-Justices warned over Samukai
Former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai is warning the Justices of Liberia’s Supreme Court to be careful with the precedent they are setting, in his critique against one of the justices stopping Lofa County Senator – elect Brownie Samukai’s certification after the nation’s highest court ordered that he be certificated.
Mr. Boakai, the former ruling Unity Party (UP) political leader who is pursuing his second try for the Liberian presidency on the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) ticket for 2023 warned recently that Liberia does not have two Supreme Court benches here, referencing Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe’s decision to stop Samukai’s certification to hear another case against the latter.
“But there was no ruling that says that on the basis of this you should not be certificated; we don’t have two Supreme Court benches here,” Mr. Boakai said, adding “Can the Supreme Court then say to you certificate the person, and another member of the bench get another complaint? We are confused in this country.”
“We want to say, let the Supreme Court, let all the [people] know that what [is] happening to Samukai and whatever is happening in this country, you are [setting] a precedent. We have to be careful, we will be judged by history,” he continued during a recent live talk show on Sky FM.
According to the CPP stalwart, when you talk about government and governance, there are lot of contradictions in this country, as he pondered over a system where someone won election, went to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court ordered that National Elections commission (NEC) to certificate the person and people who are not even part of the election are coming up with complaints.
Boakai noted where the person had issues of corruption or whatever they are, they must be dealt with, but noted that there was no ruling by the Supreme Court that Samukai should not be certificated.
Mr. Boakai warned that this country cannot continue that way, noting that he hopes that a similar thing does not occur in the 2023 elections.
“And this country cannot continue that way; it’s credibility … we are living in a world where we are being graded for what we do,” Boakai said.
On 4 May 2021, Justice in Chambers Joseph Nagbe 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.
The ruling by Justice Nagbe 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.
Earlier 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 NyumahDorkor 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 judgment, 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.