University of Liberia Loses Another Professor Amid Academic Fraud Allegations

Cllr. Lucia Sonii-Gbala holds a Master’s degree in International Business Law from Tilburg University.


.... … “I am resigning as a consequence of (i) the recent event involving the unilateral change of the final grades of the Applied Legal Studies II Course,” Cllr. Lucia Sonii-Gbala wrote in her resignation letter.

A prominent law professor at the University of Liberia (UL) has resigned amidst a growing quagmire of academic fraud allegations. 

The resignation by Cllr. Lucia Sonii-Gbala, Assistant Professor of Applied Legal Studies II, shed light on widespread academic misconduct by some recent graduates of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law (LAGSL), leaving its reputation tarnished and raising pertinent questions about the integrity of its academic system.

Gbala, who is a lawyer at one of the country’s biggest law firms, claimed that her resignation was triggered by the university's decision to clear students who failed her course to graduate during its 103 convocations recently. 

“I am resigning as a consequence of (i) the recent event involving the unilateral change of the final grades of the Applied Legal Studies II Course taught by me, (ii) the arbitrary clearance of students, who failed ALS II, for graduation, and (iii) the fact that a request for investigation still remains unaddressed by the University of Liberia. 

“The experience has been meaningful in the truest of sense,” Sonii-Gbala wrote to Cllr. Jallah Barbu, the Dean of the University Law School. “Notwithstanding, we must disengage at this time when the system shows little or no interest in ensuring academic excellence and upholding integrity. I sincerely hope that things will improve.”

Gbala’s resignation comes just as the University of Liberia failed to secure a spot in the inaugural Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings.  She, however, refrained from disclosing the identities of the students who failed her course but were allowed to graduate. 

Cllr. Gbala is the second faculty member to resign from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, specifically citing the school administration’s apparent tolerance for academic fraud. 

The first to resign was former Chief Justice Frances Johnson-Allison, who accused two students, Alimatu Nuri Hutchinson and Ebenezer Mass Wilson, of conniving with her secretary, Allen Toe, to alter their failing grades from  “D” grades to “C,” which paved the way for their graduation.

“I am disappointed to hear that the University Faculty Senate has decided to graduate the students in question despite my testimony to them on a conference call,” Allison wrote Barbu. 

“Based on this fact, I have decided to reinstate my resignation from the law school since it seems that the university is more interested in graduating students than pursuing academic excellence and integrity,” the former Chief Justice wrote. 

Hutchinson and Wilson have denied failing Allison’s  Children’s Law course at the Louis Arthur Grimes Law School, even though Allison, who is apparently in the U.S. on vacation, insists that “the duo failed.” 

Also, the President of the University of Liberia, Dr. Julius Nelson, also claimed that Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison had not filed a formal complaint regarding allegations of academic fraud. “We looked at the pros and cons and, in the wisdom of the school and the university, we gave the benefit of the doubt to the students,” Dr. Nelson told a press conference earlier this month. “We went ahead to graduate those students, and we stand by their graduation.” 

Meanwhile, Cllr. Bornor Varmah, the Secretary General of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), has announced that the Bar is probing the allegations and will release its findings.

The LNBA’s involvement comes as students and graduates of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law have a rank of associate members.

Varmah disclosed that the Bar, as part of its probe, has spoken to the parties involved and would give a definite position on the matter in the “soonest possible time.”

“[The] Bar is much concerned about the episodes emanating from the law school, which remains the pride of the legal profession in Liberia. “I don’t want to say we have conducted a thorough investigation, but we have done an assessment and will release a report on the matter very soon.

“All is not lost, the profession is an evidence-based profession; I heard you saying that Professors are resigning, but they needed to wait for us to see what we do. I think we have done well by talking to all the parties and it is now time for us to release our position and see what we can do to resolve this issue.”