Liberia: NEC Outsourcing Function of Legal Counsel?

Is Mr Alvin Teage Jalloh serving NEC as legal counsel?



— As vacancy for legal counsel  existed since 2020 

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Senator Varney Sherman, has disclosed that the National Elections Commission does not have in its employee a qualified lawyer to serve as its legal counsel, saying the position is being outsourced.

The erudite lawyer and Senator of Grand Cape Mount County noted that his committee's investigation has unearthed that the last person to function as legal counsel at NEC was " Cephus Bliden,  who retired in 2020. 

According to Sherman, the Commissioners confirmed that there are two attorneys at law in the legal section, but that no person has been employed as the legal counsel. 

The Judiciary Committee, according to Chairman Sherman, is wondering what the two lawyers,  Alvin Teapge Jalloh and Cephus T Weah, are doing at the Commission. 


“It would appear that either one or both are performing the position of a senior legal officer when the law is that that person must be a counselor-at-law; and in fact, that person should be appointed through a transparent process with the involvement of the Chief Justice and the Minister of Justice and the President of Liberia.


“The question is, why have they been keeping this job vacant? If you say Teage Jalloh is not performing as a senior legal officer, and if we all agree that he is not a counselor-at-law, what are you doing with the money that is budgeted for that position?” Sherman asked. 


Under the Elections law, Sherman explained that the Commission can appoint legal counsels and research officers of the legal section, which shall be composed of two lawyers who shall serve as legal counsel to the Commission; one of who shall be appointed as senior legal counsel, who shall be head of the section. There shall also be two legal research officers. 


Section 2.14 of the law says:  “except a law officer who may be an attorney-at-law, anyone appointed as legal counsel must be a qualified lawyer and a counselor-at-law, and must have practiced for not less than five years prior to his or her appointment.” 


Section 15.2 of the same law says: “Upon consultation with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia and the Minister of Justice, the Commission shall nominate and, with the consent of the President of Liberia, appoint legal counsel and research officers who shall serve at the pleasure of the Commission.”

“But due to the absence of the chairperson of the Commission, Davidetta Brown Lansana, those queries could not be answered by those members of the Commission who attended the Judiciary Committee meeting. But you can obviously see the complications show that they have not complied with the law.”


Section 2.16 regarding the functions and duty of the law says; “This legal section shall represent the Commission before the Supreme Court of Liberia in any election litigation or otherwise. And to the best of my knowledge, it has been Counselor Marcus Wilkins Wright who has been doing that, which means they are outsourcing the function of this position.”


The law, according to Sherman, further states that it is this person who should be “advising the Commission on all legal matters when so required; submit to the Commission written legal opinions and questions of legal implication.”

Cllr. M. Wilkins Wright, a non-employee of the Commission, had testified before the Senate on several occasions representing the electoral body. This, according to Sherman, implies that NEC is outsourcing the "role of legal advice."


“And while it may not be inappropriate to seek outside legal counsel,” Sherman argued. “The fact of the matter is that this position ought to be filled, and should be filled.”

Meanwhile, the Committee has requested sufficient time to complete its interactions with members of the Commission, including the chairperson who is said to be visiting some counties.

Recently, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Rules, Order, and Administration, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, communicated to the Senate plenary that  Alvin Teage Jalloh is constitutionally not qualified to serve as legal counsel at the NEC and should be removed.

Lawrence in her communication reminded her colleagues that the position of legal officer of NEC is very key and consequential to the conduct of free, fair, and transparent elections.