The rejection by the Senate of Austin Nwabuidike’s nomination to serve as Chairman of the National Elections Commission of Liberia, based on questionable and conflicting information he provided to that body concerning his nationality did not come as a surprise to the public. Not surprising also are the responses from lapdogs hiding behind aliases for fear of receiving lashes from the public.
But what is surprising is that President Weah has not seen it fit to remove him as Chairman of the LACC, despite Nwabudike’s woeful performance before the Senate which left no doubt in the minds of the public about his true nationality as a Nigerian. He lied under oath before the Senate about his nationality and his repeated attempts to interpret the law in a twisted fashion simply to justify his outright lies is revolting and it tends to cast aspersion on President Weah’s sense of judgement.
In previous editorials, the Daily Observer has cautioned President Weah to not allow himself to become a laughing stock amongst his colleagues, for the mere fact that he would appear to hold so much confidence in a Nigerian fraudster who, through tricks and artifice, managed earlier to finagle out of the Liberian Senate a vote of approval to confirm him in the post of chairman of LACC.
The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA), having become seized of the matter following his (Nwabudike) disgraceful showing before the Senate, launched an investigation in order to determine the veracity of Nwabudike’s claim to Liberian citizenship. In a show of gross disrespect to the institution and its leadership, he flouted every attempt by the Bar to get him to address its findings from the investigation.
Nwabudike had told senators that he had been naturalized in 1982 — at age 17, which is a blatant violation of Section 21.3 of the country’s Aliens and Nationality Law. Further, Section 21.3 of the law says no person can file a petition for naturalization before the age of 21.
Continuing his lying spree, Nwabudike declared, “when I had my declaration of intents, I was a minor and because of that, I was required to bring a parental consent and an adult to stand to take the oath behind me”. To the contrary, however, there is no where in the Constitution or in the laws of the Republic that provides for parents or adults to accompany minors applying for citizenship. In fact, the law forbids anyone below the age of 21 to apply for naturalization as a citizen of Liberia.
By Nwabudike’s statements, made under oath, he was implying that the Judiciary as well as the LNBA had endorsed his fraudulent claims to citizenship. But more to that, it raised serious doubts about the integrity of the procedures and processes used by those bodies to evaluate candidates for qualification and admission to the practice of law in Liberia.
But there are those pushing fatally flawed arguments that the action of the LNBA was illegal because the Supreme Court did not approve same. What they often fail to acknowledge is the fact that the Bar Association is the arm of court. Moreover, its leadership is elected by its entire membership and is not appointed by the Supreme Court. The LNBA operates under its own rules and regulations based on its Constitution and is accountable to its membership.
Accordingly, it has the right to decide on who to confer membership. And the first criteria for membership in the LNBA is Liberian citizenship, absent which membership cannot be conferred. Neither can the Supreme Court sua sponte confer membership of the Bar on any individual aspiring to practice law in Liberia, nor will the Courts tolerate or allow any lawyer to practice before it who is not in good standing with the LNBA.
This is because Courts by themselves cannot function without lawyers. However this unique relationship with the Bar does not mean that the LNBA usurps the power of the Supreme Court to disbar any lawyer from legal practice in the Republic. The power to disbar remains reposed in the Supreme Court; yet, at the same time, the Supreme Court cannot decide who can be admitted to membership in the Bar neither can it revoke the expulsion of any of its members, provided that lawyer or individual was granted due process under the law.
In the case at bar, it remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court can intervene on Nwabudike’s behalf to save his hide by reversing the decision of the Bar, although political interference by the Executive in bringing pressure to bear on the Judiciary cannot be ruled out. However, if it does, the Supreme Court could risk a boycott of the Courts by the Bar which could paralyze operations of the Judiciary.
But the question is, why risk a boycott for the good of a fraudster who could never ascend to such heights of political influence in his own country of birth and upbringing? Those lawyers espousing such flawed logic, questioning the Bar, are either making mischief or are ogling for a coveted post in government.
But nothing is strange here in this country’s political culture. Now, as like in the past, there are individuals seemingly always on the prowl, hustling for opportunities to amass cheap fortune, never losing an opportunity to steal and loot. And they come in many hues, lawyers, doctors, politicians etc. But the Liberian people are no fools because, by their fruits they shall be known, for in due season, comeuppance is certain.
The LNBA under the leadership of respected human rights lawyer, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, deserves commendation for its action taken to expel Nwabudike from its membership. He has now become what our people call “Government Bone”, meaning he belongs to everyone and no one. Let the government then decide what becomes of him. For our part it is “Good Riddance” to Nwabuidike and Bon Courage and Bravo to the LNBA.