Barely a month after the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor’s suspension of officers of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA), the Association has been slapped with a lawsuit purportedly emanating from the government of Liberia for alleged misapplication of funds. At this point it remains unclear from which agency of government this suit emanates or whether the suit against the LMA was filed by the State prosecutor’s office.
On review of records of Court proceedings, it becomes clear to all and sundry that Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor was grossly out of step when suspended officials of the LMA, pending an audit which she had ordered. It is not clear whether her decision to suspend LMA officials was based on the results of a GAC audit, however, since she apparently did not adduce any evidence in the form of audit reports before the lower Court to substantiate her claims.
More importantly, Vice President Howard Taylor lacked any standing in law to sue the LMA officials who were not appointed by her but were instead elected by their constituents and it is they to whom the LMA officials are accountable. The Vice President is a lawyer; accordingly, she should have known or been fully aware that she lacked standing except, of course, hers was a disguised attempt to illegally wrest control of the LMA. And the reason is clear — MONEY!
Without fear of contradiction, this newspaper can safely opine that no less than 5 billion Liberian dollars is generated annually from the collection of daily fees at the various market places in Metropolitan Monrovia. But despite possessing such enormous potential for domestic capital formation, the LMA has seemingly not been able to find its proper footing over the years of its existence.
And it is an open secret that LMA funds have over the years been more or less the “pepper bush” exclusive preserve of the Executive. Its political clout has been exploited by successive national leaderships mainly to drum up public support for the government of the day. Accountability has, however, been its bane and the current rigmarole only highlights and draws into perspective the politics of opportunism that have characterized past leaderships of the LMA and impeded its transformation into a viable economic machine and a key player involved in the creation of domestic capital.
By every measure of the law, this latest lawsuit appears tantamount to unsavory persecution of individuals who dared to challenge those officials attempting to abuse or flout the laws of the country. This is a course of action from which the Vice President should be encouraged to withdraw, for it holds no promise. The LMA is not an agency of government, neither is it a public corporation in which the state holds shares.
It is a corporate body existing under the laws of Liberia and its officials are elected by its membership and no where does the law provide for Executive oversight over a private entity as the Vice President mistakenly believes. And this is exactly what Supreme Court Chambers-Justice Yussif Kaba said in his ruiing:
“It is the opinion of this court that the proper course of action available to the aggrieved members of the LMA would have been to utilize the governing instrument, including relevant laws extant in this jurisdiction,” Justice Kaba indicated, adding that, “The trial court did not err when it ruled and ordered the reinstatement of the suspended officers with immediate effect.”
According to political observers, Justice Kaba’s ruling constituted a brisk slap to the face of the Vice President who appears to have a knack for controversy. It can be recalled that shortly after winning office, she had declared before a group of startled individuals who had assembled at her behest that it was their time to “eat”, whatever that meant but, to most people it, meant that they were now in charge of the national coffers with all rights to (eat) plunder.
Her remarks ignited a virtual firestorm that drew a scathing public response to her remarks. And not long after that she found herself virtually in President Weah’s crosshairs when local chiefs in Bong county conferred on her the self-acclaimed title of “Dakpannah”, a move which appeared to have infuriated President Weah and strained their relationship.
In all this, Vice President Taylor appears to have created the impression, at least to the supporters of President Weah, of a greedy power monger whose desire to attain the nation’s highest post by whatever means necessary appears manifest. And as if in reinforcement of this public impression of her, Vice President appears to have shrugged off the loss of her appeal to the Supreme Court and bounced back with another lawsuit traversing the same issues in what some legal analysts say could be a case bordering on “double jeopardy” but this time drawing in the state as a party to the suit.
But the same question arises again whether the state (Republic of Liberia) has any standing in law to demand or effect the removal from office of elected officials of a private organization against unproven allegations of theft, economic sabotage, misapplication etc levied by Vice President Taylor whose actions appear analogous to gross disrespect for the rule of law.
If the Vice President claims to have been on acting on behalf of aggrieved members of the LMA then she is grossly out of step because those on whose behalf she claims to have been acting are legally competent to sue the organization to seek redress.
In view of the above, it is the considered opinion of this newspaper that the Vice President’s actions as innocuous as they may appear, are not only dangerous with grave implications for the rule of law in Liberia, they are also distasteful, for they appear like a disguised and clever attempt to circumvent and bend the law to suit personal desires.
Her lawsuit against the LMA is therefore ONE STEP TOO FAR!