Outgoing President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Philip Neville on Monday December 22nd 2008 described SLAJís President-Elect, Umaru Fofana as "a bloody liar" and a "dishonest person."
This utterance was made in a telephone interview with this medium, on an issue that has to do with the ownership brouhaha of an alleged SLAJ Regional North office situated in Makeni for which Mr. Umaru Fofana had cast serious doubts on the integrity of Mr. Philip Neville at a SLAJ General Meeting that was held yesterday at the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) but which Mr. Neville had refrained from attending.
At SLENA yesterday, Umaru Fofana told pressmen that Philip Neville went to Makeni recently to forcefully take possession of the disputed office, a situation that created serious tension between Philip Neville and the Executive of the Northern Region. He said Mr. Nevilleís lawyer wrote a letter to the landlord instructing that the office be handed over to Neville as it belonged to Neville and not to SLAJ.
"With the failure of the landlord to adhere to the instruction, Philip went to Makeni, broke the lock of the door and replaced it with his own lock," Umaru Fofana alleged. The SLAJ Northern Executive, he said, also retaliated by breaking Nevilleís own lock and replacing it with theirs. He maintained further that the timely intervention of the police was able to calm the situation.
"The police fixed their own lock and hand over one set each of the three keys for the new lock to Mr. Neville, SLAJ Executive and the landlord, until the matter is amicably resolved," Fofana informed.
Fofana also alleged yesterday that Neville, during the SLAJ Annual General Meeting (AGM), was asked by the associationís internal auditors to account for a 5.9 million leones leftover from the budget of the 2007 National Presidential debate conducted by SLAJ. Neville, he said, told the AGM that the money was used to copy the debateís DVD and that the proceeds would be used to open the offices in Bo and Makeni.
"So why is Neville now alleging that the money to open those offices were his personal money?" Umaru queried of the SLAJ Members at the meeting.
Meanwhile, during the interview Mr. Neville granted to this writer in a bid to clear his name, it was clear that Neville was holding no prisoners insofar as defending his reputation against the allegations floated against him by Fofana. Upon hearing some of the descriptive terms Neville was using upon Umaru Fofanaís personality and character, this writer queried in amazement if indeed Neville was describing the President-Elect of SLAJ as a common liar. At this point, Mr. Philip Neville roared over the phone that not only was Umaru Fofana a liar but he was "infact, a bloody liar".
Philip Neville then took his time to respond to the serious allegations made against his person by the SLAJ President-Elect. He first counter-alleged that the disputed office in Makeni was rented by his personal self and not by SLAJ.
"I used my personal money to rent that office and I can take ownership of it at anytime I want," Philip Neville stated. He said he recently went to Makeni requesting the keys of the premises from the landlord, one Pa Sesay, adding that the keys were handed over to him in the presence of the Police Local Unit Commander, LUC Kaikai.
He alleged further that he personally invested 10.5 million leones to copy the SLAJ Presidential Debate DVDs, proceeds of which were used to open the SLAJ regional offices in Bo and Makeni.
"I used the proceeds from my own money I invested to open and furnish the SLAJ office in Bo, which amounted to 3.5 million leones whilst a whopping 6 million leones was used to open the one in Makeni," he alleged, adding, "all of this I did with my own hard earned money in the interest of the furtherance of the association."
He denied knowledge of any money that he is to account for as far as the SLAJ presidential debate is concerned, noting that the signatories to the money donated by the West Africa Civil Society Forum for that debate are that of the former President of the Association, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo and the outgoing Secretary General, Ibrahim Karim-Sei.
Philip Neville also told this medium that his lawyer wrote the landlord at Makeni only to clarify the issue of ownership of the premises.
Meanwhile, it was resolved at yesterdayís SLAJ meeting that a committee to look into the issue be set up.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.