International Airport downtown New Jersey, to receive the chairman of the Council of Patriots-CoP and tough talking talk show host Henry P. Costa.

Liberians from all walks of life began arriving on Newark airport as early as 10:00hrs UTC following news break  that he departed the Sierra Leonian capital,Freetown on an SN Brussels flight into Paris, France and then into Newark Airport, New Jersey, the United States of America.

The news of Henry Costa arrival is greeted with lots of jubilation back home in the late hours of Thursday’s night in Monrovia.

At local bar in Monrovia, there were mixed views on the escape of Henry Costa from Monrovia in the wake of ongoing investigation over the falsification of a Liberian travel certificate.

Others hold the view that Henry Costa should have remain to exonerate himself from accusations that he forged his Liberian travel certificate when he arrived at the Roberts International airport on December 19,2019.

While others hail the decision to escape, as any general that escape the front line in case of intense fighting lives to fight another battle.

There have been Intense diplomatic negotiations throughout Wednesday,  night into the early hours of yesterday Thursday, January 16,2020, between the governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone over the extradition of President George Manneh Weah foremost critic Henry Costa.

Uncertainties was high among supporters of Mr. Costa all through Wednesday night even as news emerged that President Maada Bio had ordered Mr. Costa’s release late Wednesday, however, reports in Freetown suggest that Mr. Costa didn’t travel on a mid-night SN Brusselses flight which was destined for Istanbul, Turkey, sparking fears again early Thursday morning.

Not until other reports emerged from Frecetown, Sierra Leone, which suggested that indeed Henry Costa was on board the SN Brussels flight which transited in Liberia, for Paris, France and onward to the United States of America.

The departure of Mr. Costa follows the an earlier rejection by Sierra Leonian authorities of a request for extradition from its Liberian counterpart to have Mr. Costa returned to  Liberia due to the low level of engagement between authorities of  the Liberian Immigration Services and its immigration counterparts in Sierra Leone without the normal diplomatic channel which Sierra Leone extradition law requires.

In a rather swift response to the Sierra Leonians information statement on the BBC early Wednesday afternoon, Liberia’s Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, told  the BBC’s Focus on Africa, that indeed the government of Liberia had stepped up  efforts to have Mr. Henry Costa brought back to Liberia through the proper and official channels.

Mr. Nagbe to the BBC that the government of Liberia have submitted a formal diplomatic request through the proper channels to Sierra Leone cataloguing  several violations of Liberian laws by Mr. Costa.

“We have requested the government of Sierra Leone to extradite him to Liberia to face the law.” Nagbe told the BBC Focus on Africa programme.

But these diplomatic channels intensifies, the Sierra Leonian government continue to insist that its decision to hold Mr. Costa into its custody is in confirmative with its desire to ensure Mr. Costa is safe.

We just want to ensure that we fulfil his rights, he himself can attest to that, he’s been very well treated, we cannot take dictation from any other government, we’re a democracy, we value that.” Mohamed R. Swaray, Minister of Information & Communication, Sierra Leone told the BBC.

Under the Sierra Leone Extradition Act of 1974, “no extradition shall be granted without the approval of the Attorney-General.

Under the Act, every fugitive criminal in Sierra Leone shall be liable to be apprehended and extradited in the manner provided by the Act. “All requests for the extradition of a fugitive criminal shall be addressed through the usual diplomatic channels to the Attorney-General who, if satisfied of the authenticity of the warrant in virtue of which the request for extradition is made, and that any other conditions on which, in the particular case, the extradition depends, appear to be fulfilled, may issue and endorse on, or attach to, the original warrant or request an Order as prescribed in the Form 1 in the Sixth Schedule, and the said Order shall be a sufficient authority to apprehend the fugitive criminal and bring him before a Judge or Magistrate.”

The crimes for which one can be extradited under the Sierra Leone act are: Murder, manslaughter, Counterfeiting and altering money or bank notes and uttering counterfeit or altered money or banknotes and other offenses relating to coinage and banknotes, forgery counterfeiting  and uttering what is forged, counterfeited or altered, embezzlement, larceny, obtaining money or goods by false pretenses, offenses by bankrupts under law relative to bankruptcy, fraudulent misappropriation and frauds by a bailee, rape, abduction, child stealing, burglary and housebreaking, arson, robbery with violence and bribery.

The treaty states that a person can also be extradited for sinking or destroying a vessel at sea, assault on board a ship on the high seas with intent to destroy life or do grievous bodily harm, revolt by two or more persons on board a ship on the high seas against the authority of the master; offense in connection with the Slave Trade committed on the high seas or on land, kidnapping, false imprisonment, perjury and subordination of perjury, malicious or willful damage to property, offences against legislation  relating to dangerous drugs, offences against the person,

Under the treaty, any offence of a nature or category similar to any of the above-mentioned offenses which is for the time being punishable in Sierra Leone, any conspiracy or attempt to commit any of the above-mentioned offences and the counseling, procuring commanding, aiding or abetting of such

Section Two states: “For the purposes of this section the expression “public policy of Sierra Leone” shall be taken to include —the interests of security, public order and good morals; and fundamental human rights and the principles of humane treatment generally accepted among civilized nations.

It may be recalled, last week, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) accused the Liberian Nation Police of breaking the rules of engagement by the use of force against “peaceful protester” when they dispersed them by the use of teargas and hot water cannon on Monday, January 6, 2020.

In a press statement, Atty. Bartholomew B. Colley, acting chairman of the INCHR called for an investigation of the National Police over the use of excessive of force by state security against peaceful protesters last Monday, January 6,2020.

But contrary to some perception that the government of Liberia that it was using diplomatic channels and Liberia’s diplomatic muscles to harass Mr. Costs who had been a strong critic of the Weah’s administration, Mr. Nagbe argued that contrary to these perceptions President Weah has shown that he is a democrat who has observed all of the tenets of the rule of law and democracy.  “You will realize,” he argued,  “that over the past several months since President Weah took office there has been several protests, the opposition is active.”

Minister Nagbe cited  that even as Mr. Costa  was now the  de facto leader of the opposition,  leading several protests, yet he has never been arrested, boasting that there is not a single political prisoner in the Liberian jail under President Weah.

As the controversies continue on the extradition of Mr. Costa, the information Minister noted that when a public figure chooses to abuse the law and violate the law, the government is under obligation to ensure that that individual is brought to book because as a public figure, that individual is under even heavier onus to observer the law.

Nagbe said Mr. Costa is being accused of in its diplomatic note to the Sierra Leonean government, “From insurrection in several ways to violations of the penal code of Liberia and also including, fraudulently acquiring Liberian travel documents.”

Minister Nagbe explained that it is important to go after Mr. Costa because of Liberia’s recent history where travel documents are being used for fraudulent activities.

“We are concerned not just about this particular incident but all of the other laws Mr. Costa has committed.”

“We have submitted to the Sierra Leonean government through the proper procedures and we are available for this to be discussed in open court. Our government has remained transparent, we have always followed the rule of law, even in our own country, where the code of conduct has ruled against Mr. President and he has abided by the decision of the court.” Nagbe told the BBC.

On the question of whether the government is not using the situation to victimized Mr. Costa, Minister Nagbe said the record of President Weah speaks for itself. “This president has not used his power as president to violate the rights of any Liberian citizen, let alone members of the opposition, the records are there. Let us look at the fact that we have no political prisoners, we have a violent press, most times, would not give us the opportunity to get heard, yet we don’t’ touch them, we don’t  violate their rights but when there is a fragrant  violations of the Liberian law, we are under violation to take action in keeping with the laws of Liberia and in keeping with international law.”

Despite Liberia’s insistence on having Mr. Costa returned to Monrovia, Sierra Leonean authorities appear to be unconvinced.

However, in retrospect, Mr. Mohamed R. Swaray, Minister of Information and Communication, told the BBC that the Bio administration will not take dictation from any government regarding the ongoing saga involving the head of the COP leader.

Said Swaray: “We just want to ensure that we fulfil his rights, he himself can attest to that, he’s been very well treated, we cannot take dictation from any other government, we’re a democracy, we value that. We have struggled far too long for democracy and this government is noted for its very strong democratic credential so we will not do anything on toward. So, as soon as we have gone through the process, we will do what we have to do.” Sierra Leone information Minister said.

Mr. Swaray explained that immigration authorities in Sierra Leone received a call from its Liberia counterparts to cross check a few things regarding Mr. Costa.

But the minister made it clear: “Henry is not in detention, he is enjoying the full human rights, we are a sovereign democracy, we don’t take instructions from other people. I can assure you that Henry’s human rights  and basic freedoms will be respected. In fact, he posted something on Facebook that he’s being well-treated, he’s not been coerced, he’s very well protected even though he’s in confinement. So, as a government we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that we don’t interfere with his basic rights and fundamental freedoms.”

As the pressure mounts between the two countries, on the streets Freetown, Sierra Leone throughout Wednesday, there were continued discussion among ordinary citizens on the diplomatic engagements between the two countries.

It may be recalled, early Wednesday afternoon a conglomerate of seven civil society organizations in Sierra Leone  –  Campaign for Good Governance, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Human Rights Defenders Network,  Partnership for Justice, Network Movement for Democracy and Human Rights, Campaign for Human Rights and Development International and Amnesty International – issued a strong statement calling for Mr. Costa’s release.

“Sierra Leone Government has an obligation under both national and international law to protect human rights, and should not be seen as facilitating the abuse or violation of such rights. Should the Sierra Leone Government extradite Mr. Costa to Liberia, it will be equally blamed for any abuses or violations to which he may be subjected. This will certainly have far-reaching implication for Sierra Leone’s human rights credentials and its international image,” the civil society organisation said.

In Monrovia, a collaborating Liberian Political Parties under the Coalition of Political Parties, expressed concerns about the growing state of insecurity beclouding Liberia in the wake of attempts by the Weah-led government to extradite Mr. Costa to Liberia and the ongoing effort to tie a gun to District No. 10 Rep. Yekeh Kolubah’s vehicle which was searched and seized during last week’s protest.

The four parties – the All Liberian Party(ALP), the Alternative National Congress(ANC), the Liberty Party(LP) and the Unity Party(UP) – in a statement Wednesday said Liberia is once again, returned to the dark days; our most recent history of respect for the rights of Liberian citizens has, once again, eroded.

The parties have also written the Government of Sierra Leone NOT to return Mr. Costa to Liberia.

As the diplomatic manoeuvring continues, the government of Liberia says the fight is not over as the Weah administration appears to not be relenting as it urged its next-door neighbours to fulfill its international obligations to extradite Mr. Costa on the basis of his “criminal activities and not his political activities.

Political observers now views the arrival of Mr. Costa to the US in the wake of an intense lobby for extradition by the Liberian government and failure for its Sierra Leonian counterpart to respect the government of Liberia request is a major diplomatic and political setback for the Weah’s administration which may be facing international isolation if care is not taken.

Other political commentators sees the escape and subsequent arrival of the CoP strong man as a major political nightmare for the George Weah government which ha come under strong criticism for the poor governance administration since it took power in January 2018.

There are lingering questions on how 16billion Liberian dollars disappeared from the Liberian treasury and proper accounting of 25million united states dollars intended to mop out excess Liberian dollars liquidity, including the accusation of senior government officials and President George Weah amassing wealth at the detriment of the declining economy couple it poor living standards of the ordinary citizens.

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