— Gets ultimatum to reinstate Martin S. Kollie at helm of National Lotteries Authority
The Constitution of Liberia provides for three separate, coordinate but equal branches of government, Executive, Legislative and Judiciary as part of a system of check and balance.
Since time immemorial, however the Executive branch of government has dominated the remaining two branches of government but, in recent times, this domination by the Executive has come under intense public scrutiny with increasing calls for constitutional reform in order to curtail the excesses associated with what is referred to as an Imperial Presidency.
There are on record, many examples of Executive interference with the judiciary. History recalls for example the action taken by President Tubman ordering the Supreme Court to put a halt to proceedings in a case involving a Lebanese national and the Swedish-based LM Ericson company, a telecommunications outfit at the time working with the then Liberia Telecommunications Company.
In yet another instance, a top-ranking officer serving under President Charles Taylor tore up a Supreme writ and assaulted Court officers who had gone to serve a Court precept.
Since President George Weah took office in 2018 as President, his administration has been dogged with accusations of constitutional violations evidenced by the appointment of some public officials to various tenured posts, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (LEITI), etc.
According to critics, it appeared that his first goal on his assumption of office was to weaken tenured associated with certain posts which the legislature enacted into law.
Observers say the specific issue that may likely provoke his anger is the Monday, August 5, decision of four of the five justices of the Supreme Court, ordering the President to reinstate Martin S. Kollie, who he suspended as managing director of the National Lottery Authority (NLA) in apparent violation of the Act that established the institution.
The unanswered question remains whether President Weah will comply with the High Court’s decision, ordering him to reinstate Mr. Kollie.
Kollie’s troubles with President Weah started in 2018, few months after the President was inaugurated.
Ignoring the Act that created the NLA, President Weah went ahead to make appointment at that entity although, the act provides a four-year tenure for the managing director, out of which Mr. Kollie had over two years left to the expiration of his tenure at the NLA, when the President announced his replacement.
Section 8.1 (b) of the Act establishing the NLA provides that “The Director General of the NLA shall hold office for an initial period of four years, but may be reappointed for another four years and no more, notwithstanding, the director general may resign his post by notice in writing addressed to the President of Liberia through the Board of Directors may be removed by the President for inability to discharge the functions of his office whether arising from infirmity of mind or any cause or for proved misconduct.”
It was based on that provision that Kollie mounted legal challenges to his replacement, which may have led President Weah to suspend him for time indefinite for what was called “acts of impropriety.”
At the time, President Weah had maintained that Kollie would remain suspended pending the outcome of a full-scale investigation for the alleged acts.
Thereafter, the President appointed the NLA Deputy Managing Director for Operations, Nevad Kortu, to act as managing director until further notice.
But Kortu’s appointment was also greeted with protest from Agnes Effiong, who had been replaced on grounds that the position was a tenured one, out of which Effiong had few months to the expiration of her tenured post, when President Weah appointed Kortu.
In furtherance to his action, President Weah then ordered Kollie to turn over all government properties in his possession, and cooperate with the investigation.
However, the Supreme Court says the law created by the legislature to provide tenure for the director general of the NLA is not in violation of the power granted the presidency under Article 56 (a) of the 1986 Constitution to appoint and dismiss at his pleasure, officials of government appointed by the President.
The High Court: “This court sees no reason to declare the said Act unconstitutional as the Minister of Justice/Attorney General has urged us to do”, and in consequence thereof ordered President Weah to reinstate the suspended Mr. Kollie, a decision which some legal experts fear the President may never accept.
The legal experts have based their assertion on the case of Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Attorney Isaac Jackson and the government, in which case the Supreme Court, speaking through Chief Justice Korkpor instructed then Solicitor-General, Daku Mulbah to ensure the renewal of the diplomatic passports of Atty. Jackson and his family, who currently reside in London, United Kingdom (UK).
Justice Korkpor had ordered then Solicitor General, Mulbah to work out all legal formalities that would ensure the renewal of the diplomatic passports of Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Atty. Isaac Jackson and his family.
Up to present, there is no record to establish that Jackson and his family have been issued passports to facilitate their movement.
Atty. Jackson was appointed to the position by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2016. He argues that the statute that established the Liberia Maritime Authority, under which he serves, gives him a five-year tenure, terming Pres. Weah’s decision to replace him as erroneous.
Another case suggestive of President Weah’s disrespect for the Constitution, according to critics, was his appointment of former Montserrado County representative, Gabriel Nyenkan as the head of the Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI).
Gabriel Nyenkan’s appointment as the head of the Secretariat was greeted by a barrage of criticisms from civil society groups, the Liberia Human Rights Commission and international anti-graft agency, Global Witness. He replaced Konah Karmo, who was appointed by the Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) of the LEITI in 2014, following the proper protocol for appointment to that position by law.