Letter from the Editor: A Supreme Court Justice is After Me; After he Violated the Traffic Law

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THE LAW IS THE LAW: The truth of the matter is, Liberia will never progress as a nation if every Tom, Dick and Harry feels they have the power and can abuse it at will while aspiring to enjoy the same privileges as the President, the vice president, emergency vehicles or police in the line of duty. The laws are specific and must be implemented regardless of status or class.

Dear Readers,

A few moments ago, a Sheriff from the Supreme Court of Liberia attempted to serve me a document at our main office in Monrovia. Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, we have limited our reporting to our website and with the exception of a few reporters, majority have been told to stay home and we have been cautiously observing the health protocols.

The Security guarding the premises informed the Sheriff that I was not around, but he insisted that I had been seen in traffic the day before and that Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe had sent him to deliver a document demanding that I report to the Supreme Court.

As I was not around the office, the Sheriff left and made arrangement to meet one of my staffers on Wednesday to present the document from Justice Nagbe.

The Vai Town route was built as a four-lane road, two lanes going toward the Freeport of Monrovia and two opposite lanes, on the other side heading toward downtown Monrovia. More importantly, the road is divided by a center divide which is there to ensure that those on either side of the road stay in their respective lanes and do not cross over in the ongoing traffic in the other lane.

I have been down this road many times. A document from the Supreme Court is either a summons to appear – or a warrant for an arrest. 


In November 2010, I was arrested at my office on contempt of court charges, relating to an October 2010 reader’s letter to the editor accusing Supreme Court Justice Gladys Johnson of bias in a criminal case involving the alleged rape of a 13-year girl named Angel Togbah.

The case had captivated Liberia and drew scenes of protests daily at the Supreme Court.

The court wanted to understand why our newspaper published a letter that was critical of the high court bench and sought clarity and understanding of the letter’s content.


At the time, no lawyer was willing to represent me during my appearance – or questioning before the high court bench. 

One lawyer would later tell me, “We share your plight; but you know, we fear the Supreme Court. 

During those two appearances in court, I was unapologetic. As an editor, it is my responsibility to protect the marketplace of ideas featuring opinions and letters from our contributing writers. I fought that yesterday and I will fight that until the day my maker calls me.

This vehicle license plate No. JUD 4 belonging to Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe was photographed driving into incoming traffic on Monday and demanding the vehicle in front of him move out of the way.

As I attempted to read a prepared statement about press freedom and explain the importance of allowing free flow of ideas in our newspaper, I was often interrupted by late Supreme Court Justice Johnnie Lewis. In fact, things were so bad, that I told the full bench, “without due respect”, they were being “dictatorial” in that they were not allowing me to explain to them the reason why the letter was published.


For this, I was held in contempt and sentenced to 30 days in jail.


I was picked up by court deputies and escorted to South Beach, Monrovia’s notorious central prison to begin my 30-day sentence. I was placed in the same wing as murderers, rapists and violent criminals and also fined US$300 and ordered to publish an apology in our newspaper, but I refused.

Fortunately for me, my imprisonment lasted only 72 hours. It came three days before former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was due to deliver her Annual Message. 


Fearing that my imprisonment and an announced protest by civil society groups could overshadow the speech, initiated negotiations to have me released from prison.


Former Minister of Planning Amara Konneh and Maritime Commissioner Binyah Kesselay were the negotiators charged with finding a compromise between me and the Judiciary branch, and the president’s office.


Former Auditor General John Morlu appeared in the prison yard, the night before the speech and told me that if I were to apologize for my actions in court, but not the letter to the editor, I would be released. Later, the court reneged on its promise and demanded an apology for publishing the letter. I stood my ground and refused.

Around midnight the court relented, and I signed the apology for my actions in court only – and by 12:30 a.m. I walked out of walked out of South Beach.

The Associate Justice’s Traffic Violation

Fast-forward to Monday, May 19, 2020, I was driving on my way to interview someone for a story, near the Vai Town area when I noticed a black jeep licensed plate JUD 4 bulldozing its way toward me on heavy speed. I wasn’t sure who’s vehicle it was at first- it was later I confirmed with a court staffer that it belonged to Associate Justice Nagbe.

The Vai Town road is one of the busiest traffic routes in Monrovia. It has become even more compounded now because of an ongoing renovation work due to the dilapidated condition of the road.

The Vai Town route was built as a four-lane road, two lanes going toward the Freeport of Monrovia and two opposite lanes, on the other side heading toward downtown Monrovia. More importantly, the road is divided by a center divide which is there to ensure that those on either side of the road stay in their respective lanes and do not cross over in the ongoing traffic in the other lane.


Following the incident, I placed a call to Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue, informing them of what had happened. The Chief Justice promised me he would look into it, but I never heard from him again. IG Sudue, also expressed frustration at how officials of government have been breaking the laws by driving in the wrong lane. I even heard him on the phone instructing the chief of traffic to assign officers in the Vai Town Road to keep everyone in their respective lanes.

This has been a regular routine for me. Often when I see officials breaking the law, I take their photos and send to the appropriate authorities or publish them to discourage others from doing the same.

Now, that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll say again, I was in the lane heading toward the Freeport, which is the right lane. Any vehicle approaching the lane toward me is in the wrong, that is the law.

For many of you who follow me on Facebook, I have been strongly advocating and most times photographing officials breaking the laws by moving on high speed in ongoing traffic, to the detriment of other commuters.

Imagine waking up one morning and hearing that an official of government, bulldozing his way into incoming traffic and killing someone’s child – or a street-seller crossing the street? All it takes is one small slip up to start a riot or a protest. Imagine!!!

Today, a three-year-old little girl is fighting for her life after she was severely hit on March 1, 2020 by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Cllr. Nyenati Tuan, as a result of alleged reckless driving.

Reckless driving by a Deputy Minister of Justice has left this three-year-old little girl fighting for her life after she was severely hit on March 1, 2020 by Cllr. Nyenati Tuan, as a result of alleged reckless driving.

Tuah, the Deputy Minister for Codification at the Ministry of Justice, was charged for violating traffic law because he failed to yield to “The Right-of-Way” ordinance. According to the traffic police, his reckless driving resulted into severe injuries and damage of properties. The incident took place on March 1, 2020 at 10:00 A.M. around Rehab, Paynesville City.


It is because of such tragedies and many languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder that we use our platform and our voice to highlight these issues, not because we want to disrespect authority but to make sure that authorities do not abuse their powers because they have a job or wear a suit and a time parading a “Big Shot” posture.

The issue of so-called ‘Big Shots’ violating traffic laws is not new. Laws are effectively non-existent and un-enforceable. Most commuters will agree that driving in Monrovia presents a very real threat to life amid frequent accidents resulting in deaths.

Today, high-speed car convoys of government officials require all other vehicles and pedestrians to pull over until they have passed by and will run over you if you do not get out of the way. 


Ironically, that is totally illegal.

Under the Vehicle and Traffic Laws of Liberia, only the President, vice president and emergency vehicles have the right to use sirens in traffic and change lanes. Under the same law, police vehicles are allowed but only in emergency situations. However, since the end of the civil war, lawlessness has taken over with government officials both elected and appointed, taking matters into their own hands by bulldozing their way through traffic drawing ire from commuters and taxpayers, many of whom have become frustrated with the practice by so-called government big shots.

While the Traffic law reserves special treatment for the President and Vice President and police vehicles in emergency situations, most government officials seize on their titles to take matters into their own hands.


In recent years, some members of the national legislature in particular have misinterpreted Article 42 of the constitution which makes no mention of immunities from traffic violations. The constitution states: “No member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall be arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried as a result of opinions expressed or votes cast in the exercise of the functions of his office. Members shall be privileged from arrest while attending, going to or returning from sessions of the Legislature, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace. All official acts done or performed; and all statements made in the Chambers of the Legislature shall be privileged, and no Legislator shall be held accountable or punished therefor.


Section 38: 10.21 under the general rule of the Liberia Vehicle and Traffic Law states that vehicles shall be driven on the right half of every road of sufficient width except as follows: “When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement; when overtaking or passing pedestrians or obstructions on the right half of the highway; when the right half of a road is closed to traffic while under the construction or repair; upon a roadway designated and signposted for one-way traffic.”

Section 10.21 states that drivers of vehicles proceeding in opposite directions shall pass each other to the right and upon highways having width for not more than one line of traffic in each direction each driver shall give to the other as nearly as possible at least one half of the main-traveled portion of the highway.

Section 10.4 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law of Liberia in the Liberian Code of Laws is clear that: “Any person who operates a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. A person who violates the provisions of this section shall be subject to a fine of not more than US$500.00 or imprisonment for not more than six months or both.”

In breaking the law, many so-called “Big Shots” have actually come to believe that they are in the right and the commuters on whose rights they are trampling, are in the wrong.

For example, in 2010, Representative George W. Blamoh allegedly beat an LNP officer who attempted to impound his vehicle for improper parking and traffic violations.

During that same year, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Togbah Mulbah allegedly ordered the beating of LNP officer Lexington Beh for impounding a truck belonging to the Lawmaker. The incident became politicized when partisans from the Lawmaker’s political party, the Congress for Democratic Change, surrounded Mulbah’s residence the next day as Police attempted to arrest him. Upon further investigation, an 11-count indictment was issued in July, and Mulbah was awaiting trial at year’s end.

The lawmakers did not stop there, often using their legislative powers to summon the police for carrying out their duties.

Former Inspector General, Col. Chris Massaquoi himself was summoned and held in contempt by the legislature for simply discharging his statutory duty enshrined in the Vehicle and Traffic Laws of Liberia.


The former Police Chief was summoned because his officers apprehended a traffic violator who claimed to have been Senator Armah Jallah (Gbarpolu County). Even though the Senator himself was never onboard the vehicle, the driver insisted that the vehicle should benefit from all immunities that are restricted to him, even though traffic violation is not part of his immunities.

Despite the observations by the U.S. State Department, officials of government representing all three branches continue to ignore the vehicle and traffic laws of the republic and putting the lives of scores of motorists and pedestrians at risk of being maimed or killed.

In 2014, Senator Armah Jallah, misinformed his colleagues that he was in his vehicle on his way to execute his official duty when the Police chief obstructed him, something Jallah argued is in total violation of the Constitution of Liberia as it relates to the Legislature’s benefits and immunities. The Lawmaker’s story was rebuffed by eyewitnesses who explained that he was not in the vehicle when the offense was committed as he had claimed.

Flaunting Powers Without Remorse

The buck must begin and end with our leaders. If the leaders cannot muster the courage to obey the very laws our forefathers and constitutionalists inscribed, then we might as well condemn Liberia to purgatory and throw away the keys.

During the saga, former police chief Massaquoi expressed frustration at the behaviour of lawmakers misusing their powers, warning those in the habit of illegally and unlawfully using emergency devices such as emergency lights, sirens and horns to immediately desist and remove these devices from their vehicles. He also derided those in the habit of using the shoulders of the road to create a lane to refrain and stay on the main road. Massaquoi argued that such practice was becoming alarming to the point where some officials of government, saying that attempt to run the traffic police over is callous disrespect for the rule of law and safety of the public as well as the police whose duty is to regulate and control traffic.

Liberia, like the rest of the world is struggling to deal with a deadly Coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the President has ordered a curfew from 6am to 3pm daily but because most Liberians, particularly the poor live in a hand-to-mouth and daily hustle environment, they often leave their homes early in the morning in search of daily bread to feed their families. 

It is rather unfair for any official of government, other than the President, the Vice President, emergency vehicle or police vehicle on assignment, to jump into an opposing lane because they are running late for work. Aren’t we all doing the same?

Sadly, it is our taxes that pay for the cars they ride.

If everyone takes on the privileges of the presidency, vice presidency and those who fall under the realms of the law, then the laws should not exist.

Recently, in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who has been praised around the world for her response to the pandemic, was denied entry into a restaurant because allowing her entry would mean breaking the social distance law which she had put into place. One has to wonder whether a Liberian government official would have obeyed their own laws. 

I have no idea what is in the document the sheriff from Justice Nagbe attempted to serve me on Tuesday but from experience – it’s either a summons to appear or an arrest. I am afraid of neither – But I am fully prepared for the cards that are about to be dealt me, again.

If this is what it will take to draw attention to the gross abuse of power by government officials daily flaunting their powers and breaking the traffic laws, it is a price I’m willing to pay – even if it means sacrificing my life.

The truth of the matter is, Liberia will never progress as a nation if every Tom, Dick and Harry feels they have the power and can abuse it at will while aspiring to enjoy the same privileges as the President, the vice president, emergency vehicles or police in the line of duty. The laws are specific and must be implemented regardless of status or class.

Associate Justice Nagbe broke the law, I did not. I was in the right – and he was in the wrong – I’ll stick with that to my grave.

The buck must begin and end with our leaders. If the leaders cannot muster the courage to obey the very laws our forefathers and constitutionalists inscribed, then we might as well condemn Liberia to purgatory and throw away the keys.

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