The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) says the recent elections of the Ministers of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), Eugene Nagbe, and Labor, Nato Lighe, Sr. as well as other political appointees in the Johnson-Sirleaf Administration to senior posts within the ruling Unity Party (UP), constitute a flagrant violation of the Liberian government’s Code of Conduct, according to a release signed by ALJA president Moses Sandy.
The Association said the elevation of Ministers Nagbe and Neto, as well as Director Bangole, to high profile positions in the UP would pose serious conflict of interest for them in the execution of their statutory duties in government. ALJA wondered what will be the disposition of Minister Nagbe, who is the Liberian Government Chief Spokesman, and his peers when confronted with critical national matters that hinge on the interests of the government and the UP as well as opposition political parties.
ALJA maintains that the elections of these government officials to positions in UP undermine the principle of good governance and universal best practices. The Association in a press release issued on July 24 called on President Sirleaf to swiftly correct the political blunder.
Ministers Nagbe and Lighe were recently elected UP Secretary General and Deputy Vice Chairman respectively. The MICAT boss and the other party executives were elected at the recently held convention in Gbarnga, Bong County. During the Convention, the General Services Agency (GSA), Deputy Director for Administration, Cole Bangole, was also voted Vice Chairman for Inter-Party and NEC Affairs.
ALJA called on President Sirleaf to muster the political will to request the three senior public officials to immediately resign from their elected posts within the ruling party, or be dismissed from government because their recent elections contravene Section 5.1(A) of the nation’s Code of Conduct, which regulates the activities of political appointees in government.
Section 5.1(A) of the Code of Conduct states “All officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not: (a) engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices; (b) use government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities; (c) serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate.” The Code of Conduct was legislated and passed into law in 2014. The law which seeks to control and minimize malfeasance in Liberia’s public sector, was signed by President Johnson-Sirleaf.
Article 90(c) of the Liberian Constitution states, “The Legislature shall, in pursuance of the above provision, prescribe a Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees, stipulating the acts which constitute conflict of interest or are against public policy, and the penalties for violation thereof.”
ALJA described as inconceivable President Sirleaf’s decision to sit by and allow her government officials to proceed with the gross violation of the law she helped create, during the UP convention in Gbarngba.
The President is the principal signatory of the Code of Conduct. The Association said Minister Nagbe’s ascendency to the position of Secretary General would create a serious credibility problem for the Johnson-Sirleaf Administration during the 2017 electoral period if the situation is not promptly revisited by the President.
The Association said 2017 would be a critical era in Liberia’s quest for a peaceful and stable society; and the administration must exert every effort to curtail acts such as the UP’s recent gross violation of the Code of Conduct.
Meanwhile, ALJA is urging the concerned public officials and all political appointees in the Liberian government to avoid tendencies that are contrary to peaceful coexistence in Liberia.
ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. The Association was founded in 1998 and it seeks to foster peace and unity among its members. ALJA is also dedicated to the advancement of press freedom through media development and training, and the principle of good Governance in Liberia.