Liberia: Lofa Senator-elect J. Brownie Samukai Road to the Senate Gets Rocky amid New Complaints to Stop His Certification

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Monrovia — The road to the certification and induction of Lofa County Senator-Elect Brownie J. Samukai, Jr., appears to be in limbo.

Despite multiple challenges against his nomination prior to the elections, in which he was cleared by the Supreme Court to contest, to multiple challenges against NEC in its handling of the December 8th elections in Lofa, in which Samukai won convincingly, the former Minister of National Defense has been attached to the complaints.

The first post-election complaint against Samukai was brought about by two individual voters, alleging fraud, but NEC Hearing Officer dismissed said case upon due process, that the complainants had no legal standing.  The Second post-election case alleging that some of the tallying papers were not stamped by NEC although they were signed by all pool watchers, was heard more than one week ago, and dismissed this gone weekend on Saturday. 

The dilemma facing the Lofa County Senator-Elect looks like this:  It takes several days to have a case heard at NEC.  When the verdict goes against the complainant, the complainant has 7 days to perfect its appeal to the Board of Commissioners, and the time it will take for the board to hear said case, and the time it will take for the BOC to decide after the hearing, and the period to appeal to the Supreme Court and the hearing and decision therefrom within 7 days makes it highly likely that Samukai will still be hanging in the balance up to the State of Nation’s Address. 

From all indications, it is noticeably clear that there are no legal grounds to overturn the overwhelming victory of Samukai in the 8th December elections.  The delaying tactics of groundless complaints by individuals and groups with no standing and the costs involved with lawyers, point only in one direction – that elements in the Government and its supporters are prime suspects of being sponsors of these actions.  There are mounting speculations that the government, and those who are hell bent on stopping Samukai from going to the Senate, will now be looking to the case in court to do for them what they have not been able to do thus far, stopping Samukai at all cost.

Next comes the alleged criminal case at the S.C. against Samukai, which is awaiting opinion to be handed down.   The charges alleged are:  Theft of Property, Criminal Conspiracy, and Misuse of Public Funds.  It will be interesting to see which way it goes. 

A summary of the prosecution argument is that defendant Samukai and his co-defendants had no authority to use the AFL pension funds; that in fact said funds were private funds although they charged Samukai for using public funds; and that the defendants issued checks in their own names for personal benefits. 

Misuse of private funds has another legal remedy, as compared to misuse of public funds for which Samukai and co-defendants are charged.  It means the prosecution made a legal blunder charging someone for something but argued on another legal ground.  This is an element of doubt to the detriment of the prosecution, but to the benefit of the defendants. 

The defense has argued that they were authorized by the President and Commander in Chief of the AFL, (Our sources enabled us to review over 67 different types of payments authorization to the AFL for their upkeep, operations, requests, sustenance, training, predeployment training, among others).  For the purpose of this article, we will just state a few:  March 25, 2014 MOS-RL/EBM-COS/0248/2014 – authorization from the President; for example, we saw another document ref: MOS-RL/EBM-COS/0214/2015 dated 13 January 2015 approving the disbursement of USD$50,000.00 as GOL contribution to the family of the late MG Gen. Suraj Abdurrahman; we also saw payments for death benefits to AFL widows and families USD34,000; documents showing payments to the AFL for pre-deployment training in 2016 amounting to USD$64,321; another document showing payment for AFL SGT Titus who was flown to India for medical treatment – over USD100,000 paid and further payments made for his upkeep as well as payments for military personnel in training overseas (excluding USA training) pending reimbursement from the GOL. 

The defendants showed very clearly how Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay Sr. of Criminal Court “C” fabricated evidence on the issue of theft that was never induced during the trial; that checks were written in the names of the defendant, in which he quoted Exhibit 12 as evidence.  We reviewed all the exhibits presented by both the prosecution and defense, as well as testimonies by all witnesses including the present Minister of Defense, The AFL Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of staff, ECOBANK Management, among others, during this trial, and not a single document, statement, nor check was ever induced during the entire trial up to judgement.  In fact, exhibit 12, contain 7 sheets only as exhibits, and ZERO attachments of checks.  This was a bold face lie by the Judge and he ought to be sanctioned by the Supreme Court for major ethical breach, unprofessional conduct as a judge, and possible criminal intent on the reputation of the defendants.  Therefore, the issue of theft cannot obtain because the case records showed defendants presented evidence that they had the written authorization from the President, and that the money were expended on the AFL to be reimbursed by Government; and the defendants did not use any money for their personal benefits, neither was the AFL injured by said expenditure, since in fact the Government had promised to reimburse said amount.  To Date the Government has reimbursed USD460,000 back to said fund.

As the public await the decision from the High Court, it is noticeably difficult to rule out politics and the connectivity between defendant Samukai ascendency to the Senate and plans by the power that be to deny Samukai from ever sitting in the Senate thru the courts.  It is no secret that the powers that be do not want defendant Samukai in the Senate and are now relying on the high court to rule against him. 

From the records, exhibits, and testimonies given during of this trial, what are some of the fundamental questions to be asked?  Did Samukai and co-defendants had the legal authority to act in the way they did?  It is the view of this paper, that the answer is resoundingly YES, by Orders of the Commander in Chief. 

Did Samukai and co-defendants had the political and administrative authority to do so?  Again, without reservation, we say YES, according to the Laws and Statue of his Appointment as Minister of National Defense (REF: The Executive Law, Chapter 24. Ministry of National Defense, §24.1-6. And Section 24.2 duties of the Minister of National Defense.

Subject to the authority and direction of the President as Commander-in-Chief, the Minister of National Defense shall have complete authority over the armed forces of Liberia, including all matters relating to their training, operation administration, logistic support and maintenance, development, welfare, preparedness, and effectiveness. The President shall, however, make all military appointment[s]. 2. Report. The annual report by the Minister of Defense to the Legislature shall contain abstracts of reports from each reporting.

Did Samukai and the defendants acted as a conspiracy to commit any offense?  The answer is No, The Minister of National Defense is within the Chain of Command of the Armed Forces of Liberia, with the President of Liberia, as Commander in Chief of the AFL and his actions and decisions are based on the authority and orders of the Commander in Chief of the AFL.

How likely is the question of the next Vice-Presidential candidate of the ruling party linked to the interest of the powers that be to have Samukai adjudged guilty?  There is mounting speculation that relationship between Senator Prince Johnson and the ruling CDC has dipped like soar fruit.  Senator Johnson is reportedly making public statements which seem to irritate the listening ears of the ruling party and supporters, and President Weah may be looking at another Nimba option. 

There are reasonable speculations from sources who recently visited from abroad and met the powers that be, that President Weah is inclined to select someone from Nimba county to serve as his running mate for 2023.  According to sources, this speculation is being used as a honey drip to sons and daughters of Nimba, who are in positions of trust, or about to retire, and who are in position of influence to deal with Samukai once and for all.

Judge Gbeisay, who hails from Nimba has had political ambitions in the past.

Supporters of Samukai are now raising red flags over the judge’s verdict against Mr. Samukai.   It is also speculated that another son of Nimba County who is also a lawyer in the Judiciary, is also about to retire.  Which of these sons and daughters from Nimba within the Judiciary who may be interested in the prospect of becoming the running mate to President Weah in 2023 and therefore help to stop Mr. Samukai from going to the Senate? 

There is mounting speculation that Justice Nagbe, another Southeastener could highly likely be the next Chief Justice upon the retirement of Chief Justice Korkpor.  In this case with like minds weighing heavily on one side of the bench, Samukai becomes the full guy that will conclude the plan to barred him from becoming Senator for Lofa County, and likely have a Southeastener to become the Head of the Judiciary, and a credible Nimbain to become the potential Vice-Presidential candidate to President Weah in 2023.  Such thoughts and actions could only demonstrate their intent to also eclipse the grip of Senator Prince Johnson on the Nimba factor. 

If this plan succeeds, it means that getting Samukai out of the Senate was the ultimate personal greed and fear of the CDC to the detriment of the potential services Samukai, as a formidable force, could have rendered the people of Lofa, to the benefit of Liberia. 

It would be disgraceful and shameful for professional persons to fall prey to this kind of ploy, using the argument that the law has the remedy to any action, and thus demeaning the legal profession at its core. 

For any judgement that says that the Minister of National Defense should have disobeyed the legal orders of the Commander in Chief, would mean that the orders of the President would be second guessed as to whether it should be carried out and thus subject to legal quagmire in the successful execution of missions.  This would be an extremely dangerous precedent for any Supreme Court or High Court to institute.  It will show that the search for people with spines to stand up to the powers that be has failed during this sitting.   There may still be a glimmer of hope that when there is reasonable doubt, or doubt in prosecution’s evidence, it is to the benefit of the defendant.  We see too many doubts to prosecute Samukai.

Some political observers fear that George Weah-led government may be working behind the scenes to keep the former defense minister from the Senate. Chatters of a purported Vice President slot to Chief Justice Korkpor in 2023 is also raising eyebrows regarding Mr. Samukai’s fate.

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