Following Supreme Court’s ruling
Even though it is not clear or cannot easily be predicted where else this case can go to revert the high court’s ruling, the former chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and political leader of the All Liberian Party (ALP), Benoni Urey, is defending former Defense Minister and Lofa County Senator-elect, Brownie Samukai, that the Armed Forces of Liberia’s pension money for which he (Samukai) is charged to pay was ordered used by the former Commander-in-Chief of the AFL, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Early this week the Supreme Court, the highest court and final arbiter of justice, ruled in the case between the Government of Liberia and former Minister Samukai by upholding the ruling by Criminal Court ‘C’ last year that Mr. Samukai should restitute over US$1,147,656.35 used from the AFL pension money that Samukai says was used on the orders of his boss, former President Sirleaf. The Supreme Court went further to warn Samukai that if 50% of the said amount cannot be paid in six months, he would be incarcerated until full payment is made.
Reacting for the first time on behalf of the victorious CPP’s Senator-elect, Mr. Urey explained on the Costa Show online platform that “This was not money someone personally took to use for his personal interest but on the order of his boss, the former President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to facilitate the deployment of a peacekeeping contingent to Mali and that the former Defense Minister should not be held liable for an action ordered by his superior who is also the Commander-in-Chief.”
Mr. Urey explained further that the money in question came when former President Sirleaf made a commitment to member states of the regional grouping, ECOWAS, that Liberia, having enjoyed the peacekeeping gesture of other countries, would participate in peacekeeping missions by contributing a contingent in Mali. The CPP chairman emeritus and ALP political leader said after making this commitment during the ECOWAS meeting in Monrovia in 2017, former President Sirleaf acknowledged that the government did not have money to facilitate the venture, and therefore Minister Samukai should withdraw the amount used from the AFL pension scheme to use so that it can be reimbursed later.
According to Mr. Urey, President Sirleaf duly informed current President George Weah about the transaction, and he consented that his administration would pay the money.
He then wondered why will these pieces of information not contested by the two heads-of-state be provided and yet the Supreme Court will pass a guilty verdict against Senator-elect Samukai for an action that did not benefit him directly, stressing, “Is it because he belongs to the CPP and has won the Lofa senatorial seat?”
The Supreme Court’s ruling came shortly after the National Elections Commission (NEC) had finally declared Mr. Samukai one of the winning candidates in the December 8 Special Senatorial Election following the hearing of some electoral disputes brought out by his (Samukai) main rival, Joseph Jallah.
Since the verdict, different reactions for and against the Supreme Court’s ruling have emerged. In one quarter, those in favor of the verdict claim that the step is a great one against corruption and misuse of public funds. At the same time, others like ALP political leader Urey feel that it is a clever way of demeaning and strangulating Brownie Samukai because he won the senatorial seat on an opposition ticket. Many radio callers and social media users contend that Mr. Samukai acted on the orders of his boss and former Commander-in-Chief.
Still, others are of the view that the government is partial in its approach to “Fighting corruption” because Montserrado County District #15 Representative Abu Kamara allegedly misappropriated public funds at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication, but has not been prosecuted by the government.