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The Ambrose Nmah and His Ghanaian Friend Saga:

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…Liberian legislature should not have confirmed Mr. Nmah in the first place. The relevant Committee should have given him an ultimatum to remove his friend from the public institution or face rejection.

Introduction

Mr. Ambrose Nmah, Director-General of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), was recently compelled by the National Legislature to dispense with a Ghanaian he had employed since assuming leadership of the National Broadcasting Institution. About two years ago, employees of the institution protested the hiring of the Ghanaian, insisting that the job should be occupied by a qualified Liberian.

Patriotism vs Ego

Mr. Nmah refused to pay attention to the calls and complaints, arguing that Liberia did not have qualified persons to serve as Marketing Manager at the radio station.  When Mr. Nmah was re-nominated to the same position after the 2011 elections, the workers of LBS took their complaints to the National Legislature, where Mr. Nmah was expected to face confirmation hearing. The LBS workers went to their law makers because they assumed the honorable body would do the right thing and not tolerate Mr. Nmah’s flouting of the labor laws of the country. They pleaded in vain.

Reports have it that Ambrose attended college in Ghana and that he read political science at Lagoon University. It is also said that he subsequently worked at Radio Gold, a PRIVATE radio station in Accra. He came close to expulsion from Ghana for comments he is reported to have allegedly made about then President Kuffour. From this information, it is clear that Ambrose was not welcomed in the country he once cherished.   

Separation of Powers

All over the world, framers of constitutions go to great length in ensuring that a fundamental precept, the separation of powers is enshrined in the supreme law of that land. Baron de Montesquieu, a Frenchman, had argued in 1748, that the best way to secure liberty and prevent governments becoming corrupted was to divide the powers of government among three different actors who would check each other.  He warned that “were the executive power not to have a right restraining the encroachments of the legislative body, the latter would become despotic; for as it might arrogate to itself what authority it pleased, it would soon destroy all the other powers.”

Simply put, the concept of separation of powers is based on the notion that powers should be shared among the three branches of government, the legislative, an executive and a judiciary so that no branch would appropriate uninhibited power. This is about creating checks and balances so that no one branch can gain unqualified and unbridled power or abuse the power they are given.

Article 3 of the Liberian Constitution is unequivocal on this. It reads “Liberia is a unitary state divided into counties for administrative purposes. The form of government is Republican with three separate coordinate branches: the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary. Consistent with the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, no person holding office in one of these branches shall hold office in or exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches except as otherwise provided in this Constitution; and no person holding office in one of said branches shall serve on any autonomous public agency.”    

In straight compliance with this provision of the Constitution, the three branches of the Liberian Government have been working in tandem. One important area where the executive and the legislature have collaborated remarkably is in the appointment of government officials. Nomination of government officials is the prerogative of the President.  Under Article 54 of the Liberian Constitution, the Senate must give its consent to the nomination. The Senate exercises this responsibility through what we now know as confirmation hearings. This is imperative so that the President does not name just anybody to government office.

Confirmation hearings are intended to gather information on the nominee, which usually would include qualifications, academic and experience, moral deportment, etc, based upon which a nominee is either confirmed to occupy the position or he is rejected.  In the United States, for example, a nominee can be rejected for simply making a despicable public statement or a misleading assertion. In a bid to re-configure his cabinet for his second term of office, President Barrack Obama attempted nominating his Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the United Nations, as the successor to Mrs. Hillary Clinton, for the position of Secretary of State. The Senate insisted that it would not confirm the Ambassador because of a statement she made about the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which they considered misleading.  This is indicative of how seriously the American Senate takes the confirmation of presidential nominees. So, it would have been practically impossible for the Senate to confirm a nominee who was consciously and willfully breaking the law.

Failure to Enforce the Law and Protect Liberians

The Liberian legislature should not have confirmed Mr. Nmah in the first place. The relevant Committee should have given him an ultimatum to remove his friend from the public institution or face rejection. To come back later after a year or more and pressure Ambrose to “advertise” the position after acquiescing to his behavior in flouting the law is belated and pretentious.

On the other hand, there are institutions in the country, who share responsibility to ensure that Liberian laws are not contravened. Besides the Ministry of Justice which should have quietly advised Ambrose about his action, since it appeared that it did not want to hold him legally liable for breaking the law, the Ministry of Labor has responsibility to make certain that the labor laws are respected, that non Liberians would know and appreciate their limitations on what they can and cannot do in regard to working in the Liberia.  Failure on the part of these ministries sends the disturbing signal to the Liberian people about the kind of protection they deserve against non-Liberians who enter the country and may engage in any activity.

From what we know about this situation, it is clear that Mr. Nmah’s  choice of a Ghanaian national over Liberians was never due to lack of a qualified Liberian to fill the post, but rather a deliberate attempt by him to accommodate his friend, to gratify his ego. Was he oblidated to this guy?

Liberia appears to be the only country in the sub-region where non citizens can enter and do anything they wish while authorities look on. For instance, foreigners are mining gold and diamond in our forests, Chinese are mining sand for sale, Indians and Bangladeshis have taken over Randall street selling cheap radios, Lebanese are selling cell phones, etc. Under the  “noses” of Liberian authorities, all of this is taking place and not an utterance, an action to stop it? Where is the protection for the Liberian people? How does the country build a middle class when activities that should have been reserved for Liberians have been taken over by foreigners?  This is not about protectionism. In fact, it is about nationalism. It is about patriotism.

Take a look around you, even Ghana, where Ambrose must have come into contact with the man who became his friend, you just cannot walk into that country and flout the law, let alone getting employment in a public entity as a non-citizen. Yet, he felt obliged to disregard the law to satisfy his friend, and this too, with impunity.

Adding “insult to injury,” reports that the Ghanaian resigned, as if he had the right to occupy the position instead of arresting him for illegally working in Liberia, are very sneering.

Kotono Gbeze: The Author is a Liberian, residing in the state of Texas, USA. He holds MA in international Relations and a Bachelor degree in Law.

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