Justice Minister Concedes: Weah Circumvented NLA Act

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President Weah's nominees (from left), Moses Owen Browne (IMO) and Neved Kortu (National Lotteries Authority)

IMO case remains on hold

President George Weah through Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean on yesterday admitted, during an argument before the Supreme Court, that he had circumvented the Act that created the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) that the founders put in place for transparency and accountability by appointing a deputy director general of operations there.

Under the Act that created the NLA, the board of directors has the power and authority to appoint a deputy director general for operations as the principal deputy to the director general for an initial term of two years. Consistent with the mandate, the chairman of the board of directors of the NLA, Claude J. Katta, pursuant to a resolution of the board upon review of the record, appointed Madam Agnes Effiong on September 20, 2016, as deputy director general.

However, President Weah in complete disregard of the act of the NLA, in early June this year appointed Neved Kortu to Effiong’s position, while she still had three months left to the expiration of her tenure.

It was President Weah’s nominations that resulted to Effiong’s lawyer Stanley S. Kparkillen praying for a Writ of Prohibition, challenging President Weah’s appointment of Kortu to her position as illegal and unconstitutional.

Kparkillen then argued that the President, consistent with democratic values, must be seen to preserve, protect, defend and faithfully execute the laws of the country, “and not to violate its provisions.”

Based upon that request, Justice–in-Chambers Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie mandated the parties to stay all proceedings and to return to status quo ante, pending yesterday’s deliberation on the matter.

At yesterday’s hearing of the writ of prohibition, Minister Dean conceded that President Weah’s appointment of Kortu as deputy director general was in violation of the act that created the NLA.

The Justice Minister’s admission suggests that Madam Effiong would retain her position as deputy director general at the NLA until the expiration of her two-year tenure, which ends on September 19, 2018.

And if she were to still gain the confidence of the board of directors, then she may likely be reappointed to that post.

Meanwhile, Justice Wolokolie on yesterday ruled that her stay order prohibiting Moses Owen Browne and Neved Kortu from assuming their posts remains in place indefinitely.

President Weah on June 19 this year appointed Moses Owen Browne, the former public relations officer at the Civil Service Agency (CSA), to replace Isaac W. Jackson at the IMO.

President Weah’s decision was, however, challenged by lawyers representing the two individuals, terming it as “an act of excessive abuse and overuse of presidential powers, which fundamentally violates Articles 54 and 89 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, as well as the statutory law of Liberia and the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Act of 2010.”

Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had, on September 13, 2016, appointed Jackson to the post of deputy commissioner and permanent representative to the IMO, the position that Browne has been nominated by President Weah to assume.

In their argument, Justice Minister Dean said that the position of permanent representative was not equivalent to that of deputy commissioner that carried a five-year tenure post under the 2010 Act of the Liberia Maritime Authority. Minister Dean further contended that President Weah was not in violation of the Act, having appointed Browne to the deputy commissioner position.

Lessons from LEITI

It can be recalled that President Weah, on March 5, announced former Montserrado County Lawmaker Gabriel Nyenkan as the new head of Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI), replacing Konah Karmo, who was appointed by the Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) of  that governs the LEITI. Karmo was appointed in 2014, following a competitive recruitment process in which several other individuals and institutions participated.

That appointment was greeted with mixed reactions, especially from Global Witness, an international watchdog that declared the removal of Mr. Karmo and his replacement by Nyekan as illegal and called for the withdrawal of Nyekan’s appointment.

The mandate of the NLI appointment, by law, is not very different from that of the law governing the LEITI. Director and deputies are appointed by a governing board; the governing board, being appointed by the President of Liberia.

Amid Nyenkan’s militaristic takeover of the position, there is no indication that Karmo or the MSG sought legal redress.

However, President Weah did not pay attention to that call and subsequently maintained Nyekan as LEITI Head of Secretariat.

The LEITI Act of 2009 requires the President to appoint members of the Multi Stakeholders Group (MSG), and “shall designate one of them as the Chairperson and another as the Co-Chairperson”.

“The power to recruit the Head of Secretariat, Deputy and other staff members of the LEITI Secretariat therefore lies with the MSG, which should comprise of members of the legislature, CSOs and the Executive,” according to Section 6.3 (d) of the Act.

Though Section 6.5 of the LEITI Act of 2009 ascribes the appointment of members of the MSG to the President, while Section 6.3 (d) grants the MSG the “power to recruit and dismiss the Head of Secretariat, Deputy and approve the recruitment of other staff members.”

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Who wrote this story? You need to quote the exact words of the Justice Minister or you have to use the word allege. This is bad reporting and should be called fake news.

  2. And they (DAILY OBSERVER) believe themselves too. The sovereign leader and head of government backed by the constitution would reverse HIS DECISION because a judge who was almost impeached, does not actually understand the jurisprudence of her own constitution.

    • Dortu – You’re so biased towards the government that you’re making a fool of yourself by making outlandish, illogical legal arguments that President Weah is a sovereign or whatever and he can do whatever he wants regardless of the law. The Justice Minister had no tenable legal argument but to conceive that President Weah violated the law and that lady at NLA gets to keep her job. You keep making a false argument that the president is sovereign as if he is some King. I’m not a lawyer but I have a better understanding of the law than you do, and you should be embarrassed my friend.

    • Dortu, That is why Liberia is in this mess. No regard for the law. You really to make somebody king instead of president. NOBODY is above the constitution. That is Liberians problem, no morals or integrity. The soverign head is also a citizen and is subject to the laws of the land or else chaos will reign. So try and learn something. So if a soverign head wants to sleep with your wife, you will let that head do it because he is soverign? Go learn something man, and try and know rules to govern our country. And why are so so new people appointed? Why not keep the old people who know the job? What kind of knowledge do these two hungry looking men have ?

  3. Whoever is giving legal advice to President Weah is doing him a disfavor. Mr. Jackson has opened a new chapter in Liberian jurisprudence that henceforth, citizens will take the President to court if he takes actions that violate their rights. Before, Liberians believed that the President was so powerful no one would dare challenge his illegal actions but not anymore. Like I’ve been saying…Liberians should sue their government if they believe the government’s actions violates the law. That’s what people do in America. All Dortu’s legal mumbo-jumbo arguments is just hyperbole.

    • I agree but most of the other Presidents were so powerful (they will use their law enforcement–> sorry vice enforcement to make sure you don’t challenge them). This one is a civilian one and has his hands tied somehow. Ellen was a separate case! You could say what you wanted, but at the end of the day , it had mostly had no bearing! And the lady was a mastermind, she will calm you down just by talking!

  4. Phil, while waste your time behind a fool like Dortu? From his utterances you can know who this little fellow is.

  5. Phil. You’ve touched on what I’ve addressed in detail in previous comments I provided on this issue. I congratulated Mr. Jackson for his action and suggested that it’ll set a precedent that courts will use going forward. This is a huge and dramatic event that most people have not come to grapple. It has in my opinion elevated jurisprudence in Liberia to a level where any lawyer can clearly see the Associate Justice helping to define the true Independence of the Courts. Justice Wolokollie, this action of yours may go down in history as the singular decision that finally helped Liberians understand the written and application of the Constitution and their rights over elected officials. Note that under the doctrine of stare decisis, this would apply to all actions of similar facts and circumstance by any government official from the president to the county superintendent, in any court with jurisdiction to hear such case. Thanks Mr Isaac Jackson. Thanks Mr. Karma. Thanks to Attorneys for the plaintiffs. To Dortu, I suggest that you perhaps have a well seasoned Attorney explain these legal concepts you appear to copy directly from law schools’ website without understanding the actual applicability of those concepts. I attempted to assist in that endeavor in my previous exchanges with you, but it appeared to have had no consideration. This should not be about a political party taking hold of governance, but the fundamental protection of the institutions of government intended to safeguard the nation’s democracy, against partisan bickering. That’s why civil servants are given protections to do their jobs, without regard to changes in the political positions. The President can still authorize Mr. Jackson in decision making, allowing him the discretion based on independent assessment of the facts
    He just can’t fire him without cause.

  6. Irrespective of the merits and demerits of the facts and circumstances in the cases above, one thing is very clear. That is President Weah”s commitment to the rule of law. Through out the campaign, then Candidate Weah not only told the people of Liberia but demonstrated by his immense patience during the long wait occasioned by the frivolous electoral challenges of the Unity and Liberty Parties, that he was in deed was committed to the rule of law. This conduct of the administration as expressed by the Minister of Justice(my former Professor) should give every Liberian hope that this administration led by President Weah do everything to enhance the rule of law. As the President always said “that is the law.”
    Thanks,
    Edwin N. Dennis

  7. CORRECTED AND REVISED VERSION
    Irrespective of the merits and demerits of the facts and circumstances in the cases above, one thing is very clear. That is President Weah’s commitment to the rule of law. Through out the campaign, then Candidate Weah not only told the people of Liberia but demonstrated by his immense patience during the long wait occasioned by the frivolous electoral challenges of the Unity and Liberty Parties, that he was in deed committed to the rule of law. This laudable conduct of the administration as expressed by the Minister of Justice(my former Professor) should give every Liberian hope that this administration led by President Weah will do everything to enhance the rule of law. As the President always says “that is the law.”
    Thanks,
    Edwin N. Dennis

  8. wikipedia def: Judicial independence is the concept that the judiciary needs to be kept away from the other branches of government. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government or from private or partisan interests.

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