Minister Brownie Samukai and two Deputies’ Conviction: True Justice or Mere Political Manipulations Camouflaged as Judicial Verdict?

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Dr. Kadiker Rex Dahn

By Kadiker Rex Dahn, MA, M.Ed, PhD

Background

In Liberia, on the outside walls of the Temple of Justice’s Building towards the Atlantic Ocean, it is enshrined in capital letters, “LET JUSTICE BE DONE TO ALL!” This statement gives confidence and reliance to citizens and non-citizens to pursue legal course of actions. Citizens can sue government and government on the other hand can sue a citizen or group of citizens when the government feels a crime has been committed.

In fact anyone who lives in the territorial confines of Liberia can sue and be sued. In this sense, the court becomes a legal theater for true jurisprudence. In this legal theater, “in chambers” too many things whether right or wrong can happen. In some instances where the law is clear and evidences are presented to exonerate the accused, at times, the legal theater can become a political theater where court’s decisions are politicized and manipulated.

Certainly in this judicial-political theater, judges who ought to be impartial become judicial politicians and render decision at the detriment of the accused. On March 25, 2020, former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and two others were found guilty for misapplying soldiers’ money and ordered by Criminal Court “C” to restitute over one million United States dollars.

Is the guilty verdict announced by the Criminal Court Judge, Gbeisay a true justice or mere political manipulations disguised as judicial verdict? We will argue that Judge Gbeisay erred in his guilty judgment against the defendants and as has been alleged, the court may have been manipulated and consequently, operated in a political theater.

Discussions

On March 25, 2020, Daily Observer carried the headline under the caption, “Ex-Defense Minister Samukai to Restitute 1,147,656.35 Misapplied from AFL’s Soldiers’ Money.” In his ruling, according to Daily Observer, the Judge of Criminal Court “C”, Judge Gbeisay stated, “the considered opinion is that Samukai breached and abused his fiduciary duty to the men and women of the AFL when he selected to misuse their funds for purpose other than intended.

Samukai illegally paid $50,000 as death benefits to the families of the late General Abdurrahman, who did not contribute anything to the fund while serving AFL as Chief of Staff, that money was misapplied.” The ruling above did not do justice to the defendants, the government and people of Nigeria, the families of the late General Abdurrahman and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia at the time.

Firstly, it seems to us that Judge Gbeisay elected based on his ruling above not to have fully understood the functions and power of the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. If on other hand the Judge understood the duties, functions and powers of the Commander-In-Chief but chose not to consider the power and authority thereof, certainly, the Judge may have been under duress.

For the purpose of this article, we define Commander- In-Chief as one who holds the Supreme Command of a country’s armed forces usually a head of state. The underlined word in the definition of Commander-In-Chief is SUPREME. Supreme is defined as “the powerful, the most important, the highest and which is superior to all other things.” Everything about supreme is in the superlative form.

Just as the Supreme Court of Liberia is superior to Criminal Court “C” and all other courts, so is the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia to anyone in the AFL or serving the AFL, including the Defense Minister, the Chief of Staff and all others under the umbrella of the Liberian Army.

Just as decisions from the Supreme Court cannot be questioned and overruled by subordinate courts or anyone, in the same way, decisions made by the Commander-In-Chief, the Supreme Leader of the Armed Forces cannot equally be questioned and overruled by the Defense Minister or men and women in uniforms. Those decisions, whether one likes it or not, are considered the final judgments.

When last in the history of Liberia that a Commander-In-Chief’s decision was questioned in Court? We are pressed without prejudice to ask this question: Is the decision not to use the money for different purposes which is the reliance of Judge Gbeisay’s verdict written in stone that it cannot be changed by the order of the Commander-In-Chief, the Supreme Head of the Armed Forces of Liberia?

Challenging the decision made by the Commander-In-Chief is tantamount to challenging the decision made by the Supreme Court. It is a dangerous legal precedent Judge Gbeisay set which will undermine the authority and supremacy of the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

It was prudent and we concur for the defendants to appeal to the Supreme Court for redress because looking at the perceived danger of Judge Gbeisay’s ruling, the Supreme Court as a Reservoir of Judicial Wisdom and Final Arbiter will right the wrong and squash the decision of Criminal Court “C.”

The danger of the Court’s ruling

The decision by the lower court may equally undermine the relationship between Liberia and Nigeria. During the Liberian civil war, many ECOWAS’ soldiers especially Nigerians lost their lives for the peace Liberians are enjoying. The late General Abdurrahman was a Nigerian, the first Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia after the dissolution of the AFL.

The General gave his life for Liberia. Sadly, after the completion of his mission, when he returned to Nigeria, he met his untimely death. As is always the case, governments usually face financial constraints. When General Abdurrahman died and the Liberian government was facing financial constraints, though he did not contribute to the pension scheme and was not a direct beneficiary, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, as the Commander-In-Chief and Supreme Leader of the AFL at that time, ordered $50, 000 of the money in question as death benefits to be given to the families of the late General.

It was with the understanding that the Government of Liberia was going to repay. It beats my imagination that Judge Gbeisay could question the authority of the Commander-In-Chief. It seems to us that the families of General Abdurrahman may consider Liberians to be ungrateful considering the level of sacrifices Nigerians and others made on behalf of Liberia.

If a family member or the Government of Nigeria refunds the money in question, what will be the political ramifications? Again, it is also here that we respectfully believe the Honorable Judge erred.

Money used on Samukai and deputies?

What is also disturbing is that the prosecutors wanting to convict could not show any evidence that Minister Samukai and his deputies personally used the money for self-aggrandizement. Every penny that was used was used by the instruction and command of the Command-In-Chief. There are documentations to that effect which were presented in court.

In fact, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Brigadier General Geraldine Janet George testified and confirmed that President Weah agreed for the Liberian Government to refund the money yet the Honorable Gbeisay ignored the testimony and documentation.

FrontPage quoting General George stated, “During the meeting with His Excellency George Manneh Weah, the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, he asked, why was the amount used not reported to the Government of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf? But the question was not answered. However, he {President Weah} said, he was going to pay the money back to the Army(AFL) through budgetary allotment.

When we did the report, we did not recommend that an individual should refund the money but the government of Liberia. Here, General George informed us that President Weah agreed to refund the money. Consider this: When General George was referring to President Weah, she cleverly invoked the title, Commander-In-Chief, indirectly reminding the Court that the Supreme Leader of the AFL was making a promise.

What was so myopic in our opinion was that the Court and the prosecutorial team requested the defendants to call for their witness (President Weah who agreed to refund) to testify.  Certainly such request is uncommon in the Liberian jurisprudence and rational people will think, believe and conclude that there was a hidden motive.

Another danger in our opinion, in addition to the decision of the lower court is the inaction of the Office of President Weah who is fully aware of the truth surrounding reimbursement. What actually is the truth about this money’s repayment? Did General George lie under oath when she said that President Weah agreed to refund the money in question?

Better still, President Weah, who is also a Commander-In-Chief and Supreme Head of the Armed Forces of Liberia, knows the ins and outs of the issue under discussion. Within a twinkling of an eye, President Weah can set the record straight by intervening and telling the Court about what really happened. The President does not need and will not appear in person.

We believe if President Weah as a sitting Commander-In-Chief,  really wants to put an end to this debacle, his legal team can send a communication in a sealed envelope to the Court informing the Court about his commitment to repay the money in question. We believe such effort if employed can resolve the pending regrettable dispute. If this is done and the matter is laid to rest, it will demonstrate sincerity and political maturity of President Weah.

Conclusion

The real danger is that if President Weah refuses to intervene and take responsibility for the repayment of the money in question and the Supreme Court sees the wisdom that the Government of Liberia must repay, it will not speak well of the Office of the President. This is not about politics but the integrity of the Office of the President, the functions and power of the Commander-In-Chief and the character of the Liberian nation.

Certainly there are those around the President as is always the case engulfed in escalating unwanted tensions that will play on the character of the Liberian judicial system. Some of these so-called “judicial holy crusaders” are aware of another Nigerian, Ndubusi Nwabudike who enjoyed every right as Liberians under the false notion that indeed he was a naturalized Liberian.

He went to college in Liberia and did not pay foreign fees, had jobs among others because he fraudulently claimed that he was is a Liberian citizen. He was rejected by the Senate for these false claims and still up to the moment masquerading on the streets of Monrovia. Are these not serious crimes that those who are desperate in prosecuting Minister Samukai and deputies for a crime they did not commit to prosecute Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike?

These crusaders’ action may undermine the judicial system, the functions and power of the Commander-In-Chief, who is the Supreme Head of the Armed Forces of Liberia. We believe the Supreme Court of Liberia will right the wrong.Considering all those facts enumerated above, presented, ignored and denied by Criminal Court “C,” made us to think, believe, conclude and concur with critics that politics were allegedly at play in the judicial theater.

About the author: Kadiker Rex Dahn holds a PhD in Historical, Philosophical and Social Foundations of Education from the University of Oklahoma. He is a member of the North America Scholar Consortium, membership with the Highest Honor. Contact: [email protected]

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Kadiker Rex Dahn, you are very stupid. You claim to be a PhD holder but you do not have the intellect to advance any argument to support your rant. Your idiocy knows no bounds!

    • Zamawa, I honestly think you could register your disagreement(s) with Dr. Dahn without insulting him. That’s the way civilised people do things!

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