— As NEC denies Consortium of Lofa Citizens complaint
The National Elections Commission has ruled that a complaint from the Consortium of Lofa Citizens, requesting that former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai be barred from contesting the midterm senatorial election, has no merit and, as such, the request is denied.
In a majority ruling, the electoral body said that the complainant case against Samukai has no merit, therefore, the group’s request for NEC to deny the former defense minister the opportunity to contest the pending December 8, 2020 election cannot be granted under any circumstance.
The ruling from the electoral body Board of Commissioners is a resounding victory for Samukai whose senatorial ambition has been hanging by thread since his conviction early this year by Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay, for the alleged theft of US$1,147,656.35 from the soldiers’ welfare fund account at the Ecobank- Liberia, along with accomplice Joseph P. Johnson, his former deputy for administration.
“Samukai and Johnson are hereby sentenced to common prison for a period of two (2) years each and that the said sentence is suspended, provided they elected to restitute the whole or substantial amount of the judgment sum within six (6) months and the balance stipulated to be restituted within 12 months, as of the ruling, failure which they shall serve the full two years,” Judge Gbeisay ruled in March.
Based upon the court ruling, the Consortium of Lofa Citizens petitioned NEC to deny Samukai the opportunity to contest the election since he had been convicted of a crime.
However, the NEC Board of Commissioners, upholding its chief dispute hearing officer’s ruling, explained that the acceptance letter of Co-Appellee, Brownie J. Samukai of the Collaborating Political Parties, qualifying him and placing his name on the listing of qualified aspirants/candidates to contest the December 8, 2020 midterm elections, “is hereby confirmed and affirmed.”
Reading the board’s decision, the NEC’s Co-chairperson, Cllr. P. Teplah Reeves informed the complainants that their action to deny their request was based on the criminal procedure law of the country that prohibits the enforcement of any court judgment while an appeal has been filed at the supreme court.
“Section 24.6 of the Criminal Procedure Law states that the taking of an appeal shall stay the enforcement of the judgment, sentence or order from which the appeal is taken and arrest all further proceedings pending a decision on the appeal,” Cllr. Reeves said.
According to Cllr. Reeves, the Board of Commissioners’ decision was in conformity with a Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 20 of the Liberian Constitution, which states that on “announcement of an appeal of a judgment, nor shall any proceeding be taken for its enforcement until final judgment is rendered.”
Article 20 of the Constitution states that: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law. Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay; and in all cases not arising in courts not of record, under courts-martial and upon impeachment, the parties shall have the right to trial by jury.”
Prior to the NEC’s ruling, the electoral body chief dispute hearing officer, Cllr. Muanah Ville, ruled a fortnight ago that the Consortium of Lofa Citizens had no constitutional or legal basis as claimed in their petition filed for the NEC to disallow Samukai from contesting the December 8 polls.
Explanation his decision, Cllr. Ville said it was based on the fact that the Consortium of Lofa Citizens was in no way a legally registered organization as they portrayed themselves to be, and that Samukai is not a convict because he is not in jail.
Cllr. Ville added that the fact that the former defense minister is paying back what he has been found guilty of misusing, means there was no reason to deny him from contesting the December 8, 2020 elections.
In remarks on the ruling, Samukai, who is contesting for the Senate seat in Lofa on the ticket of the Collaborating Political Parties, told the Daily Observer via a text message that he is happy that NEC understood the issues and correctly followed electoral laws, guidelines and requirements.
“The NEC correctly followed electoral laws, guidelines, and requirements and made its decision without prejudice to my application. I am very delighted about the professional manner this due process went from the Hearing Officer up to the decision of the Board of Commissioners,” he said.
About his chances of winning in Lofa, the former Defense chief said he is confident that he will become the next Senator of Lofa who will make the necessary contributions in development and ideas aimed at changing things for the better in the county.
“Our people in Lofa are eager to see me through as their candidate of choice of the CPP for the December 8th election,” Samukai concluded. The ruling by NEC Board of Commissioners was signed by all seven of the commissioners including Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah, Co-chairperson Cllr. P. Teplah Reeves, as well as Commissioners Boakai A. Dukuly, Cllr. Ernestine Morgan Awar, Barsee Leo Kpangbai, and Josephine Kou Gaye.