Monrovia - The appointment of members of the Ombudsman by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been hammered by critics thus leading fiery discussions on social media; and less than 24 hours, one of the three persons named was found to be under the age limit for the appointment of the office of ombudsman.
“The requirements state: “The members of the Office of the Ombudsman shall be Liberian citizens of high moral character; of not less than forty years and must have a graduate or professional degree.”
The ombudsman trios are legal rookies and have limited legal experience to occupy such controversial office that is critical to the 2017 elections.
The appointments of the Ombudsman trio sparked debate amongst various political parties, taking the Executive Mansion to task over the selection of Massa Jallabah who works in the legal section at the Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy as a consultant, former Police Director Chris Massaquoi and Edward Dillon, currently a special assistant to the Attorney General/Minister of Justice who previously worked in the Law firm of Brumskine & Associates/Pierre, Tweh & Associates Law Firm.
The much-anticipated ombudsmen are tasked with the responsibility of deciding the fate of those participating in the upcoming Presidential and legislative elections.
With the replacement of Jallabah, the credibility and eligibility of other named Ombudsmen are going to be a discussion for the days to come.
It is unclear who is likely to replace Jallabah but one name that is surfacing is Elizabeth Hoff, a former President of the Press Union of Liberia who most recently served as Deputy Minister of Information, Culture Affairs, and Tourism.
The requirements state: “The members of the Office of the Ombudsman shall be Liberian citizens of high moral character; of not less than forty years and must have a graduate or professional degree.”
“The President with the consent of the Senate is required to appoint the office of the Ombudsman, one of whom shall be appointed as Chairperson.
The office shall also comprise of such other staff as the Ombudsman may deem necessary and proper for the function of the office and subject to annual appropriation in the national budget.
The appointment of the Ombudsman shall be gender sensitive.
Members may be removed from office by the President for nonfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance or other acts incompatible with law or good moral standings.”
Who is Massa Jallabah?
Jallabah participated in the 2007 Miss Liberia beauty pageant. Born on September 11, 1982, her appointment is raising questions as to how aides in the President’s office failed to vet properly prior to submitting her name.
Jallabah, a 2012 graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law received a BSc in Criminology and Justice Studies from the College of New Jersey in May 2005.
She currently works in the legal section at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy as a consultant and previously in the office of the Ministry of Justice Prosecution team also as a consultant.
Between 2011 and 2012 she worked as a consultant with Arcelor Mittal Liberia.
Atty. Edward Dillon
Dillon’s appointment, according to critics, is a conflict of interest. He’s the brother of Liberty Party’s Darius Dillon and once worked in the office of the Cllr. Charles Brumskine’s law firm.
Liberty Party vice standard bearer, Harrison Karnwea, is said to be hooked by the Code of Conduct, and so many are wondering how Edward Dillon’s ties with the Liberty Party wouldn’t becloud his judgment.
Dillon is a 2016 graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, and a paralegal certificate from Widener University Law School Legal Education Institute.
He is currently a special assistant to the Attorney General/Minister of Justice. He was also a research assistant with the Liberia Law Project and previously worked as a research assistant in the office of the President Pro Tempore between 1998 and 1999.
Cllr. Charles Brumskine served as President Pro-Tempore during that period. Mr. Dillon also previously worked in the law offices of Brumskine & Associates/Pierre, Tweh & Associates Law Firm.
Chris Massaquoi has spent his life in law enforcement but the former Police boss is new to the legal profession.
Atty. Massaquoi was admitted to the Supreme Court bar a month ago. His admittance to the bar comes after his long service and experience in law enforcement, not through the regular standard set by the body.
Legal experts say the process leading to Massaquoi’s admittance to the bar is allowed in keeping with the profession.
Attorney Chris Massaquoi most recently worked as Director of Police.
He has a certificate in Police science, M.Sc. in Criminal Justice Administration and is a former Fulbright fellow.
He previously worked as head of the Bureau of Immigration and the investigation unit of the United Nations in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
While the Ombudsman’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Liberian Senate, many are of the opinion that the senate, with its ugly history of confirmation, will not also do due diligence as required by the law.
The task at hand is huge and critics say those appointed lacks the experience and the legal field is amongst few professions blessed with scholars.'
In March, the high court ruled that the Code of Conduct, signed into law by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2014, is legal and binding on the republic for all its intents and purposes.
The Act, which was submitted by the Executive to the National Legislature in 2009, states that all officials appointed by the President shall not engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices, use government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities, among others.
The Act also stipulates that: “Wherein, any official of government who desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post at least two years prior to the date of such public elections; b) Any other official appointed by the President who holds a tenured position and desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post three years prior to the date of such public elections.
Ruling on a petition for Declaratory Judgment filed by legal counsel of Bong County Superintendent Selena Polson-Mappy, the high court declined to confirm her plea that the code of conduct is unconstitutional, unmeritorious both in fact and in law.
Accordingly, section 5.2 also states, “Wherein, any person in the category stated in section 5.1 herein above, desires to canvass or contest for an elective public position, the following shall apply; a) Any Minister, Deputy Minister, Director-General, Managing Director and Superintendent appointed by the President pursuant to article 56 (a) of the Constitution and a Managing Director appointed by a Board of Directors, who desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post at least two (2) years prior to the date of such public elections; b) Any other official appointed by the President who holds a tenured position and desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post three (3) years prior to the date of such public elections.”
In a three-count judgment read by Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh the court rule that the appellate/petitioner, praying court to declare the Code of Conduct Act unconstitutional for reasons that section 5.2 of the act is discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious and tantamount to amending the eligibility provisions of the Liberian Constitution for public official to qualify as candidates for public offices is not acceptable in law.
Associate Justices Philip A.Z. Banks and Jamesetta H. Wolokolie took exception to the judgment of the majority in which they said the petition for declaratory judgment should have been granted by the court.