The justice system in Sanoyea District, Bong County appears to be operating in a paralyzed state as the absence of police officers in the region continuous to exacerbate acts of lawlessness, with the fate of its 30,000 inhabitants hanging on the mercy of roaming criminals.
Interview conducted by this paper in the district paints graphic pictures of how peaceful citizens are becoming common target for roaming criminals who are taking advantage of the security vacuum created due to the lack of police presence in the area.
The District Solicitor of Sanoyea, Henry Kollie told our correspondent that the continuous delay by authorities of the Liberia National Police or LNP to deploy police officers in the district could further worsen the situation.
In late 2003 and early 2004 at the commencement of the disarmament process by the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL, Sanoyea district served as base for thousands of roaming arm fighters mainly from the Lofa Forest and Gbarpolu County who were waiting to be disarmed.
Attorney Henry Kollie informed this paper in Sanoyea recently that the absence of police officers in the district since the cessation of hostilities and the subsequent ushering in of a democratically elected government is seriously undermining the effective function of the court system in that part of Bong county.
He indicated, it has become a common practice for citizens and residents in the area to take the law unto themselves grossly ignoring the presence of constituted legal authority, all because the arm of government responsible to carry out vigorous law enforcement is absence in the area.
He said the situation has also rendered court workers vulnerable in the discharge of their statutory responsibilities at the advantage of criminals and law breakers.
Atty. Kollie lamented he is living in fear because of the constant wave of threats on his life from people wanting to live outside of the law by invading justice. He said, the presence of police officers would further guarantee the safety of court workers in Sanoyea in their quest to impartially dispense justice.
He said the deployment of police officers in the area will also help minimize or contain crimes to enable citizens live peacefully as they tackle their postwar recovery process. He disclosed that the nearest police post that at time assist the magisterial court in handling high profile criminal cases is the Totata police detail in Salala district.
But added that at times they do not respond promptly because of the distance they have to cover before reaching the crime scene. “We need police officers to be stationed here this is a magisterial area” he stressed.
He said criminal at times escaped the custody of the court because there is also no detention facility in the entire district to remand people while awaiting court trial or waiting to be transferred to Gbarnga.
Suspects transferred to Gbarnga, he said, are normally required to pay their own transport fare because there is no arranged transfer system of cases between the courts in Gbarnga and Sanoyea.
At present, the magisterial court in Sanoyea is being run in one congested room in a building hosting the commissioner’s office. This single room accommodates the stipendiary magistrate, his assistants, the solicitor and other judicial officers assigned at the court.
The district attorney disclosed that on several occasions, he has included the issues in his report to the county attorney of Bong Cllr. Serenai Garlawolo but is yet to get any assurance as to when these concerns will actually be addressed.
“We are just doing what we are able to do with our limited capacity and wait to see what central government will do to address the situation” the local prosecutor said.
The commander of the Bong County police detachment, Chief Superintendent Nelson Freeman sometimes back informed journalists in Gbarnga that efforts were being exerted to see the deployment of officers across the county with Sanoyea district included.
The local police chief indicated that frantic negotiation was being done to increase the number police presence in the county.
“Our major problem is the lack of enough men power and logistics to cover the entire county” Inspector Freeman averred.
He said police officers have been deployed in Kokoyah and Panta districts making Sanoyea with a current population of more than thirty thousand inhabitants to be the only district without a single police officer.