The President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, was concise and unflinching in reaffirming his organization’s position that all member lawyers refrain from commenting on any matter having to do with the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) whose head, Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, was expelled from the Bar.
Following President’s Annual Address to the joint session of the 54th Legislature on Monday, January 25, the Daily Observer had contacted Cllr. Gongloe to hear his thoughts on President Weah’s push for legal reforms to strengthen the fight against corruption by empowering the LACC. It was supposed to be a simple call — and yes, a simple but loaded answer we got.
“The only thing I can say to you is that with Nwabudike still in charge of LACC, every effort, including Legislations to fight against corruption only helps to further undermine the process rather than doing good,” Cllr. Gongloe told the Daily Observer via telephone.
At the helm of the LACC, Nwabudike has been pushing for legal reforms to strengthen the LACC to independently investigate and prosecute government officials caught in acts of corruption. But the LNBA has consistently frowned upon President Weah’s choice of Nwabudike as the man for the job. Among reasons, the Bar cites findings of its own investigation of reports that Nwabudike, a Nigerian by birth, illegally obtained Liberian citizenship and is now operating in the echelons of the legal profession in Liberia.
Earlier, at the Senate, during the confirmation hearing following President Weah’s nomination of Nwabudike to head the National Elections Commission, some Senators revealed evidence that Nwabudike had several different passports with different dates of birth.
The Senate refused to confirm him to the NEC. Later, the LNBA, the umbrella institution for lawyers, noted that the controversial LACC boss, who once served as the Bar’s Secretary-General, also expelled him for lying under oath that he obtained Liberian citizenship by naturalization, even though he failed to produce any legal records to authenticate his claim.
In spite of these glaring discrepancies on the part of Nwabudike, President George Manneh Weah has continued to exert his brazen allegiance to Nwabudike, maintaining him at one of the potentially most powerful integrity institutions in the country, the LACC. And it appears Nwabudike might be sitting pretty, though apparently not for long.
On the legal front, Nwabudike went to the Supreme Court and filed a complaint against the LNBA for allegedly expelling him “Wrongfully,” but the Supreme Court is yet to make public the report of grievance and ethics committee concerning the matter.
On the political front the Senate, which is now controlled by the opposition and like-minded independents, are gearing up to finish what they started — to ensure that Nwabudike is completely ousted from government.
But President Weah appears unfazed, having called on the 54th Legislature to pass into law a Bill seeking the Whistle-Blower and Witness Protection Act in order to help fight corruption in the country. The President’s request, if considered by the Legislature, will support the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s (LACC) plea for more Constitutional powers to prosecute corruption cases, even if the Ministry of Justice is not involved.
In his fourth annual address on the state of the nation, Weah said the bill, if passed into law, will also lead to the establishment of Criminal Court “F” in order to fast-track the prosecution of corruption cases.
In addition to the Whistle Blower and Witness Protection Bill, President Weah called on the 54th Legislature to pass the “The Anti-Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, Preventive Measures and Proceeds of Crime Act of 2019.”
And while these suggestions of reform in favor of the anti-corruption effort may appear appealing, pundits find it rather appalling that the President would, against ethical and professional advice, undermining the very fight against corruption by his preference of an individual who has been found anything but ethical to champion the cause of integrity.
Nwabudike enrolled at the Louis Arthur School of Law as a Liberian citizen, gaining all the privileges and rights like any other Liberian, graduated and subsequently began practicing Law at the disadvantage of the same Law all Lawyers are called to defend.
However, during Nwabudike’s confirmation hearing for the NEC position, the Senate also learned that he applied for naturalization below the legal age of doing so, as prescribed in the Liberian Constitution, which nullifies his claim to citizenship. According to Liberian law, only Liberian citizens are permitted to practice law in Liberia.