By Abednego Davis
Yesterday was an emotional day for Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, a presidential hopeful in the upcoming elections and a veteran politician, when his request for the Supreme Court to prevent National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairman Jerome G. Korkoya from serving that post for allegedly holding an American passport was denied.
Tipoteh, during the hearing that lasted for little over two (2) minutes, shook his heads repeatedly as Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks delivered what several lawyers described as “Justice Banks’ shortest judgment,” yesterday.
Justice Banks, since his ascendancy to the Supreme Court, is believed to be one of the justices with the longest judgment (opinion).
That was demonstrated recently when he delivered a 64-page opinion on the Sable Mining bribery case that involved Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, of which he reversed Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay’s judgment against the prosecution.
At his extremely brief judgment, Justice Banks advised Tipoteh, and his lawyer, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe that the court cannot issue the writ to prevent Korkoya from being chairman of the NEC, “because there is no evidence for me to determine as to whether or not Korkoya holds dual citizenship and the Supreme Court also cannot take evidence.
“You can file your case to the Civil Law Court, there it will take evidence before the Supreme Court can decide it,” Banks’ short judgment stated.
Immediately after Banks’ decision, Cllr. Gongloe in an interview with journalists said they are considering yesterday’s ruling whether to go to the Civil Law Court or not.
Banks’ decision comes three days after he heard arguments on the matter to prohibit Korkoya from further conducting activities of the NEC as chairman.
Initially, Korkoya had argued that the lawsuit against him was “a dangerous game and a clever attempt by politicians to take away his Liberian citizenship and to make me stateless.”
Korkoya also contended that Dr. Tipoteh lacked the legal capacity to determine whether or not he is a citizen because that decision is under the purview of the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice.
Tipoteh’s lawsuit sought the intervention of the Supreme Court to prohibit Korkoya as NEC chairman from conducting the October elections because he is a citizen of the United States by his alleged possession of that country’s passport and for voting in US elections.
Tipoteh also argued that in order for the results of the national elections to be considered credible, the legal capacity of persons conducting the elections, especially its chairman, who speaks for the Board of Commissioners and presides over its meetings, must not in any respect be in doubt.
“The NEC requires that all candidates and voters participating in the 2017 Presidential and Representative elections comply with the Election Laws of Liberia and for the Commission to have the moral authority to rigorously enforce all provisions of said law, the Commission and its members must obey, abide by and comply with every provision of the Election Laws of Liberia,” Dr. Tipoteh said.
Yesterday’s ruling, which expected to be hotly debated by people on all sides of the dual citizenship issue, is nonetheless seen as a victory for those who campaigning for Liberia to make changes in its constitution to allow Liberians who are holding other nationalities to maintain their Liberian citizenship.
Though the case is far from over, many Liberians commented that the maintenance of peace demands that there should be no more distractions as the country gradually moves on to decide the next leaders for the country.