Liberia: Cllr. Cephus Requests Deposition for Boakai in Cummings’ Trial

Former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai.

..... But Magistrate Jallah reserves judgment as the Court sheriff struggles to locate the former Vice President to serve him his subpoena.  

The Ministry of Justice has appealed to Magistrate Jomah Jallah to grant its request of deposition as a means of having former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai answer questions under oath as the state witness in the ongoing criminal trial of Alexander Cummings. 

The Ministry’s appeal, which was communicated via Solicitor General Saymah Syrenius Cephus comes as the sheriff of the Monrovia City Court complained about difficulty in locating the former VP to serve him a subpoena that has been issued by the Court based on requests by the prosecutors.

However, since the subpoena has not been served, the Ministry of Justice is now asking the Court to have Boakai appear for a deposition as part of the prosecution’s right to preserve testimonial evidence and prove its case despite the unavailability of its witness — former VP Boakai.

The former VP is the standard-bearer and political leader of the opposition Unity Party. 

Cllr. Cephus’ deposition request, if granted, means the former VP will not have to appear in court to testify against his opposition colleague, Cummings, who he worked with for a few years as one of the leaders of the CPP.

But Boakai will share with the court he knows, specifically as it relates to the copy of the framework document submitted to the National Elections Commission by Cummings while serving as chairman of CPP. 

Boakai is also expected to produce documents like press releases and minutes of meetings of the National Executive Committee members of the CPP that might implicate Cummings in the commission of the act of forgery as claimed by the ALP and the government in the suit. 

Prosecutors are heavily relying on the former VP’s testimony, which is valuable to them in the criminal trial against Cummings and his co-defendants, ANC Chairman Daniel Naatehn and Secretary-General Aloysius Toe, due to his firsthand knowledge about the CPP framework document, which prosecutors alleged were altered by the defendants. 

At the time of the issuance of the writ of arrest for Cummings by the government, Boakai was the Rotational Chair of the CPP, and has been repeatedly publicly touted as the star witness for the government by Cllr. Cephus, who is leading the prosecution in the Monrovia City Court.

The trial at Monrovia City Court was initiated after the All Liberian Party, founded by businessman Benoni Urey, who complained Cummings to the government for forgery and criminal conspiracy, regarding the alleged tampering of the Collaborating Political Parties’ framework agreement.

The ANC officials have vehemently rejected and denied the charges as bogus, and politically motivated as part of conspiracies between the All Liberian Party of Benoni Urey and the ruling CDC with ulterior motives.

However, Cummings’ and ANC’s lead lawyer, Cllr. Abraham Sillah, has opposed the deposition request by the Ministry of Justice on grounds that the former VP is in Liberia.  

Cllr. Sillah argued that the deposition can only be accepted if the benefiting person is outside of the bailiwick of the country, and the jurisdiction of the court.

“Boakai is currently in the jurisdiction of the court, and the court should issue another subpoena, this time with a contempt, to show reason,why he does not want to testify in the case,” Cllr.Sillah noted. 

And after listening to both the prosecutors and defendant lawyers, Magistrate Jallah, however, reserved his decision as to whether or not to accept the results of deposition. 

Earlier, the Court Sheriff had disclosed that since the subpoena was given to him on April 15, he has been finding it difficult to locate former VP Boakai, to serve him with the court order. 

“On April 15, I went to the UP headquarters in search of Boakai,but I did not find him anywhere around. The next day, I went to his Rehab residence to find him, but was told that he had left his residence,” the court officer narrated, explaining his difficulty to locate the UP leader to serve him with the subpoena.

The Secretary General of UP, Mo Ali in a response to an earlier inquiry by the Daily Observer a day before his political leader was due to appear in court — April 19 — said that neither he nor his party was aware of any subpoena issued to its political leader to testify in the ongoing trial of Cummings and other members of the ANC. 

However, Ali noted then that if former Vice President Joseph Boakai, the standard-bearer of the UP, received the subpoena from the Magistrate of the Monrovia City Court, the legal team would advise on the next course of action — whether or not to testify.

“I have no idea about the subpoena [n]or the Unity Party. That would be for the legal team to advise [if Boakai is to testify after receiving the subpoena]," Ali said.

Meanwhile, the court sheriff’s complaint mirrors that of information gathered from sources within on April 18 — accusing the the former VP of preventing the court officers from serving a Writ of Subpoena Duces Testificandum on him — claiming that the UP leader had made himself impossible to be reached with instructions to his securities not to allow the sheriff to enter his Rehab Road residence.

UP insiders are hinting that Boakai intends to hide and would gladly accept being fined before he lets himself take the witness stand for the government. Boakai is the second witness for the State, but his decision to appear and testify remains uncertain, and a defining moment in the ongoing trial,” the ANC sources suggest.

ANC  supporters and partisans have termed the trial a "political witch-hunt and persecution" intended to smear Cummings, dampen his momentum and exclude him from participation in the 2023 Presidential Elections.

The ALP, which is a strong political ally of former Vice President Boakai and his Unity Party (UP), is fulfilling Urey’s promise to seek legal action for an alleged “unlawful attachment” of its leader’s signature to the CPP framework document.  It is an open secret that Urey has opposed Cummings’ Presidential ambition — creating some kind of bad blood between the two.

ALP, Unity Party and the faction of Liberty Party loyal to Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence have all withdrawn from the CPP, leaving it with ANC and the Musa Bility faction of Liberty Party.

The Liberty Party is split between Bility who is the chair and Sen. Karngar-Lawrence who is the political leader. Both individuals are recognized by the National Election Commission as leaders of the party.