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Background check; the Nwabudike debacle

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The story of NdubisiNwabudike, the rejected nominee for the National Elections Committee
(NEC) chairmanship, is a wake-up call for the government of Liberia to bulletproof its institutionsfrom future predators. A rigid background check of nominees and appointees to positions of trustin government should be imperative. The nominee to the NEC position had several red-flagsregarding his naturalization and eventual Liberian citizenship, but yet he was shuttled through tosit before the Liberian Senate for a confirmation hearing.

How did Nwabudike, a Nigerian citizen, get this far without any institutional intervention, especiallywhen he did not hide the fact that he was Nigerian-born. His Nigerian accent was a deadgiveaway; There’s an argument to be made that President Weah inherited the candidate, andassumed that since he was a practicing lawyer that he had met the requirements for citizenship.
True. Only Liberian citizens are allowed to practice law in Liberia.It is also true that the Government of Liberia runs a Civil Service Agency that could have easilyprovided due diligence on Nwabudike covering his education, citizenship, naturalization, or thelack of it. This vetting would have saved the president the embarrassment of pulling a nominee;there is also another argument that says that Nwabudike knew of his shortcomings regarding hiscitizenship or naturalization, and should have voluntarily withdrawn his candidacy.

The candidate,it appears, had gamed the system, from his days at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, hispractice of law in Liberia to his appointment as the chair of the Liberia Governance Commissionand the list goes on; so there was a certain level of chutzpah that emboldened him to sit before avenerated senate body to bestow on him the honor of chairing Liberia’s National ElectionsCommission.

In the absence of a functioning body tasked with the due diligence of government appointees, ofcourse, there will be individuals who will take advantage of the loopholes in the system. Just lastweek the Liberian Criminal Court B at the Temple of Justice revealed that they could not find anydocument in its archives to support Nwabudike’s claims of Liberian citizenship.

The LiberianImmigration also could find no indication of an application. However, during the Senate hearing,the candidate produced two Liberian passports to help buttress his claim.
Somehow, thegovernment institutions, such as the Supreme Court of Liberia, as well as the Liberian NationalBar Association, failed in their fiduciary duties in vetting the candidate.

The Nwabudike debacle is not unique. It is following a pattern. In 2015, the body of MichaelAllison, a promising “Liberian” lawyer, washed ashore a beach in Monrovia. According to anautopsy by several forensic pathologists, he died from drowning. There was no foul play, as somesocial media conspiracy theorists were suggesting. Here’s where it gets terribly bizarre.
The”Liberian” lawyer known as Michael Allison, who claimed to be the son of the late LiberianGeneral Gray D. Allison, was actually Nkrumah Mosiah Nadir Mulmi, formerly Maurice DenzelBryce, a dual citizen of the Bahamas and the United States of America. His US Citizenship andidentity were confirmed by the US Embassy in Liberia via fingerprint.

So how did Mulmi become Allison? Here’s one theory. Children born out of wedlock is a Liberiancultural phenomenon, so it was quite easy for Mulmi to grab a name that was recognized inLiberian social circles and claim to be the son of the general. The fact that both General Allisonand his wife had been dead over 20-plus years gave the scam more traction.

It also appears thatsome collaboration with corrupt officials at several Liberian institutions to get the relevantdocuments that would attest to his Liberian citizenship allowed the imposter to pull off this caper;Mulmi came to Liberia as part of a UN contingent during the interim government, at a time whenthere were little or no institutions to adequately vet incoming immigrants. As an employee of theUN, and later a private company in Monrovia, he appeared to have a robust social network inLiberian society. That network, as may have been the case with Nwabudike, allowed him to gettwo Liberian passports with conflicting birthplaces, Harper, Liberia, and New York, USA, and alsoallowed him into the LNBA, thus certifying him, like Nwabudike, to practice before the SupremeCourt of Liberia.

The LNBA is one of few Liberian organizations that jealously guards its membership. Proof ofLiberian citizenship is an iron-clad prerequisite to membership. One would think that with such astrict requirement that the LNBA would employ some fraud-proof mechanism to protect againstimposters. But it did not.

Liberian culture has a pull and attraction to it. For over a century the country has been a magnetfor people of African descent all over the globe during times of war and peace, including ourbrothers and sisters from the Caribbean as well as the African continent. That’s why it’s missionimperative that a risk-mitigating background-check infrastructure that includes a governmentdatabase with data from border control, national police, vehicle registration, birth certificates,etcetera, is put in place to vet all those applying for positions of trust within the Liberiangovernment. That would have quickly exposed the veil of duplicity in the case of Mulmi, and alsoclarify the somewhat confusing explanation of Nwabudike’s citizenship.

Joe Monyue is a Las Vegas-based entrepreneur and social
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are that of the author and not of this paper.By Joe Monyue

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