Supreme Court role called into question
In an unprecedented move, the National Executive Council of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA), the highest decision-maker of that body of lawyers, on Friday, June 19 expelled the Executive Chairman of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Counselor Nbudusi Nwabudike, a Nigerian born who claims to have become a naturalized Liberian, for becoming a member of the bar through alleged fraudulent means. It is a well-settled common law principle that fraud vitiates everything.
Reading the bar’s expulsion decision, President Tiawan Gongloe said, “There is no record at Criminal Court ‘B’ to support his Liberian citizenship claim, therefore, the committee recommended that he should be expelled consistent with Article 11 Section IX of the Constitution of the Liberian National Bar Association.”
The article provides that: “Any member may, after inquiry, be disciplined by means of suspension or expulsion from the membership of the association for proven gross misconduct in his relations to the association or in his professional undertaking upon two-thirds votes of the membership of the National Executive Council.”
The controversy arose over Cllr. Nwabudike’s Liberian citizenship after he was nominated by President George Weah to serve as Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), where Nwabudike failed to convince members of the Senate of his citizenship, thereby causing the president Weah to withdraw his nomination, and keep him as executive chairman of the LACC, the position for which he was earlier confirmed by the Senate.
To that, Gongloe explained that the Grievance and Ethics Committee’s recommendation that Cllr. Nwabudike be expelled was approved by a vote of two-third members of the executive committee. “Hence he is hereby expelled from the membership of the LNBA. His name is hereby stricken from the roster of the membership of the LNBA.”
According to Gongloe, Cllr. Nwabudike’s expulsion decision will be shortly communicated to the President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and Chief Justice Francis Korkpor of the Supreme Court, as well as all courts throughout the Republic of Liberia.
Minutes after LNBA announced the expulsion of Mr. Nwabudike, a senior member of the bar, Cllr. Aamara Sheriff, described the decision as ‘illegal’ and that it undermines the earlier judgment (Opinon) of the Supreme Court conferring the counselorship of Nwabudike, which, according to Sheriff, solidified his citizenship.
“No one organization’s law is above the judgment of the Supreme Court,” Cllr. Sheriff claimed, “The court had declared Nwabudike citizenship. Who is the bar to revoke his admission as Counselor-At-Law?” Sheriff wondered.
“The bar cannot undo what the highest court had legally done and they cannot ask the court to withdraw its opinion,” Sheriff added.
“Nobody can interfere with the Supreme Court’s exercise of its constitutional powers, and from assuming any functions that are exclusively entrusted to it. It does not, however, allow the LNBA to review its opinion,” Sheriff noted.
However, Cllr. Gongloe said, the LNBA felt duty bound to investigate and find out what the truth is relative to Cllr. Nwabudike’s Liberian citizenship.
“As a professional body, the LNBA is under a duty at all times to constantly monitor and evaluate the moral and professional conduct of its members based on information acquired through complaints by individuals or through the public.
Gongloe said it was the very LNBA that recommended Cllr. Nwabudike to practice law before the Supreme Court for admission into the bar because he had passed relevant law tests of the country.
He boastfully said, the legal profession is unique among the professions in the country, because it is the only profession that is given protection by the Constitution in Article 21 (i) which provides that “There shall be absolute immunity from any government sanctions or interference in the performance of legal services as a Counsellor or Advocate.”
“Therefore, the LNBA is under a moral obligation to honor this protection provided by the constitution with the highest degree of integrity and credibility in order to prove to the people of Liberia that the legal profession is worthy of this unique protection. The LNBA could not ignore the issue of the citizenship status of one of its members, which information provided by him created doubt over the authenticity and veracity of his claim of Liberian citizenship,” Gongloe said.
Gongloe claimed that Nwabudike’s certificate of naturalization presented to the Senate showed that it was issued by Criminal Court ‘B’ at the Temple of Justice on May 13, 1982, when in fact that court was called the People’s Criminal Court ‘B’ during the regime of the People’s Redemption Council (PRC), thereby creating more doubt.
“Perusal of his various passports showed his birth dates as October 19, 1960, October 2, 1963, October 2, 1965 and October 2, 1969, and his 2004 Liberian passport carries his date of birth as October 2, 1963 and his name as A. Nkwuka Ndubuisi Nwabudike, instead of the name that appears on the roster of the LNBA and Supreme Court Bar, which is A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike. His Liberian national identification card carries his data of birth as Octobe 2, 1969 and his name as A. Ndubuisi Nkwuka Nwabudike three Ns.”
The LNBA boss also noted, “And, his application for marriage certificate dated January 22, 1992 filed by himself in handwriting carries his name as A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, his date of birth as October 19, 1960 and his nationality as Nigerian.”
According to Gongloe, there is no record at Criminal Court ‘B’ to support Nwabudike’s Liberian citizenship claim.
The questions remain as to whether or not the Supreme Court is prepared to reverse its earlier decision to grant Nwabudike’s counselorship, as well as whether President Weah is also prepared to let go of Nwabudike as Executive Chairman of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
Cllr. Nwabudike has repeatedly argued that he had not violated any provision of the code of professional ethics governing the conduct of lawyers.
Nwabudike also argues that his citizenship is given by the Government of Liberia and it is only the government that can challenge or revoke it. He also contended that the issue of citizenship is moot, since the issue was not raised when he was admitted as attorney-at-law and subsequently as counselor-at-law by the Supreme Court.
Prior to Nwabudike’s admittance to the Supreme Court as counsellor-a-law, the court by procedure must have inspected the records and thoroughly studied the report of its Grievance and Ethics Committee, and being satisfied that the said attorney (Nwabudike) had met all of the requirements to be accorded the privilege of being qualified as Counsellors-at-law, including (a) that he is a citizen of Liberia; (b) that he had graduated from a reputable and recognized law school, including the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia; (c) that he had been admitted into the practice of law in Liberia and had in fact practiced law within the Republic of Liberia for a period in excess of five (5) years; (d) that he is in good standing with the National and local bar associations; and (e) and that he is of good moral and ethical conduct.