Urgent: Call National ID Registry Director John Tiah Nagbe to Order, Mr. President!

Liberia's President George Weah in Paris, France, November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

With General and Presidential Elections due in just 16 months from now, there is no indication whether the National Elections Commission will switch to   Biometric Registration or whether it will maintain the Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) System currently in use for voter registration.

Prospective voters showing up to register will have to produce some identification. In the past, one could either produce a driver’s license or a passport to confirm one’s citizenship. It is from the official list of registrants that the Voters Registry/Roll is prepared and a National ID card is all one needs to qualify as a registered voter.

A National ID Card costs US$5 if it is issued at the head offices of the National ID Card Registry and US$10 if it is issued away from the office at selected locations.

But reports from Maryland County about the random, indiscriminate, and cost-free issuance of National ID Cards by the head of the Registry, John Tiah Nagbe, are troubling, to say the least. This is especially in view of reports that he has expressed but disguised intentions to contest a senatorial seat in the 2020 elections.

This is a dangerous development which needs to be checked forthwith, else foreigners could turn out in droves at the 2023 polls to support an individual who conferred citizenship on them by giving them the right to vote. 

The right to vote is a privilege reserved solely for Liberians. Non-Liberians who wish to vote must first qualify for citizenship before the right to vote can be conferred on them.

The Daily Observer calls on President Weah to put a check on Nagbe’s indiscretions. This is absolutely necessary because, if left unchecked, it could lead to an outbreak of violence during the 2023 Polls. Nagbe, according to reports, has denied issuing National ID Cards to foreigners but has instead been issuing Resident Cards to foreigners. 

But such denials have apparently been brushed aside as suggested by the tone of comments by Maryland County District #3 Representative, Isaac Roland. This is what he had to say: “It is unacceptable for Nagbe to be appealing to the Legislature for full support in the National Budget and he is issuing thousands of national ID cards to people, free of charge.”

Representative Roland continued: “This act of his will not only cause the government to lose thousands of United States Dollars in revenue, but it also has the propensity to render the NIR paralyzed in its mandates as well as cause our national ID cards to end up in the hands of foreigners.” 

However, this is not the first time that Nagbe is reported to have been involved in such acts. He was also allegedly linked to a National ID Card syndicate in the Jacob Town Community, along the Japan Freeway.  Montserrado County District #2 Representative Jimmy Smith had alleged that in 2020, an IT analyst of the National ID Card Registry was caught red-handed printing National ID Cards in the compound of a local clinic.

The Representative furthered that 23 fake National ID Cards were found in his possession. The question now is, what will happen to Nagbe or what will be his fate in view of the above? Nagbe is known to be harboring political ambitions and is eyeing a seat in the Senate.

And based on statements he made to Marylanders in last April, Nagbe leaves no doubt that he will be contesting a CDC ticket.  Amongst other things, this is what he said to his kinsmen/women in Harper, Maryland County:

“... because our vision is to transform the lives of the citizens and the future generations of the county. So, if you give me power, I will join the other CDC lawmakers to move the county to where we all want it to be.”

Given the above, it does appear that Nagbe may  get off the hook in view of his openly professed CDC connections. According to analysts, Nagbe’s statement belies the assumption that, from his vantage point, he can make things happen for the CDC in 2023.

Judging from the experience of the recently ended Lofa by-election, the identity issue is likely to feature prominently in 2023, especially in areas lying in close proximity to the Liberian border.

Up to present the Voters Registry/Roll, whose cleanup was mandated by the Supreme Court in 2017, has still not been done and there is no telling when it will be done. Political parties who are the main stakeholders in the Political process have remained apparently unconcerned and may probably do so but at the last minute when it may be too late.

But who will they have to blame but themselves for their abject failure to have come to grips with the problem? Given this, 2023 may likely conclude on the same note as the recent by-election in Lofa.

Already pundits are opining that the weakness of the Political parties to unite around a single candidate will undermine their chances of winning and thereby hand President Weah an easy victory in 2023.

But there are also those who feel otherwise. As a taxi driver put it, leaders of political parties may not unite because they do not know what they want; but the voters know what they want and that is to see the CDC voted out of office.

How that will play out in the final analysis is yet or remains to be seen. But one thing is clear, if John Tiah Nagbe is allowed to get away with this act, violence at the 2023 polls will appear more likely than not, to characterize the elections and that will not bode well for national peace and stability. 

Therefore President Weah should call him to order because, in the final analysis when all is said and done, he (President Weah) will be held to blame.