ANALYSIS: Will Pres. Weah Recall Controversial Nigerian Lawyer from the LACC As The Nat’l Bar Association Bans Him from Practicing Law in Liberia?
Monrovia – Cllr. A. Nbudusi Nwabudike had everything going for him. When newly minted President George Weah assumed the mantle of authority in January 2018, the Nigerian-born Nwabudike was called upon early on to head a Special Presidential Review Committee, constituted to probe into the Global Witness Report on the National Oil Company of Liberia.
Analysis by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
That appointment set off a rising tide for the controversial lawyer who went on to win two other high-profile appointments, at the Governance Commission and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.
Luck Runs Out for Roaming Appointee
In each of his previous appointments at both the GC and the LACC, Nwabudke was greeted with noise. In fact, although he was never confirmed during his time at the Governance Commission although he went on the serve in the position until his appointment to head the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.
Nwabudike’s fortunes began to take a dive toward the downward spiral in March this year, when President Weah nominated him to serve as head of the National Elections Commission.
Liberians greeted the appointment with roars of criticisms, refusing to hold back their resentment of having a foreign national under a cloak of controversy determining the fate of the next presidential elections. In the end, the Senate Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commissions agreed and send the Nigerian packing.
The Senate rejection opened a new can of worms for Nwabudike.
Senator Dillon Draws Attention
On June 9, 2020, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon(Liberty Party, Grand Bassa) wrote the Senate Pro Temp Albert Chie, drawing attention to the matter of Nwabudike whose nomination to head the NEC was subsequently withdrawn by President Weah, following rigorous scrutiny by the Senate.
In his communication, Senator Dillon cited Part IV Section 6.3 of the Act creating the LACC, requiring that only citizens of Liberia are qualified and eligible to serve on the commission.
Section 6.3 regarding Qualification states: “Each member of the Commission shall be a Liberian citizen of not less than thirty(30)years of age, of good moral character in the community, and with proven records in anti-corruption advocacy or professional training and/or experience in law, law enforcement, accounting, auditing or a related field. The membership of the Commission shall also be drawn to reflect the broad spectrum of society; provided further that no two Commissioners shall have the same County of origin and all five(5) shall not be of the same gender.”
Senator Dillon argued that Cllr. Nwabudike, a citizen of Nigeria by birth, had not demonstrated or proven to be a Liberian. In fact, the Senator contended, the manner in which Nwabudiki acquired his iberian citizenship, as he claimed before the Senate is suspect.
Senator Dillon has been pushing for the Senate to take on the matter and ensure that the proper and appropriate measures be taken to uphold, protect and defend the integrity and credibility of the LACC from being abused and violated.
Last Friday, Nwabudke was dealt what may be the final nail in his coffin when the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) announced that it had come to a decision to expel the controversial figure from the bar.
In coming to its decision, the Bar, in a statement read by its President Tiawon Gongloe noted that the doubt raised by the Senate over the citizenship of Cllr. Nwabudike by extension, cast a very dark cloud over the integrity and credibility of the Liberian National Bar Association and the Judiciary in evaluating applicants for admission into the legal profession. “The LNBA felt duty bound to investigate and find out what the truth is relative to Cllr. Nwabudike’s Liberian citizenship. Therefore, the National Executive Council of the Liberian National Bar met and mandated the President of the Liberian National Bar Association to instruct the Grievance and Ethics Committee to launch a full scale investigation into this matter. As a professional body, the LNBA is under a duty at all times to constantly monitor and evaluate the moral and professional conduct of its members based on information acquired through complaints by individuals or through the public.”
The LNBA emphasized that the legal profession is unique among the professions in Liberia because it is the only profession that is given protection by the Constitution of Liberia. Article 21(i) of the Constitution provides,”… There shall be absolute immunity from any government sanctions or interference in the performance of legal services as a Counsellor or Advocate…”
“The LNBA is under a moral obligation to honor this protection provided by the Constitution of Liberia with the highest degree of integrity and credibility in order to prove to the people of Liberia that the legal profession is worthy of this unique protection. As the saying goes to whom much is given, much is expected. The LNBA therefore, could not ignore the issue of the citizenship status of one of its members when information provided by him created doubt over the authenticity and veracity of his claim of Liberian citizenship.”– The Liberia National Bar Association
Nwabudike Ignored Request to Face Bar
A key factor that led to Nwabudke’s expulsion was his apparent refusal to honor an invitation from the bar to appear before them to address the controversy.
On April 2, 2020, the Grievance and Ethics Committee sent a letter to Cllr. Nwabudike, informing him of the mandate of the National Executive Council and inviting him to appear before the committee with all relevant documents in support of his claim of Liberian citizenship. “The Committee immediately communicated with the Liberian Immigration Service (LIS), the Clerk of the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Assisizes (B), the Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and the Clerk of the Supreme Court, in order to independently acquire relevant information pertaining to the citizenship of Cllr. Nwabudike.”
The Bar said, on April 6, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike wrote the Grievance and Ethics Committee to question the basis of the investigation.
According to the bar, Nwabudike contended that there was no complaint before the LNBA “challenging his citizenship”; (2) that he had not violated any provision of the Code of Professional Ethics governing the conduct of lawyers; (3) he argued that citizenship is given by the Government of Liberia and it is only the Government of Liberia that can challenge or revoke it; and (4) erroneously argued that the issue of his citizenship was now moot, since the issue was not raised when he was admitted as attorney-at-law and subsequently as counselor-at-law. He however promised to meet with the Grievance and Ethics Committee, in order to provide it further clarification. He copied the Chief Justice of the Honorable Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice on his reply to the letter from the Grievance and Ethics Committee.
On April 13, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike was written aanother letter inviting him to appear before the Grievance and Ethics Committee on April 24, 2020, at 11:00AM, but he did not appear.
The Bar said, on April 27, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike was sent aanother letter, asking him to appear before the same committee for investigation on April 30, 2020 at 11:00AM, but he did not appear. “Further, on May 6, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike was written a letter to appear before the committee for a hearing on May 8, 2020, but he did not appear. On May 18, 2020, Cllr. Nwabudike was written to appear before the committee on May 27, 2020 for investigation, but he did not show up. Additionally, the Committee, invited him through two publications in the Inquirer Newspaper on May 11, 2020 and May 15, 2020 for appearance, but he failed to appear. These publications were also sent to Cllr. Nwabudike via DHL sent to him via DHL, yet failed, refused to appear, in complete disregard for the Liberian National Bar Association.”
‘Defiant Posture’ Sealed Fate
The Bar said it was left with no alternative but to expel Nwabudike due to his failure to honor its request to appear. “In view the defiant posture of Cllr. Nwabudike, as demonstrated by his deliberate failure and refusal to honor all the citations sent to him to appear for the inquiry that the Grievance and Ethics Committee was mandated by the National Executive Council to conduct, the Committee then proceeded to carry out its mandate by relying on independent sources for information on the validity of Cllr. Nwabudike’s Liberian citizenship.”
Cllr. Nwabudike’s saga was complicated by the fact that the the Liberian Immigration Service wrote a letter informing the Grievance and Ethics Committee that it did not have any record on Cllr. Nwabudike legal residency status or naturalization in Liberia.
Additionally, on April 6, 2020, the Committee obtained a clerk certificate from the Clerk of the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Assizes “B” Temple of Justice, informing it that it had no record about Cllr. Nwabudike’s residency or naturalization status.
The Bar says it also found a lot of inconsistencies with Cllr. Nwabudike, mostly based on documents obtained from the Senate Confirmation hearings of Cllr. Nwabudike and the pleadings in the record of the Civil Law Court on a petition for declaratory judgment filed by him, the Grievance and Ethics Committee found the following inconsistent information.
Among those was a purported certificate of naturalization presented to the Liberian Senate by Cllr. Nwabudike showed that the Nigerian was issued same by Criminal Court “B” at the Temple of Justice on May 13, 1982, when in fact that court was called the People’s Criminal Court “B” during the regime of the People’s Redemption Council (PRC), thereby creating more doubt.
The Bar, in its findings reported that a perusal of Nwabudike’s various passports showed his birth dates as October 19, 1960, October 2, 1963, October 2, 1965 and October 2, 1969. Also, his 2004 Liberian Passport carries his date of birth as October 2, 1963 and his name as A. Nkwuka Ndubuisi Nwabudike, instead of the name that appears on the roster of the Liberian National Bar Association and Supreme Court Bar which is A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike. Additionally, his Liberian National Identification card carries his date of birth as October 2, 1969 and his name as A. Ndubuisi Nkwuka Nwabudike; and his application for marriage certificate dated January 22, 1992, filled by himself in handwriting carries his name as A. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, his date of birth as October 19, 1960 and his nationality as Nigerian.
Ball in President Weah’s Court
Amid the findings, the Bar says it was left with no alternative but to give Nwabudike the boot.
“The committee, therefore, recommended that Cllr. A. Nbudusi Nwabudike be expelled, consistent with Article II Section IX of the Constitution of the Liberian National Bar Association, which provides, “Any member may, after inquiry, be disciplined by means of suspension or expulsion from membership of the Association for proven gross misconduct in his relations to the Association or in his professional undertaking upon two thirds votes of the Membership of the National Executive Council.” At a meeting of the National Executive Council held at 3:00PM, on yesterday, May 18, 2020 here at the headquarters of the Liberian National Bar Association, the Grievance and Ethics Committee’s recommendation that Cllr. A. Nbudusi Nwabudike be expelled was approved by a vote of two thirds members of the National Executive Council of the Liberian National Bar Association. Hence, Cllr. A. N. Nwabudike is hereby expelled from the membership of the Liberian National Bar Association. His name is hereby stricken from the roster of the membership of the Liberian National Bar Association.”
Cllr. Nwabudike’s expulsion means he cannot practice law in Liberia, much less head the influential LACC.
In the coming days, the Bar says it intends to notify the office of the President of its decision. “This decision will be shortly communicated to the President of the Republic of Liberia, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia and all courts throughout the Republic of Liberian.”
Senator Dillon, in a Facebook post last Friday, reminded President Weah of his inauguration pledge: “Do not judge me based on the eloquence of my speeches, but the quality of the decisions I will make.”
Senator Dillon says he couldn’t agree more. “Sadly, the “decision” to keep Ndubuisi Nwabudike at LACC is of poor quality. Dismiss him now, right now.”