Liberia: Lofa By-Election Set for June 28

Senate Pro Tempore Albert Tugbe Chie.  

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate yesterday voted to set June 28, as the new date for the conduct of the delayed Lofa County by-election. 

Senate Pro Tempore Albert Tugbe Chie yesterday informed plenary that the leadership of the Senate, in consultative meetings with members of the House of Representatives, agreed on the date. 

Lofa has for a year and a half been without one of its two senators after its Senator-elect, former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, won the 2020 Senatorial election for that county but, because of a prior legal disability, was barred from taking his seat. 

Samukai’s difficulty came about when the same Supreme Court halted his certification and revoked the suspension of the two-year jail sentence, handed against him and his two deputies. The three men had collectively failed to comply with the high court’s mandate and judgment to pay 50% of the judgment sum, equal to US$573,828.15, within six months of last year. 

Samukai and his two co-defendants were convicted for theft of property, criminal conspiracy, misuse of public money, and money laundering of over US$1 million and sentenced to two years in prison.  The Court’s decision forced the Liberian Senate to write the NEC to declare a vacancy, prompting the electoral body to issue a notice of by-election for the seat. Samukai has since been issued a reprieve by President George Weah.

Yesterday’s decision followed the ruling last Friday, by the Supreme Court of Liberia, upholding the opposition Unity Party’s contention that it has the right to participate in the delayed Lofa County by-election.

The Senate Plenary decision was also triggered by a communication received from the National Elections Commission (NEC) requesting the Liberian Senate to set a new date for the Lofa County by-election.

The Electoral law provides that when the Constitutional date for election fails, the National Elections Commission should write the National Legislature to set a new date; with this provision, the Senate Plenary on its 27th Day Sitting, through the Leadership, reported that both Houses’ Leaderships met and agreed to have June 28, set as the new date for the by-election. 

Announcing the new date yesterday, Pro Tempore Chie asserted that whoever is elected will be subsequently inducted as a Senator before the Legislature takes its second break on July 15.

Notably, River Cess County Senator Wellington Geevon Smith abstained during the voting period on the new election date, while River Gee County Senator Conmany B. Wesseh voted ‘No’. 

Senator Wesseh earlier intimated that as far as he could recollect, the Election Commission never nullified the result of the December 2020  Senatorial Elections that announced Brownie J. Samukai the winner in Lofa County. 

However, called to order by some of his colleagues, including the Senate Pro Tempore, Senator Wesseh was reminded that the citizens of Lofa wanted to put the electoral nightmare behind them, hence the need for the election to go ahead.