-Over Constitutional Violation claims
Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, the justice presiding in the Supreme Court’s chamber on yesterday temporarily blocked President George Weah from appointing a new deputy commissioner and permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on grounds that his action constituted a constitutional violation.
According to the order from Justice Wolokolie, the temporary halt to Weah’s appointing power comes after a legal challenge from Isaac W. Jackson, presently serving in that position at the IMO in London, the United Kingdom.
Justice Wolokolie had ordered a hearing on the issue to take place at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10.
“You are hereby ordered to stay all further proceedings or action and return the parties to status quo ante, pending the outcome of the conference,” Wolokolie’s mandated indicated.
President Weah on June 19 of this year appointed Moses Owen Brown, the former public relations officer at the Civil Servant Agency (CSA) to replace Jackson at the IMO.
Weah’s action, the legal team of Jackson had challenged, terming it as “an act of excessive abuse and over use of presidential power which fundamentally violates Article 54 and 89 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, as well as the statutory law of Liberia.”
His lawyer Arthur Johnson argued that the Jackson’s alleged abrupt removal attempt by President Weah was unconstitutional and un-statutory as provided for in the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Act of 2010.
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on September 13, 2016 appointed Jackson to the position of deputy commissioner and permanent representative to the IMO.
And that appointment is a five year tenured position. Jackson contends that he has served in that position for one year and nine months, as of the date of filing of his request for a Writ of Prohibition that Justice Wolokolie accepted
It is being speculated that Liberia’s IMO seat in question will not become vacant until Jackson’s remaining three-years and three months come to an end.
It was due to that Jackson challenged President Weah’s legal authority to appoint a new deputy commissioner to fill a vacancy that did not exist during his tenure as deputy commissioner.
Since the lawsuit was based on constitutional mattesr, Justice Wolokolie will not be in the position to hear it alone, because the law provides for all of the five justices to decide a matter related to alleged constitutional violations.
As to whether or not the stay order on President Weah’s appointment will be lifted depends on Justice Wolokolie.
Interestingly, Section 7 (1) of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Act of 2010, Section 7 (4) captioned Tenure of the Commissioners and Deputy Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority Act, specifically states that “Tenure of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.
The commissioners and the deputy commissioners of Maritime Authority shall have tenure of five (5) years in order to ensure and preserve consistency in the leadership, maintain continuity of purpose, increase the capacity in the industry, and preserve, the national and international relevance and very competitive nature of the maritime program.
The tenure of the Commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be renewable for only an additional four-year period upon recommendation of the Board to the President for approval. No further renewal shall be permitted or allowed beyond nine years.”
Section 7 (7) also provides regarding suspension and Removal of the commissioners, “The commissioners shall be subjected to removal or suspension from the position by the President of Liberia on the recommendation of the Board for non-performance, for dishonestly, or any offense in violation of the Liberian criminal laws, or as a result of the outcome of a due process investigation, or a, showing of complete disregard for international treaties and conventions to which Liberia is a party, or on, grounds of verified physical, mental or administrative incapacity.
Any suspension or removal shall be without prejudice to any criminal sanctions, which may be imposed upon trial and conviction. Where the commissioner is removed or resigns his position, the board shall appoint one or more Deputy Commissioners to act as Commissioner pending the recommendation of a replacement by the Board with the approval of the President of Liberia.”
It can be recalled that President Weah, on March 5, announced former Montserrado County Lawmaker Gabriel Nyenkan as the new head of Secretariat, replacing Konah Karmo who was appointed by the Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) of Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) in 2014, following a competitive recruitment process in which several other individuals and institutions participated.
That appointment was greeted with mixed reaction especially from the Global Witness, an international watchdog that declared the removal of Mr. Karmo and his replacement by Nyekan as illegal and called for the withdrawal of Nyekan’s appointment.
However, President Weah did not pay attention to that call and subsequently maintained Nyekan as LEITI Head of Secretariat.”
The LEITI Act of 2009 requires the President to appoint members of the Multi Stakeholders Group (MSG), and “shall designate one of them as the Chairperson and another as the Co-Chairperson”.
“The power to recruit the Head of Secretariat, Deputy and other staff members of the LEITI Secretariat therefore lies with the MSG, which should comprise of members of the legislature, CSOs and the Executive,” according to Section 6.3d of the Act.
Though Section 6.5 of the LEITI Act of 2009 ascribes the appointment of members of the MSG to the President, Section 6.3(d) grants the MSG the “power to recruit and dismiss the Head of Secretariat, Deputy and approve the recruitment of other staff members”.