Man, Frustrated by Liberia’s Justice System, Explains Agonizing Experience
Monrovia – A 10-year struggle for justice to no avail is an agonizing story of one man, who endured the bias of a Liberian system plagued by cronyism, corruption and travesties.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]
David A. Addy thought he was a lucky guy in 2005 after landing an employment with the world’s largest iron ore and steel dealer, when the multi billion dollars firm was just settling down in Liberia to explore the country’s rich natural resources.
Mittal Steel, now ArcelorMittal Liberia, had arrived in Liberia with a long list of promises. Some appeared so rewarding for the country’s job market, and people like Addy was amongst the first employees.
But the 44-year-old would work for a little over two years as a commercial assistant – a sort of procurement job – for the company before sustaining injury on the job and later controversially fired by the company.
Addy’s fractured his spine after slipping off his office chair in 2007. Two weeks later, doctors advised he should be flown out of the country for advanced treatment but the company snubbed his requests.
He managed to return to work but with a grudge that the company couldn’t absorb at its headquarters in Monrovia. So, they opted to transfer him out station in Yekepa, Nimba County. That was a move to at least shut him off.
“Technically, they wanted to demote me from my position because I was very critical of their violations of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) so they wanted to isolate me,” he said during a recent interview with FrontPageAfrica.
The procedure for the transfer was not going right for Addy. As he requested written commitment from the company over the benefits of his children, who were also to be transferred, the company turned out to be lackadaisical.
In 2007, he was dismissed following an email exchange outburst with the human resource department.
“All long I worked with the company before they illegally dismissed me I was never suspended or even given a warning letter, yet they went ahead and fired me without warning,” he said.
Seeking Justice – A wild Goose Chase
Addy opted for Justice against his wrongful dismissal but that was after spending a whole year seeking “negotiated settlement” from the company.
“All my effort for mutual solution with the company couldn’t work, so in 2009, I engaged Kemp & Associates law firm and the firm assigned Patrick W. Doe as my lawyer,” he said.
It was the wrong move hiring the firm, he recalled.
When the case opened in May 2009, Addy quest for justice suffered a setback. His legal counsel ditched his case for a lucrative contract with steel giant.
“The law firm was not working for Mittal Steel at the time I hired them, but because of my case the company hired them and gave them a US$36,000 contract and they decided to dump me.”
In December 2010, without his acquiescence his lawyer filed a certificate of abandonment through the Ministry of Labor to the company. And that suggested the case was closed.
“But to my greatest surprise, to show you how dangerous that labor ministry is, the very hearing officer, clerk and director issued five letters of assignment to Mittal Steel in 2011 and the company received those letters and asked for excuses,” he said.
Shockingly, officials of the ministry had reopened the case after it was declared closed, but Addy was unaware.
It was another twist of events pointing to grave double standard, this time, involving the Ministry of Labor and his lawyers.
So, Addy insisted he was not going to lose without another fight. He then took the complaint of a suspected breach of ethics to the grievance and ethics committee at the Temple of Justice.
In his complaint, which was backed with a dossier of documentary evidence, Addy was arguing that his lawyers and the Labor Ministry had breached ethics.
In his mind, the committee would have probed the situation and help make amends. In reality, he was beginning a lost cause.
Justice was again far fetched; it took another three years – beginning 2013 – for the committee to listen to his argument. When it finally did, Addy was left frustrated.
“Prior to the committee hearing my complaint, one renowned lawyer warned me that the case would not go anywhere because a member of the committee, in person of the late T.C Gould, owns the law firm that I was complaining.”
“And that warning became a reality, I wrote letters upon letter but that case was never heard.”
The Last Option – The Supreme Court
In 2017, Addy made his last move – seeking the audience of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor.
“When I met him (Chief Justice Korkpor), I complained bitterly about the case and he told me my argument was grave and he asked me to write my complaint again.”
Two days later, the hearing was held under the gavel of Cllr. George E. Henries, head of the grievance and ethics committee.
“Prior to the hearing, a friend of mine who is a lawyer, told me that it was most like that the hearing came out favorable for me because Cllr. Henries and the owner of the firm I was complaining are members of the Masonic craft and it was unlikely for any decision to be made against the law firm,” he explained.
Addy alleged that during the hearing, Patrick Doe admitted that he was instructed to ditch his (Addy) case for a Mittal Steel Contract because the company was offering more money.
Despite the admittance, Addy’s case was never reopened and the committee rejected his request for the minutes of the hearing. This would have enabled him hold them accountable and showed proof of Dolo’s admittance.
“To this date I have written the Chief Justice on many occasions but they have not given me the minutes, so that also comes to me that all the suspicion of others about the committee’s independence is true. They have denied me justice in broad day light.”
Addy’s hope is ruined and confidence in his country’s justice system has evaporated. He doesn’t want redress anymore but asserts that sharing the story gives him solace.
“If you see my last letter I sent to the chief Justice this year – I clearly said that the system (justice) is a mess. The justice system in Liberia is like a bid process, where the highest bidder wins,” he said, with a frowned face.
“For me now, let me be true with you, and I know that I lost to Mittal Steel because my lawyer, his law firm and my own Liberian justice system and the Ministry of Labor have all messed me up.
“What I am doing now is to bring it to light, the kind of ill-treatment that Liberians are facing at Mittal Steel, and for people to understand the kind of justice system that we have in this country,” he said.