Counselor Jerome George Korkoya, chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), has opted for the suit against him at the Civil Law Court in Monrovia to be heard either by the office of the Ombudsman or the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
Korkoya’s argument came weeks after the National Democratic Coalition (NDC), an opposition political party, and Concerned Citizens to Protect the Constitution led by Miatta Fahnbulleh, sued him at the Civil Law Court to disprove allegations about his alleged Liberian and American passports respectively.
The NEC chair’s argument was contained in his reply to the court suggesting that the court desists from handling the matter.
Counselors Tiawan Saye Gongloe and Laveli Supuwood filed the lawsuit on behalf of Fahnbulleh and the NDC, against Korkoya.
Denouncing the court’s authority over the matter, Korkoya’s lead lawyer Cllr. Cooper Kruah challenged the legality of the court to assume jurisdiction over the case on grounds that the allegations are based on “criminality,” which the court cannot hear.
The two entities claimed that Korkoya had violated the Alien and Nationality Law, perjured himself before the Senate, and obtaining a diplomatic passport through fraudulent means.
Korkoya argued further that the same are allegations of criminal activities, which the MOJ has the legal standing to handle.
His lawyer further alleged that the enforcement of the public laws of Liberia lies solely with the Executive Branch of Government, and that Section 22.2 (b) of the Executive Law specifically empowers the MOJ to institute all legal proceedings necessary for law enforcement.
The document also claimed that the office of the Ombudsman has the jurisdiction to hear complaints concerning violation of the national Code of Conduct.
“If they believed that Korkoya violated the Code of Conduct, then it is the Ombudsman that is responsible to decide the matter, not the Civil Law Court,” Cllr. Kruah argued.
He said if the two groups claimed that Korkoya had violated the country’s Labor Laws, then, the Civil Law Court also lacks jurisdiction to hear that allegation, because cases concerning the violation of the Labor Laws lie with the Ministry of Labor, “and any appeal from there should be addressed by the Labor Court.”
Regarding the Fahnbulleh and NDC lawsuit, Korkoya claimed that the two groups also lack the legal strength and moral grounds to prosecute him.
“NDC is not a legally and constitutionally registered political party operating under the laws and Constitution of Liberia, because the same Civil Law Court on October 7, 2016, de-certificated the party,” Korkoya‘s reply alleges.
The court’s decision, Cllr. Kruah claimed, was due to NEC’s February 10, 2014 request filed to that court for revoking of the registration and accreditation of the party, on which the court had acted.
“This means that NDC no longer exist as a legal political party to bring action against the NEC before any court in the country,” the lawyer claims.
The lawsuit against Korkoya alleges that he voluntarily and without duress on December 21, 2007, renounced his duty of allegiance to Liberia and assumed citizenship of the United States of America, and “thereby obtained a US Passport number 467078002, dated March 16, 2010, and thereby renounced his Liberian citizenship in keeping with section 22.1 of the Alien and Nationality Law.”
“His naturalization certificate number is 30628201 and his voter identification number is 150326754,” the suit alleged.
The suit also claimed that Korkoya has grossly violated the tenets of the Code of Conduct in its entirety, particularly, “section 4.3 to exhibit good conduct at all times, both at work and off duty… He or she shall be honest, faithful and just, and shall not act in a manner against the honor or dignity of the public service.”
They again alleged that Korkoya’s conduct as outlined, “falls far short of the honor and dignity contemplated by the Code of Conduct when he deceived the Senate to secure confirmation in violation of the oath that he took to say the truth and nothing but the truth,” adding, “A demonstration of such a character is less than what Liberians expect of their public servants.”
“That by hiding the truth about himself through tricks and artifice, Korkoya did fraudulently succeed in obtaining a confirmation of the Senate to serve as chairman of the NEC, “the petition further alleged, adding “Consequently, Korkoya knowingly, conscientiously and falsely took the oaths of affirmation pursuant to article 97 schedule 1 and 2 of the Constitution.”
The court document claimed that as a foreigner, “Korkoya is not allowed to work in this country without a proper work permit.”