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.”