The prospect of Lofa County getting its preferred senator is growing increasingly far from becoming a reality because of the decision by Justice Joseph Nagbe, the chamber justice of the Supreme Court, to place a stay order on the National Elections Commission (NEC) from certificating Senator-elect J. Brownie Samukai.
Justice Nagbe’s action stemmed from his decision to agree with the opposition political party the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) to issue a Writ of Prohibition against the electoral body from proceedings with Samukai’s certification, unless Samukai served his conviction and subsequently restitute the US$1,147,656.35 misapplied from the pension account of the soliders of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
Though Justice Nagbe was part of the five justices of the Supreme Court that agreed for Samukai to pay half of the monies within a period of six months, which Samukai has started paying the monies to the Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice that found him and two others guilty of misapplying the soldiers’ pension money, the Associate Justice had chosen to ignore that decision and is now siding with the MPC.
In his decision that can be reviewed by the four other justices, Nagbe claimed that the statutory law on disqualification or forfeiture, as contained in the penal code and the Constitution,are intended to punish crime so committed.
“In this case, the law provides specifically in section 50.12 and Article 21 (I) that Samukai must forfeit the holding of a public office until the sentenced is fully satisfied; that is, the full amount of the over US$1 million, is fully restituted,” Justice Nagbe decided, contradicting of his previous Supreme Court judgment.
“It is my holding that the petition for the Writ of Prohibition has been properly applied for in the consideration of the law controlling. The petition should be and same is hereby granted,” Nagbe ruled.
Justifying his action, Justice Nagbe claimed that if the NEC were to proceed to certificate Samukai as Senator-elect for Lofa County, he, Samukai, would be seated as Senator, who was convicted by the court, and which conviction had imposed upon him a disability that can be removed by serving the sentence and fully satisfying the penalty, or a suspended sentence.
Justice Nagbe, however, supported the suspended sentence of Samukai, he argued that operation of law does not vitiate the crime so committed.
It can be recalled that on Monday, February 8 of this year, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by a lower court which found Samukai, his deputy Joseph P. Johnson and Mr. James Nyumah Dorkor, for the unauthorized spending of soldiers’ pension money.
They were given suspended jail sentences by the Criminal Court “C” last year, on grounds that they sould restitute the full amount of US$1.147,656 over a period of time or face two years jail sentence.
Samukai and others took an appeal at the Supreme Court and while the case was pending, he contested and won the December 8, 2020, special senatorial election in Lofa County. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court denied his appeal and subsequently requested that Samukai must pay a portion of the monies within a period of six months.
By then the MPC argued that Justice Nagbe should issue the alternative Writ of Prohibition and order the electoral body not to certificate Samukai as the winner of the December 8 Special Senatorial Election in Lofa County.
Their argument was based on the Law of Liberia prohibiting any citizen from enjoying their rights as provided for under the Constitution for the commission and subsequent conviction of any infamous crimes.