Eugene Len Nagbe, chief scribe of the ruling Unity Party (UP), yesterday refuted claims by a radio station in Monrovia that the party is among those demanding the resignation of Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Cllr. Korkoya is suspected of being an American citizen, a claim he is yet to deny, although he insists that he is “a Liberian”. He has not out-rightly denied owning an American passport.
Yesterday, Truth FM 96.1 reported that the ongoing Korkoya passport saga was masterminded by the UP, a report the Information Minister has denied.
Nagbe told state radio ELBC that the call attributed to the UP for the resignation of Cllr. Korkoya is “untrue and that any such (demand) will be done officially, not by speculations as it has been reported in some quarters, because we don’t make hidden statements especially on issues that have the propensity to bring the party to public disrepute.”
Meanwhile, the NEC chair has in the wake of demands for his resignation called on those questioning his Liberian nationality to seek redress in court.
Korkoya said he is and remains “a Liberian,” adding, “Anyone holding contrary views should go to the court and present their evidence.”
Since the reports emerged of Korkoya holding passports from Liberia and the United States, thus making it, according to Liberian law, illegal for him to hold the position of NEC chair, he has continued to say he is a Liberian.
In what could have been termed as an official response on Wednesday, Joseph Nyesuah, acting director of communications at the NEC, issued a five-paragraph statement that dodged the question, and only briefly said, “Chairman Korkoya affirms he is a Liberian citizen.”
Raising more questions than answers, Nyesuah’s brief statement quoted Chairman Korkoya as saying that “The ongoing smear campaign is false, misleading, and an attempt to distract the Commission from carrying out its constitutional mandate of conducting free, fair, and transparent elections.”
Korkoya has constantly vowed to ensure that the controversial Code of Conduct, upheld by the Supreme Court, is held to the letter. What instigates the argument about Korkoya’s alleged possession of a foreign passport is his own refusal to state emphatically that he is indeed not a U.S. citizen.
Nyesuah’s release quoted Chairman Korkoya, assuring the Liberian public that the NEC is committed to ensuring that electoral democracy under his watch is protected.
Perhaps, evading the ‘real’ issue may seem the easiest route to take, but many Liberians interviewed for this story in recent days indicated that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf should ensure that “every” Liberian is treated fairly under the laws of the land.
“Korkoya must not tell us he will ensure that the Code of Conduct is upheld when he has questions about his loyalty to the nation,” a female student of the University of Liberia, majoring in economics, said.
“Korkoya cannot throw dust into our eyes,” another student said. “If others may not be able to contest the elections because of the controversial Code of Conduct, then of course, those who hold two passports should also not be allowed to take charge of the process.”
Nyesuah’s release quoted Cllr. Korkoya calling on the public to support the NEC in achieving its mandate of delivering credible elections in October.
“Finally, the Commission assures the people of Liberia and all stakeholders and partners of its commitment to scrupulously uphold the Constitution, elections and other statutory laws, including the Code of Conduct,” the NEC release said.
It may be recalled that several dailies including the Daily Observer last week carried stories revealing dates of issuance and expiration of Cllr. Korkoya’s alleged American and Liberian passports which, if confirmed, violates the Liberian Constitution.
Human rights lawyer Tiawan Gongloe in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) Daybreak Africa Program yesterday quoted Section 2.3 of the Elections Laws of Liberia which says “Every Commissioner shall be a Liberian citizen…” and added that if it is established that Cllr. Korkoya holds two passports, “then of course he may have committed perjury for lying during his confirmation hearing at the Legislature.”
Korkoya’s challenge was contained in an ELBC interview yesterday via mobile phone.
“I cannot comment on stories emerging from social media…I am so vexed with some of the comments coming from lawyers. I am not obligated to anyone because I am a Liberian,” he insisted.