By George Lomax
The spuriousness in the argument proffered by the LNBA is so glaring and its inherent politics so unambiguously partisan.
The LNBA’s investigation started in the media with a press conference long before Cllr. Nwabudike was notified of an attempt to investigate his citizenship. It also ended in the media with a press conference without the benefit of LNBA communicating its finding to Cllr. Nwabudike. The LNBA’s only letter to Cllr. Nwabudike of April 4, 2020, invited him to appear before the Bar’s Grievance and Ethics Committee and prove himself innocent of the allegation of his failure to satisfactorily prove his Citizenship to the Honorable Senators during his confirmation hearing for the chairmanship of NEC. So the Bar has found Cllr. Nwabudike guilty from the outset and then invited him to prove himself innocent!!
Let it be clear from the outset about whom the LNBA personalities are. Cllr Tiawon Gongloe (President of the LNBA) is the lead lawyer for the council of patriots (CoP) and by extension the CPP (the most vociferous and violent opposition grouping to the government of President George Manneh Weah; and Bobby Livingston (secretary General of the LNBA) is lawyer for Alternative National Congress (ANC/CPP). This is the political block that publicly vowed to thwart the confirmation of Cllr Nwabudike as Chairman of the NEC. Bobby Livingstone is the man whose name has enter the lexicon of Liberia’s Cliché because of his infamous role in the falsification of elections results during the Chairmanship of James Fromoyan at NEC. So besides their positions as President and Secretary General of the LNBA, both Cllrs Gongloe and Livingston have vested political interest in damaging Cllr. Nwabudike and presenting the decision of the government to nominate him as ill advised.
President Weah did not make Cllr Nwabudike a Citizen of Liberia; he did not make him a Lawyer; and he certainly did not make him a member or official of the LNBA. President Weah appointed Cllr. Nwabudike to position in Government, as he would any other patriotic Liberian, because the Supreme Court has already vetted and pronounce him a Citizen of Liberia and qualified him as counsellor of the Supreme Court bar. To expect President Weah to dismiss Cllr. Nwabudike because some individuals who are clearly politically motivated believe that he has not convinced senators of his citizenship, is not only to request the President to violate the judgment of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, but it would amount to asking the president to violate the fundamental right of a Liberian Citizen.
If the LNBA believes that it has uncovered fraud in the citizenship application of Cllr. Nwabudike and can prove same in a court of law, the appropriate procedure would be to pray for indictment, convict Cllr. Nwabudike of fraud, and submit record of such conviction to the Court and pray the Court to strip him of his rights, both as a citizen and as a lawyer.
The Bar’s expulsion of Cllr Nwabudike is premised upon the fact that he is not a citizen of Liberia. But can the Bar make declaration on who is and is not a Citizen of Liberia? In a recent Supreme Court’s Opinion involving Teage Jalloh (2019), the Honorable Supreme held that “only the court of law can pass on the question of citizenship”. Accordingly, the LNBA lacks the standing and jurisdiction to investigate and pass on a question of citizenship. The Bar’s argument that Cllr. Nwabudike’s claim to citizenship is fraudulent lacks any factual basis because the LNBA failed woefully to state what specific action of Cllr. Nwabudike constitutes the fraud. Under the statute of fraud in this jurisdiction, one who alleges fraud cannot at one and the same time be the judge and the jury; allegation of fraud must be tried by a jury selected by the parties, not by one of the parties; and the State must prove its case beyond all doubts of a prudent mind.
The only evident proffered by the bar to claim that Cllr. Nwabudike is not a citizen and that he has committed the crime of fraud is a non-discovery clerk certificate indicating that at the time of issuance of the certificate, copies of his naturalization records was no found in court B. Let it be clear that, like a land deed, citizen certificate is issued in one original copy only, there is no duplicate copy of a citizenship certificate. If the original is lost, it is lost, period. The only record that will be available in Criminal Court B is a file containing the photo copy of the certificate, and a copy of the declaration of intent. Alternatively, the court may have a register in which names of persons who are naturalized is recorded in the same order as they are admitted to citizenship. It is also a matter of law that the role of the Immigration and Naturalization services in the question of citizenship and naturalization, is limited to enforcement. There is no provision of the law that requires the LIS to store a data base of naturalized citizens. Though our Alien and nationality law provides that the Attorney general may request the immigration to investigate applicants for naturalization prior to them being admitted to citizenship, this responsibility has traditionally been carried out by the National Security Agency. So, the Immigration can only have the record of an individual’s naturalization only if Court B provides them such record. If Cllr Nwabudike’s record of citizenship is not found in Court B, and at the immigration, it is one and the same thing. It is not in Court B because the court lost all of its records during the War or there before, and it is not at the immigration because the court fail to send copies there.
Cllr Nwabudike is a victim of a system which is notorious for not keeping records. The traumatic event in our national history since 1980 simply exacerbated a chronic system of poor record keeping. How many Liberians can honestly standout and say that since the event of the 1980 and out civil war, they have all their personal records intact? Even those who maintain first home in America can tell you that records issued during the Tubman era has now degenerated into tatters or only exist in microfilm. So if detailed records does not exist in the Courts for the period of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, it will not be because the judiciary is incompetent, rather it will be that the Judiciary, like all of our other institutions, is a victim of our troubled past.
If the Bar alleged that Cllr Nwabudike fraudulently obtained membership of the Bar, the key question will be what was the act of fraud and at what time was the fraud perpetrated? Was it when he was admitted to the law school? Was it when he graduated with honors from the law school? Was it when he was examined by the circuit Court, found wordy and admitted to the Montserrado bar? Or was it when he was examined by two separate eminent committees of the Supreme Court and found to be the best student of his class, both in the written examination and in the moral ethical evaluation, and subsequent admitted as a counsellor-at-law of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia? Or was it when he was appointed as secretary general of the LNBA, a position in which he served for a period of three consecutive years? So where is the fraud? Over the past two decades, Cllr. Nwabudike served the Bar both as an Officer and as a member of the executive council. He diligently paid his bar dues and is in good standing. So if any fraud was perpetrated, the Bar itself would have been a willing participant in the act, and by the operation of the law, the LNBA lacks the standing to accuse Cllr Nwabudike of fraud, after the LNBA has massively and unmitigatedly benefited from his knowledge and skill over the years.
I write this with a deep sense of emotion because I know this man personally. During the war, I was one of those he help to get on one of those Nigerian Military aircrafts that came here to evacuate Nigerians and Liberians? He refuse to run himself, but he help so many of us who had no passport, no citizenship certificate, no birth certificate and practically nothing but the close on our back to escape the mayhem which our natural born compatriots were unleashing upon us. In Nigeria, I, like most Liberians who wanted to go to school, were able to go to University on 100% scholarship on Grace Allele Williams’s program. (Grace Allele William was them the Vice Chancellor of University of Benin, and her special presidential committee recommended to the government of Nigeria to waive the tedious and very competitive Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination program for Liberian students and offer them full scholarship in all Nigerian Universities. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in Nigeria and migrated to the United States where I completed a Graduate degree program and currently on Green Card and hopefully will be American Citizen someday soon. I know that before the war, as a class room teacher, Cllr. Nwabudike helped to shape the destiny of many Liberian children most of whom are in public service today. In the 54th Legislature alone, three members of the House are his former students. Hon. Representative Hanson Kiazulu of District 17 Monteserrado County can attest to this. In the Senate, three of his class mates are there. Hon. Senator Stephen Zago, Hon. Morris Saytoma, and Hon. Augustine Chie can attest to this. And his Professor, eminent Hon. Varney Sherman under whom he made two A’s, can attest that this man is not a cheat and that he made those grads honorably. Any student who sat in Cllr. Sherman’s class will tell you that it is easier for the head of Carmel to pass through the eyes of needle than to make an A in Cllr Varney G. Sharman’s class. If this man was a fraud as Gongloe would want you to believe, his class mates, his professor and the Supreme Court Board of examiners would tell you that this man was a fraud. That the excellent grades he made was obtained by deception, by bribing his professor, or by some other unorthodox mean.
Cllr. Nwabudike worked for about twelve years with the United Nations and as a Liberian. During this period he served as the national focal point of UNMIL to various strategic national institutions, including: office of the legal Adviser to the President of Liberia, the LNBA, the LRC, the Legislature, the LACC, the MoJ, and at some point, the Judiciary. During the period, he wrote proposals to source funding both within and without the UN to support the post war positioning and repositioning of these institutions. He establish and single handedly presented the most popular rule of law program (Community Court) on the UNMIL Radio for ten years. So, Cllr. Nwabudike has, by far, contributed to the post war reconstruction of our rule of law architecture and infrastructure than any individual member of the LNBA.
Quite frankly, why would this man steal Liberian citizenship? What rights or privileges does being a Liberian confers on him that he don’t already have as a Nigerian from a very humble home? When people love our country and wishes to be part of this great land of Liberty, we must appreciate the sacrifices they make. Our country is great, it is sweet, it is free, but most of us spend a life time working towards an opportunity to run away from here and obtain American green card and citizenship. It is our status symbol. It is a sign that we have arrived.
Recently though, since our civil war, a good number of Liberians are beginning to find a first home in some of the ECOWAS countries. And make no mistake about it, they are several Liberian who are now happily entrench in these ECOWAS countries and are making meaningful contribution to the growth and development of these countries. So, how would our country be seen and judge if we, as Liberians, suddenly jettison a man who has spent forty years of best period of his life living and working towards the good of our county. A man without any negative blemish or criminal record. A man whose only desire is to be a patriotic Liberia. What have those who are waiving the banner of patriotism offer to this country that Cllr Nwabudike has not? It is that either they have brought war and mayhem on our people, or that they have use their education, wisdom and skill to exploit pillage and plunder the wealth of our nation, to feed their families somewhere in Europe of America.
This is the time for lawyers with conscience and integrity to stand up and say enough is enough to Tiawon Gongloe and Bobby Livingston. They cannot allow these clowns to turn the Bar into an opposition political surrogate. Gongloe’s sister is contesting the 2020 senatorial election in Nimba County on the ticket of CPP, though she claims to be independent. Tiawon Gongloe himself has approached the Liberty Party to prop him up as possible vice Presidential candidate on the ticket of CPP in the 2023 presidential elections.
Gongloe also alleged that there is conflict in Cllr. Nwabudke’s date of birth, but nothing was proffered to suggest the reality. For instance the document alleged to be his marriage certificate does not contain the signature of any body. It is strange that a certificate which is supposed to certify marriage does not contain the signature of anybody. Not the officiating Priest, and not the wedding party. It has now been establish that the document was manipulated to fit a certain narrative. The picture of Counsellor Nwabudike on the document was taken from his application for Liberian Passport in 1989. It should be noted that the passport was issued and his date of birth on the passport is 1963, but Cllr. Gongloe will not say this because the LNBA never really conducted any investigation, and to say that will defeat the narrative that is being wholesaled to our gullible public. The picture of the female on the document is the picture of the younger sister of his ex-wife taken from her face book page. His National ID Card which carries 1969 has been confirmed as error because the source document for the ID card which was scanned and remained in NIR’s data base is his international passport which carries 1963 as date of birth. In tabulating data mistakes can be made, and when it is made it should be accepted in good faith as mistake, unless evidence can show any motives beyond the ordinary. For instance, what pecuniary benefit accrued to Cllr Nwabudike by him increasing his age from 1969, to 1965, to 1963, and to 1960? If they are no benefits, then that argument is inconsequential and Gongloe ought not to have raised and duel on that. And for the Senators, that also ought not to be any issue because when Aloysius Tallue, the Central Bank Governor, appear for confirmation, his date of birth and his employment records all appear to be in conflict with one and another, but the Honorable Legislature understood that as human error. The persistent allegation that Senator Dillon lied when he claimed that he graduated from Wellhirston High School in Monrovia, and that Speaker Chambers holds a credible Doctorate Degree, were taken with a pinch of salt, so why is error in date of birth such an issue, especially given that the error was not made or orchestrated by him. Of Course Cllr. Nwabudike whose parents are from a different background and aspires to be one of us must be judged based on high scale and standards. It happened to president Barrack Obama, when he became the President of United States. What most other past presidents of United States would get away with will become a death trap for him because, his father came from Africa.
But this is Liberia, we are Africans, whether we like it or not, Liberia has served Africa, and Africa, particularly ECOWAS, has served us well. If we embark upon a pilgrimage to destroy one of us, let the reason not be politics, because the ban and woe of our country is inherently rooted in politics. That is why unemployed young men and women would beg for arms and use the proceeds to purchase units only to call on radio talk shows to insult their parents and government in the name of freedom of expression. It became difficult to determine who the politician is and who is not.
It is very critical that we must be introspective and visceral on how we relate to others in our country, because other countries would use the same scale to judge our people in their country. How do you think Americans would judge us as Liberians in their country after they see how we treat people in our country, particularly, how we treat ECOWAS nationals, given the sacrifice ECOWAS made to keep the flag of our country, the Lone Star, flying?
George Lomax is a Liberian Development Economist resident in Trenton, New Jersey, USA.