“After the lawyers reviewed the framework document, we decided to make five original copies of the document, one each for the four political parties and the remaining for the NEC. But I did not receive our copy of the original copy of the framework document,” Boakai said.
Monrovia, Liberia – Former Vice President Joseph Boakai has testified in court that he did not receive a copy of the framework document that was submitted to the National Elections Commission by Alexander Cummings while serving as chair of the Collaborating Political Parties.
Boakai, now an opposition leader for the former ruling Unity Party, is a key state witness in the criminal trial of Cummings, political leader of the Alternative National Congress, and two senior officials of the party.
Cummings, along with his party Chairman, Senator Daniel Naatehn of Gbarpolu County, and the party’s Secretary-General Aloysius Toe, are on trial for alleged forgery and criminal conspiracy, having been accused by Benoni Urey of the All Liberia Party (ALP) of allegedly altering the framework document of the CPP — an accusation they have denied.
In his highly anticipated testimony, the former Vice President informed Magistrate Jomah Jallah of the Monrovia City Court that while they as leaders of the CPP asked a team of lawyers to review, revise, and amend the framework document as a result of controversy over some content — he never received the return copy of the document as instructed.
Boakai, who appeared as the prosecutors’ third witness, said after the signing of the CPP framework document, by Zoom, that there were issues raised over job distributions, which warranted the review by their lawyers who proposed and made some changes in the framework document. The former Vice President said the amended changes in the CPP framework document were also forwarded to a validation committee but did not see the final copy or received it before Cummings and his party filed such to the electoral body.
“The amendment came about when there was public outcry about the job description and the exit clause that was placed on the document,” he added. “And so we, the political leaders, decided to amend the framework document. During the amendment process, the political leaders held a meeting and invited a team of lawyers to advise us about the amendment to the document.”
“After the lawyers reviewed the framework document, we decided to make five original copies of the document, one each for the four political parties and the remaining for the NEC. But, I did not receive our copy of the original copy of the framework document,” Boakai said.
Boakai's testimony came as a result of subpoenas from the Monrovia City Court, which compel him to appear and testify, to his knowledge, whether the CPP framework document was altered by Cummings and his co-defendants as alleged by Urey. However, the UP leader's testimony yesterday focused less on Urey and the government’s claims that Cummings and his co-accused in 2020, up to and including July 2020, violated section 15.70 of the New Penal Law of Liberia, by having purposely connived and conspired, to jointly alter the framework documents of the CPP.
The claims also stated that the defendants, out of deception, surreptitiously altered the same, thereby making it appear that the party has formally resolved that issue and others appertaining thereto. The former VP's testimony comes a few days after the lawyers prosecuting Cummings discovered that the CPP framework document was notarized four days after his party had filed the document on behalf of the coalition.
The discovery came when Cllr. Johnny Momoh, one of the lawyers for former Vice President Joseph Boakai was cross-examining the framework document filed by Cummings at NEC, which was then submitted to the Court by NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah. Cllr. Momoh said that the framework document, filed by Cummings and co-defendants, was marked by conflicting dates — filed on June 10, 2020, and notarized four days later, June 14.
“This matter is before the Supreme Court, and so I cannot go any further. But, what I can say is that this is the framework document that was filed directly to my office. This is the document that Cummings filed before the NEC,” Mrs. Lansanah said in response to Cllr. Momohs’ inquiry about the laid down procedure that political parties have to follow while filing documents to NEC.
However, Boakai in testimony did not elaborate on this issue, rather he acknowledged and confirmed that the signatures on the document submitted by Cummings were genuine.
The signatures issue is one of the key reasons for which Urey, the first person to chair the CPP, decided to seek legal action for the alleged unlawful attachment of his leader's signature to the framework document filed with the electoral body. Based on the claim, he filed a complaint with the government, which then charged Cummings and his co-accused with the crime of forgery and criminal conspiracy.
He disclosed that it was agreed upon, as CPP political leaders, to make a signature page of the framework document, to make it “easy whenever they wanted to attach it to other documents.”
“And, so this is what our signatures appeared on the photocopy version of the framework document. Our signatures on the photocopy version of the framework document are the same on the original copy,” Boakai testified.
“I noticed that the signature page on the framework document that we political leaders signed, and I am looking at it, is the same as we signed it, but the document was the original copy and not the photocopy version that is before me,” the UP political leader added in response to questions from Solicitor-General Sayma Syrennius Cephus.
And Boakai, when asked by Cllr. Cephus about the ANC signatures on the document said that “the signature is that of Sen. Naatehn, who signed on behalf of Cummings, then chairman of the CPP.” According to Boakai, Senator Naatehn was only the chairman of the ANC, and not for the CPP, and “so, it was very bad for him to sign as the CPP chairman, rather than Cummings, who was the chairperson.”
The CPP was once made of the UP, Liberty Party, ANC, and the ALP. However, the UP, ALP, and a faction of LP have all withdrawn from the opposition collaboration on grounds that the framework document was forged by Cummings, and his partisans — a charge the ANC has denied.
Meanwhile, Boakai's testimony continues today (May 17), with the former VP facing cross-examination by the lawyers representing Cummings and the two other accused. At his yesterday's court appearance yesterday, armed officers of the Liberia National Police were seen blocking every entry to the Temple of Justice — screening and cutting down the number of political party supporters attending the trial, which has entered the fifth month without any significant progress.
The police action came days after supporters of Boakai and Cummings engaged in unruly behaviors that forced the Monrovia City Court to postpone the trial indefinitely, pending the deployment of additional police to guarantee security at the Temple of Justice.
The former VP was also accorded VIP protection when it was time for him to testify as he was allowed to sit on a chair behind a table in a relaxed position. The chair and table were taken from the office of Magistrate Jallah. Earlier, the defendants’ lawyers made two separate submissions: one to seek the court’s permission in granting Sen. Naatehn a leave of absence from the trial due to medical advice, and Cummings for about a week. The latter’s reason was not explained.
After the requests were made, Magistrate Jallah reserved his judgment on the matters.