Disgrace Keeps Hoovering Over Liberia’s Judiciary Branch
ONE EMBARRASSMENT AFTER the next appears to be the new norm in Liberia.
Time for Chief Justice Korkpor to Nip the Embarrassment in the Butt
IN 2014, The Liberian Government was forced to cough up US$500,000 it seized from a Nigerian Businessman, Chief Valentine Ayika, who was later elected Senator in Nigeria. Ayika took Liberia to the ECOWAS Court and won a major victory, the Innocence Project Africa (INPA), a judicial watchdog for access to justice, rule of law and democracy in Africa, hailed as the payment of the money as a victory of good over evil.
THE ECOWAS COURT was clear in its ruling that the Liberian government lawyers failed to follow the very basics of law and order in establishing its claim. The court ruled: “The defendant is hereby ordered to return the amount of $508,200 to the plaintiff less 25 percent of the said amount as per the country’s laws. The defendant is also ordered to restore the plaintiff’s passport to him. The claim for 21 percent interest is not allowed for lack of jurisdiction.
THE COURT HAS ALREADY said that the defendant unduly delayed the investigation. It is the court’s view that at the end of the prolonged investigation if the defendant had followed their own domestic law and released the portion of the money due to the plaintiff to him, this action would not have been necessary. In the circumstances the plaintiff is entitled to recover costs in this action against the defendant which he asked for in his application and plaintiff is accordingly awarded the sum of $20,000.00 as costs against the defendant.
THE COURT WAS CLEAR in the Ayika ruling that Liberia had placed nothing on record to show that Mr. was served with any notice before the confiscation proceedings were commenced.
THE COURT DOCUMENTED: “The plaintiff also averred that he was deported to Nigeria before the said confiscation proceedings and the defendant did not deny this averment. All that the defendant said is that there were legal remedies available to the plaintiff but he chose not to pursue them. A fundamental principle of law is the “audi alteram partem” rule which literally means “hear the other side”. The principle requires that both parties in any judicial proceedings ought to be heard before their rights are determined. The undisputed evidence before this court indicates that the plaintiff was not served with a notice of hearing of the confiscation proceedings. Indeed, the plaintiff had already been deported out of the country. It is therefore conclusive that the plaintiff was not heard nor given the chance to be heard in the confiscation proceedings. This offends the letter and spirit of the cardinal principle of fair hearing in the judicial proceedings. The defendant’s defense in this regard is respectfully not acceptable and is therefore rejected accordingly. Be that as it may, the proceedings before the court did not finally determine the rights of the plaintiff. They were only provisional so as to enable investigations to be carried out. Thus, no prejudice resulted from it to the detriment of the plaintiff.”
NOW COMES REPORT of yet another Liberian government’s missteps.
CLLR. MICAH WILKINS WRIGHT, the former Solicitor General has filed a suit against the Government of Liberia, the Judicial Council of ECOWAS and the ECOWAS Commission for what he refers to as the wanton, arbitrary and callous violation of his right to a fair hearing consistent with international human rights law.
WRIGHT WHO HAS BEEN a Judge of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has reportedly been replaced by Judge Yussif D. Kaba, Resident Circuit Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Montserrado County.
WRIGHT WAS recently suspended by the Supreme Court of Liberia for allegedly committing conflict of interest in 2009 while he served as Liberia’s Solicitor General. Upon being suspended in Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wrote ECOWAS requesting the recall and replacement of Justice Wright.
JUDGE KABA WILL reportedly be presented to the Judicial Council by the Liberian Government and in that same session confirmed by the ECOWAS Judicial Council during their up-coming meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on next Friday, April 07, 2017.
CLLR. WRIGHT’S CLAIMS ARE BOUND to once again put Liberia in a negative light at the ECOWAS Court.
THE GOVERNMENT had previously put itself on record in suggesting that it did not recognize the ECOWAS as a legal authority when FrontPageAfrica threatened to challenge a verdict against its editor.
NOW, IT APPEARS the position, a seat on the ECOWAS bench has become the most sought-after post for legal luminaries in Liberia.
NOT ONLY does the saga involving Cllr. Wright shed a bad light on Liberia, it speaks boldly to the negative perceptions many have about the judiciary branch of the Liberian government.
THE ONGOING saga involving the Hage Estate and Ecobank is another example. Why is the high court reneging on releasing the verdict in the case?
IT IS HIGH time Chief Justice Francis Korkpor goes beyond the fine-prints of these cases and address what is becoming an obvious embarrassment for the court.
THERE HAVE BEEN and continue to be too many lapses, too many fault lines and just too many issues dogging Liberia’s reputation.
MULTIPLE international reports continue to cast doubts about the ability of anyone in Liberia to get a fair trial. With a growing number of issues heading to the ECOWAS Court in such a short time, perhaps it is time for Liberia to take stock of itself in a bid to avoid further embarrassment and shame on its people.