Several lawmakers in favor of Speaker Alex Tyler not to recuse himself from presiding over legislative activities at the House yesterday left the Temple of Justice frustrated after the Supreme Court reserved their request.
Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie, Presiding Justice in Chambers, came down with the court’s decision to reserve Tyler’s request after she listened attentively to lawyers of both Tyler and his rival deputy, Hans Barchue, for reasons why she should accept their respective arguments.
Tyler’s lawyers had earlier complained to the Supreme Court to issue a “Writ of Prohibition” to allow Tyler to preside over the House and prevent the lawmakers who are demanding his recusal, from holding a separate session.
Explaining yesterday’s gathering to the parties, Justice Wolokollie said it was only intended for her to hear the parties’ arguments, stressing, “It is a conference and not to make a determination as to whether not to issue the writ; and, so, we are going to look into your arguments to make a decision.”
With this pronouncement, it means that the Tyler and Barchue parties can expect to continue in separate sessions until Justice Wolokollie can decide what should be done next.
And it is not clear when she will make her determination on the matter because the lawmakers have up to Thursday to go for their annual Agriculture (constituency) Break.
After Justice Wolokollie’s decision, Barchue and his colleagues were seen in a joyous mood, while those from the Tyler camp stood in front of the Temple of Justice discussing among themselves.
Speaker Tyler did not attend yesterday’s deliberation.
Justifying Barchue’s action for Tyler’s recusal, Cllr. Arthur Johnson explained that his clients are not protesting for Tyler to be removed from his post as Speaker. They are doing it to keep the integrity of the House of Representatives in the midst of his (Tyler’s) indictment as a result of the Global Witness bribery allegations, he said.
“His prosecution brings the integrity of the House to public disrepute, because for a sitting Speaker to sit in court as a criminal defendant sends a wrong message to our international partners,” Cllr. Johnson said. “It would be better if she turns down Tyler’s request and allow him to concentrate on his criminal case, which would be good for himself.”
According to Cllr. Johnson, his clients acted in line with the rules of the National Legislature, as opposed to Tyler’s lawyer, Cllr. Johnny Momoh, who argued that those demanding Tyler’s recusal did so in violation of the Constitution.
Cllr. Momoh argued that there is no provision in the 1986 Constitution that calls for people to ask their elected officials to recuse themselves from presiding over any matter. “That decision is left with the individuals to voluntarily make; and not for people to ask him or her to recuse, like in the case of Tyler,” Cllr. Momoh explained. He added that the demand for Speaker Tyler’s recusal is in violation of the laws of the land, thereby pleading with Justice Wolokollie to issue the request.
“There is no provision under the Constitution and Rules of the House of Representatives providing for recusal of an elected officer of the House of Representatives,” he said. “What the Constitution and the Rules of the House of Representatives provide for is removal of officers or expulsion of members of the House of Representatives.”
“If they want to remove Speaker Tyler, there should be a cause, but they have not established any reason for that. Even if they were to do so, they should obtain two thirds majority, as it is called for by the Constitution,” Cllr. Momoh said in his argument.
Tyler was indicted for allegedly receiving over US$70,000 to help change a provision in the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) Law in favor of Sable Mining Company, a UK based company that eyed an iron ore concession deal for the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County. It is based on said indictment that some of his colleagues are pushing for Tyler to recuse himself, pending the outcome of the matter.