The newly appointed chairman of the National Elections Commission, Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike has told Senators during his confirmation hearing yesterday that he became a naturalized Liberia at the age of 17-years in 1982, a move which, according to legal scholars, is in violation of Section 21.3 of the country’s Alien and Naturalization Law.
According to Section 21.3 of the country’s Alien and Naturalization Law, “no person shall file a petition for naturalization unless he/she shall obtain the age of 21 years.”
In a question to Cllr. Nwabudike, Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount told the nominee that, “The law says before you are naturalized in Liberia you must be 21 years old and you say you were born 1964 that means you were 17 years old when you naturalized, so that suggests you were not qualified to become a naturalized citizen. There is nothing in this naturalization law that says you must bring your papa and mother to stand for you.”
After such remark, Sen. Sherman asked the nominee, Cllr. Nwabudike to concede that his naturalization was illegal but Nwabudike refused and maintained that his naturalization was legal.
In counter-argument, Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike informed Sen. Sherman and his colleagues that during his application process, the court requires him to bring parental consent since he was minor and an adult also to take the oath.
“When I had my declaration of intents, I was a minor and because of that, I was required to bring a parental consent and an adult to stand to take the oath behind me. In this jurisdiction, our law requires that if a minor wants to get married, it requires parental consent. My argument here is that the court has set a precedent that when a minor wants to make a decision or a position of an adult, parental consent is required, and it can be granted under the law when it is done in the presence of a qualified adult,” Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike said.
However, Sen. Sherman disagreed and told the nominee that the naturalization law did not mention parental consent in any passage as one of the requirements for naturalization.
“There is nothing in this naturalization law that says you must bring your papa or mother to stand for you,” Cllr. Sherman told the nominee.
In support of Cllr. Sheman, a lawyer who asked for anonymity confided to the Daily Observer that if Nwabudike’s explanation on Monday, March 30, during his confirmation hearing is anything to believe, it means that he has pointed to a flaw in acquiring his citizenship, which is in breach of provisions of the Alien and Naturalization Law of Liberia.
During his confirmation hearing Cllr. Nwabudike informed the senators that he was born in 1964 and subsequently obtained his citizenship in 1982, meaning that he was 17 years old when he applied for his naturalization, of which, the legal source claimed, is direct opposition to the law and procedure for one to obtain citizenship in the country.
He explained that citizenship through naturalization is governed by Chapter 21 of the Alien and Nationality Law, which is a two-step process.
The first one, according to the lawyer, is making a declaration of intent to naturalize before a Circuit Court, which procedures Nwabudike told the senators that he did when he appeared before the Criminal Court, particularly Court ‘B’, at the Temple of Justice that is responsible for naturalization.
The next step, the lawyer said, is that submission of the declaration of intent paper along with an actual petition for naturalization which must be filed between the second and third-anniversary dates of the declaration of intent.
The legal source added, “with Nwabudike’s testimony about obtaining his citizenship placing a dark cloud over his naturalization, it sets the basis for the senators to forward him to the Liberian National Bar Association for onward submission to the Grievance and Ethics Committee for further investigation.”
According to the lawyer, the senate can take such a decision “if they want to set a standard and ensure the people respect the country’s democracy.
The legal source also explained that if the Grievance and Ethics Committee finds Nwabudike liable, they could recommend him to the Supreme Court for punishment and that may include the revocation of his license and subsequent punishment, only if the lawmakers were to agree with that.
“This is a very serious crime against the state for a lawyer like Nwabudike and, if it is proved that while under Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of Liberia he could lie about his citizenship, that alone could send him to jail,” the lawyer said. “Since Nwabudike’s citizenship is still in doubt the best thing is for President George Weah to recall his nomination immediately.”
The lawyer also said the applicant must have been lawfully admitted to Liberia and must maintain continuous legal residence in Liberia between the dates of the declaration and the petition and from the date of the petition until the admission to citizenship.
“Absence from Liberia of more than six months from the declaration up to admission constitutes a failure to meet this requirement and must be of good moral character and believe in the principles of the Constitution,” the source noted, adding: “The applicant must renounce any previous nationalities and must take an Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of Liberia.”