The plenary of the Senate through a unanimous vote yesterday mandated its Committees on Autonomous Commission and Agencies, and Judiciary to investigate persisting reports that Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), holds an American passport, making him a citizen of that country.
The decision was taken during the Senate’s first sitting after returning from a two-week Easter break.
The Senators’ decision yesterday came after a lengthy debate on if the first branch of the government has the constitutional right to intervene in a matter that lies within the purview of the third, the Judiciary Branch.
The debate was prompted by a communication from Lofa County Senator George Tengbeh in which he requested the Senate’s plenary to mandate its committees to thoroughly investigate the allegation and all matters relating to the NEC, including the current status of the Commission, and the total number of registered voters for the upcoming elections.
“As we may all know, the October elections are drawing closer each day. Therefore, it is expedient to know the challenges facing the Commission for our intervention where necessary in order to have peaceful, fair and transparent elections,” Senator Tengbeh noted.
Sen. Tengbeh chairs the Senate Committee on Rules, Order and Administration. He recalled that during his confirmation hearing, Chairman Korkoya denied being a holder of any other passport besides his Liberian passport, under oath.
“In the wake of such allegations by some citizens that Chairman Korkoya is an American citizen, it is prudent that this Senate performs its oversight duties and inform its citizens,” Tengbeh said.
He reminded his colleagues that the Executive Branch of government nominates, for which the Senate is mandated to conduct confirmation hearings.
“If one of those whom we confirmed is alleged to be what he denied before us that he was not, the right thing to do is cite him to ascertain whether he maintains what he told us under oath,” Tengbeh said.
Meanwhile, Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson (PYJ) told plenary that those who have a problem with Cllr. Korkoya have pieces of evidence that will soon be presented to the court, although he did not elaborate.
For his part, Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay, like his colleague from Bong County, argued that the Senate must not be seen doing the work of the courts that have the right to validate or void citizenship.
Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, however, challenged her colleagues that the issue about dual citizenship, which is before the Legislature, is a serious matter that needs to be handled now.
She said the issue will put to rest ongoing debates on the issue.
“Either the Executive investigates, or those who have evidence against Korkoya go to court. It is criminal if proven that he lied under oath to the Senate. The Senate cannot take the responsibility of the third branch of government. This matter does not belong here,” added Maryland County Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown.
Meanwhile, the two committees are requested to report to plenary within two weeks.