That the rule of law in Liberia is in crisis goes without question. Courts of law which should be dispensers of cool and unadulterated justice, are plagued with corruption with reports of judges and judicial officials receiving bribes. Lawyers are also not exempt from accusations of unethical behavior as well.
Further down the line, the criminal justice system is weak and corruption prone. Reports of unethical behavior and human rights abuses by Police and security officers are widespread. Too often the Police have been accused of displaying blatant partisan bias in the enforcement of the law.
This has led to marked decreased public confidence in the Police and there are very little signs that this situation may change anytime soon. Rising incidents of mob justice and the increasing rate of violent crimes are clear signs of trouble suggesting a lack of public trust in the Police.
On the other hand, our Legislators, from all appearances have, in the past and now, been prime contributors to the erosion of the rule of law in Liberia. In some instances, it would appear as though our legislators are involved in criminal conspiracies directly against the public interest.
Under this government the passage into law, for instance of the so-called Eton Finance PTE and the EBOMAF SA loan agreements, which have all fizzled out, which strongly lends credence to public speculations at the time that the loans were indeed bogus, is one case in point.
Another is that of the US$300 million Hummingbird Concession Agreement in which Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie is a shareholder in this fly-by-night company. It can be recalled that this individual once served as a junior Cabinet Minister at the Ministry of Lands Mines and Energy but was dismissed by President Sirleaf allegedly for inappropriate and unethical behavior.
There was little or no due diligence done on Hummingbird and sources have told this newspaper that legislators were each rewarded (allegedly) with brown envelopes containing thousands of US dollars. The Hummingbird Concession agreement grants exclusive exploration and exploitation rights to the entire mineral-rich southeast Liberia.
This area contains rich and extensive deposits of highly prized minerals like gold, uranium, bauxite, iron ore and coltan, etc. But lest we forget, legislators also signed into law 64 concession agreements which did not meet transparency benchmarks. The agreements were signed during the reign of President Ellen Sirleaf.
And in several instances, legislators have conducted themselves in ways outside the pale of law and with impunity. One of such instances was that involving the proprietor of a local sports bar on 9th Street who according to media reports, quoting eyewitness accounts as well as accounts provided by the victim himself, was physically assaulted and brutalized by thugs acting on the orders of Representative Acarous Gray.
Other instances including the manipulation of the approved budget involving unauthorized and illegal redirection of funds to private individuals including Representative, now Nimba County senator-elect Jeremiah Koung and House Speaker Bhofal Chambers. And from all indications, legislators have gone with impunity for their actions.
Perhaps this is what has now emboldened our Legislators to pass a law granting them the right to drive their vehicles in the opposite lane to get to wherever destination including going to sessions. But as all are aware, driving in the opposite lane is dangerous and poses immense and undue risks to public safety.
Legislators must remember that they were elected to serve and not to be served. This means that they should subordinate their personal desires, whims and caprices to the national interest. They ought to lead by the force of their examples and not by the force of their power.
Traffic laws are put into place with the intention to protect the interests of the public and that includes legislators and the public alike. Just why would legislators place themselves above the law is the annoying question haunting the minds of the public.
Lawmakers, like everyone else living outside Central Monrovia, know that commuting by vehicle to Monrovia daily and on time means that one has to start off as early as 6:00 a.m. or else risk getting caught in the morning traffic snarl in which vehicles crawl along at virtual snail-pace.
But rather than awaking early, they spend the time sleeping and, by the time they hit the road, the traffic is already caught in a snarl. And instead of crawling like the rest, they simply drive over into the opposite lane and most times at neck-breaking speed. And as they do so, other drivers also follow suit driving in the opposite lane.
This unwholesome practice has become more or less routine as it appears nothing can be or is being done to bring this practice under control. And as if to make matters worse, lawmakers are seeking to grant themselves the legal authority to drive in the opposite lane and create risks that endanger public safety simply to satisfy their personal whims and caprices.
Questions are being asked just how will legislators be able to drive in the opposite lane on the Freeport-Gardnersville to Red Light road upon completion of construction? This is a new four-lane road separated by barriers that severely restricts vehicle access to the opposite lane so it remains to be seen how it will be done.
But Liberians should not take this threat to public safety lying down. They should raise their voices against it. At the same time legislators should reflect deeply and consider that lawless behavior, whether cloaked under legal authority, not only invites but provokes lawless responses.
The recent storming of the LACC offices and subsequent sacking of its offices and driving out Nigerian fraudster Ndubuisi Nwabudike should be considered instructive. If it happened to Peter, it could happen to Paul as well and they should be so warned. The law or proposed law granting legislators the right to drive in the opposite lane is obnoxious, self-seeking and should be rejected or repealed forthwith. They should remember that the Liberian people are watching, just as they once watched Nwabudike.