-As judge grants prohibition
Justice in Chambers Joseph Nagbe has granted a petition for a writ of prohibition filed against the certification of Lofa County Senator – elect Brownie J. Samukai, ordering the National Elections Commission (NEC) to disallow Samukai’s certification until the disability imposed on the convicted former Defense Minister is removed according to law.
“The Clerk of this Court is ordered to issue the peremptory writ of prohibition, send a mandate to the 1st respondent, NEC, disallowing the certification of the 2nd respondent, J. Brownie Samukai, Jr., until his disability imposed on him by his conviction is removed according to law,” Associate Justice Nagbe said in a ruling Tuesday, 4 May.
Ruling by the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court followed a petition filed on 1 March 2021 by businessman Simeon Freeman’s party Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), asking the Chambers Justice to restrain the NEC from certificating Samukai as winner of the Senatorial election of December 2020 in Lofa County.
The MPC’s contention was that Samukai had already been convicted by both a circuit court and the Supreme Court following his trial for misapplying private pension saving funds owned by soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) during his term as Defense Minister in former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s administration.
In a ruling on 8 February 2021, Liberia’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling but with modification, convicting ex-President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s longest serving Defense Minister, now Lofa County Senator – elect Mr. Brownie Samukai and two other former defense officials for the unauthorized spending of soldiers’ pension money.
In that ruling, the Supreme Court sentenced former Minister J. Brownie Samukai, his deputy Joseph P. Johnson and Mr. James Nyumah Dorkor to serve a term of two years each in a common jail.
However, the Supreme Court ruled in the corruption case that the sentences shall be suspended provided that the convicted officials shall restitute the full amount of US$1.147,656m or (pay) 50 percent within the period of six months, and following that, make appropriate arrangement to pay the remaining percent in one calendar year.
Should the defendants fail on these mandates, the Supreme Court said they shall be incarcerated in common jail and remain there until the full amount is paid. In its judgement, the Supreme Court said every withdrawal from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Pension Account should have been by authorization or consent of the AFL soldiers.
The Court therefore said the unrelated expenses of US$1.147,656m on the instruction of former President Sirleaf was without the pale of the law, and the appellants (defendants) are held personally liable for the unauthorized expenditure on the account.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the criminal case, Mr. Samukai after initially being given a suspended sentence by the Criminal Court “C” won the December 2020 Senatorial election in Lofa County, but had not been seated yet in the Senate due to challenges brought against the election results by his rival.
He won the election related case at the Supreme Court and the NEC was ordered to certify him before the MPC filed the petition to restrain the commission from the certification process on the basis of Samukai’s conviction in the criminal case.
Samukai could choose to appeal to the full bench of the Supreme Court against Associate Justice Nagbe’s decision granting the MPC’s petition.