Liberia: A Nation of Men, Not of Laws?

— Chief Justice Korkpor’s bequest to the nation

Liberia is indeed a strange country — strange in the sense that what makes sense in Liberia apparently does not make sense anywhere else. In other countries, when public officials are found to be involved in acts of impropriety, they resign their positions forthwith, being fully aware that they can no longer justifiably and morally continue in such stead.

In Liberia, it is just the opposite. It is as if public officials have no sense of dignity. Rather than resign after being indicted, they continue to carry on as though nothing is amiss at all.

Earlier this year, the current chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) was criminally indicted for corruption, conflict of interest, and money laundering. But the case against her at Criminal Court ‘E’ was dropped on grounds that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission violated the National Code of Conduct of 2014 when it took upon itself the function of the Ombudsman, to investigate violators of the law as provided in Section 12.2. Under the 2014 law, the office of the Ombudsman has exclusive authority to receive and investigate alleged violations of the code and impose administrative sanctions.

Yet she continues to carry on as though nothing has happened or will happen. Similarly placed is the Agriculture Minister who has also been criminally accused by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission for conflict of interest, among other things, but has not budged since. 

Perhaps nothing will indeed happen to Judge Eva Mappy Morgan who was sanctioned by the Judicial Inquiry Committee (JIC) for inappropriate conduct in the case Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC) vs Ducor Petroleum Amos Brosius.  

Brosius complained to the JIC that Judge Mappy, without his knowledge nor that of his lawyers, wrote the President of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) a letter dated July 23, 2013, instructing him to pay to the Bailiff of the Commercial Court the amount of US$212,704.36 from his Ducor Petroleum  account. 

The money was paid to the Bailiff and delivered to Judge Morgan. But for what purpose the money was withdrawn nor what happened to the money after it was delivered to Judge Mappy Morgan remains a mystery to date. 

To recall, the Commercial Court had ordered a freeze placed on Brosius Ducor Petroleum account following claims by the MOTC, a company partly owned by a son (deceased) of President Sirleaf that Brosius, during his stint as manager of MOTC, stole the company’s money to establish his own company, Ducor Petroleum.

By his reasoning, all funds deposited in Ducor Petroleum’s account rightfully belonged to his company MOTC and, for that reason, Commercial Court Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan ordered a freeze placed on the Ducor Petroleum account.

The Daily Observer, in its September 20, 2021 editorial headlined “Sheer Wickedness and a Travesty of Justice” observed that Brosius’ quest for justice had been and was being thwarted at every step from the highest levels of judicial authority.

The editorial further noted that because the matter had lingered in the courts for so long, the public was left to speculate that Judge Mappy Morgan and some members of the Supreme Court Bench or probably all are/were complicit in the depletion of Brosius account, put in excess of US$3 million.

This matter remains unresolved and there are signs that Brosius may never be able to get justice because already, according to a report in the Thursday July 14, 2022 edition filed by Daily Observer court reporter Abednego Davis, the MOTC has filed bankruptcy proceedings before the Commercial Court.

Interestingly, the MOTC’s petition to declare bankruptcy was filed on August 31, 2021, almost five (5) months after the JIC released its findings of the investigation conducted into Brosius’ complaint against the Commercial Court Chief Judge.

The findings held Judge Mappy Morgan liable; however she rejected the findings and has since appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has  since not made a determination on the matter. This is because of the recusal of Associate Justice Kaba from the case, owing to the fact that he chaired the JIC and had sent a memo to the Chief Justice absolving Judge Mappy Morgan of blame.

But the memo leaked, causing great embarrassment for the Chief Justice. He now has to request President Weah to appoint an ad hoc justice who, along with the other members of the Supreme Court Bench, will sit on the matter. 

But that step, for reasons that are unclear, has yet to be taken and so the matter has lingered on. And now with news emerging of the imminent granting of the MOTC’s Petition for bankruptcy, it means that Brosius’ quest for justice will never see the light of day.

In essence, this act appears analogous and indistinguishable from highway daylight robbery and it gives legitimacy to claims by critics that Liberia under this government has become a “gangster paradise”, a place where virtually anything goes ranging from ordinary pickpocket thievery to murder.  

A judiciary riddled and plagued with corruption and manned by corrupt, highly pliable judicial officials very subservient to Executive diktat is in essence the Judiciary that Chief Justice Francis Korkpor is bequeathing to the nation as he leaves office soon.

What hope for the future, therefore, can there be for a nation, a country of MEN and not of LAWS? This is a question for Chief Justice Korkpor.