Monrovia – An arrest warrant has been issued by Commercial Court’s Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan for the Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr, Nudubusi Nwabudike, along with other top officials over the Commission’s consistent violation of the court’s order.
The writ issued on Wednesday, instructed the court’s acting Sheriff, Emmanuel Morris, to arrest Cllr. Nwabudike, along with the LACC Co-Chairman, Kanio Bai Gbala, Commissioners Charles Gibson and Atty. George Dahn, among others to give reasons, if any, why they should not be arrested for disobeying the order of the court and in total defiance of the authority of the Commercial Court.
The LACC has been engulfed with a legal wrangle that began in 2018 between some of its former staff who sued the commissioner at the Commercial Court for deducting excess taxes from their salaries while in the employ of the LACC.
On December 27, 2018, Presiding Judge Eva Mappy Mogan ruled in favor of the eight former staff and ordered the LACC, then under the leadership of Cllr. James N. Verdier, and J. Augustine Toe to pay US$61,799, inclusive of court costs, statutory interest and successful attorney fees.
According to the Plaintiffs’ lawyers, the LACC did not appeal, thus rendering the judgment final. However, since then, the LACC has refused to pay on grounds that it does not have money.
Lawyers claimed that the new management team headed by Cllr. Nwabudike has also refused to adhere to the court’s order despite Judge Morgan’s continued interventions with the issuance of series of writ of execution throughout 2019 and 2020. They termed the LACC’s action as a complete mockery of the law.
“As of today’s date, not a single cent of the ruling has been complied with. LACC keeps insisting that it cannot comply with the court’s ruling because it does not have money,” said Atty. Wonder K. Freeman, one of the Plaintiffs’ Counsels.
‘It is preposterous that a legitimate ruling by a court of law of the Republic of Liberia cannot be complied with by one of the very GOL institutions charged with investigating and prosecuting crimes. As things stand, LACC is clearly making a mockery of the law.”
According to court’s records, the trouble began during the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when the LACC, which held most of its staff on short-term annual contracts, decided to taxed them at permanent employees’ rate in 2008, and 2013-2014. This difference in taxation was sometimes in excess of 15%+.
In 2014, LACC Internal Auditors discovered that the tax rate was wrong and made claims to recover years of over-taxation, something the then Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) agreed to, and authorized the refunds to all affected employees.
In July 2015, MFDP made the first partial payment (about 38%) to the affected employees. Then, between 2016 and 2018, MFDP made two additional payments, this time under the leadership of Cllr. James N. Verdier, and J. Augustine Toe.
Instead of paying all ex-staff affected, lawyers claimed that the Verdier-Toe team excluded former employees who were equally affected, citing a “variety of illogical, irresponsible and illegal excuses.”
This prompted the ex-staff (2017-2018) who were affected to begin contesting the LACC’s decision, lawyers claimed. In response to a demand letter from the affected ex-staff, they claimed that Cllr. Verdier, Cllr Toe and others (acting in concert as LACC Board of Commissioners) wrote the spokesperson of the ex-staff, contending that the LACC was under no legal obligation to remit this money, and that whoever was aggrieved was free to go to court.
Unable to convince the LACC leadership at the time to desist from acting unlawfully, and to remit funds received on their behalf, the eight aggrieved ex-workers in 2018, opted to sue the institution at the Commercial Court of Liberia, with Morgan presiding.
Following legal proceedings at the court, Judge Morgan ruled in favor of the former workers and ordered the LACC to pay US$61,799, inclusive of court costs, statutory interest and successful attorney fees. This judgment was rendered in December of 27, 2018, according to lawyers.
Between 2019 and 2020, the LACC refused to honor series of Writ of Executions from Judge Morgan but they were all ignored, said Atty. Freeman.
Then on January 20, 2021, the LACC was cited to a conference by Judge Mappy Morgan regarding its failure to comply with the court’s instruction, but the LACC did not attend to explain why it should not be held in contempt.
The Judge, “apparently fed up with LACC irresponsible behavior” decided enough is enough and issued an arrest order for all Commissioners and Senior Management of LACC.