Liberia: Justice Minister Unaware of Instruction to NEC on Not Certificating Lofa Senator-elect Brownie Samukai

Monrovia – Liberia’s Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephus is being left to defend himself over an action he may have unilaterally taken when he wrote the National Elections Commission to halt the certification of Lofa County’s Senator-elect, J. Brownie Samukai.

On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, at his Senate appearance, told the senators that he hasn’t seen the communication written by the Solicitor General but was informed about it on Facebook and has no idea about why the decision was made to write the Senate.

He opted not to comment on the matter when asked by Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon about whether he was aware of such letter, but rather referred the Senate to the Solicitor General, who he said could better respond to such inquiry.

On Friday, February 19, Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephus wrote the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) instructing her not to certificate Lofa County Senator-elect J. Brownie Samukai whose conviction by the lower court was recently affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Cllr. Cephus’ letter to the Elections Commission Chairperson states, “You will recall that prior to the 8 December 2020 Election, Mr. Samukai was found guilty by the lower court along with his co-conspirators for the same crimes. But took an appeal to the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, which automatically stayed the enforcement of the convicted judgement.”

“Therefore, the recent judgement by the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia is not a novelty and did not depart from the holding of the lower court’s judgement; instead, it confirmed the lower court’s judgement, which means Mr. Samukai together with his co-conspirators has been a convicted felon from the date the lower court rendered its judgement in 2020.”

“Accordingly, since the guilty judgement is the law controlling, and constitutes a finality of the matter, and by law is not appealable in this jurisdiction, it is considered my opinion that it will be inarguable allay any and all concerns that may arise, and you will therefore proceed not to certificate him.”

His instruction to the NEC comes ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on the electoral dispute between the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and Mr. Samukai.

Samukai’s conviction has no relation to the December 8 Special Senatorial Elections.

The Supreme Court on February 8 affirmed the guilty verdict of the lower court that held Samukai, Liberia’s longest serving Defense Minister, and two of his principal lieutenants liable for the misuse of entrusted fund, misappropriation, theft of property, criminal conspiracy, etc, of the Armed Forces of Liberia’s fund in the tune of over US$1.1 million.

Samukai and his colleagues had argued that the money was used under the instruction of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia at the time. But the court believes that Samukai and his colleagues did not exercise professional discretion.

The trio have been ordered to restitute the amount of US$1.1 million – half of the amount within six months or face a two-year jail term.

However, Samukai’s supporters in his native Lofa County, who believe that the ruling against him is a mere witch hunt to prevent him from going to the Senate, have said they’ll ensure that the county raises the money for restitution.

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