Liberia: Nat’l Elections Commission Chairman-Designate ‘Naturalized Citizenship’ Comes under Heavy Questioning
MONROVIA – Under the naturalization law of Liberia, a person below 18 years of age is a minor; and a minor is disallowed from obtaining naturalization for himself or herself. The law provides that any person seeking to naturalize himself/herself must have attained the “age of maturity” – 21 years and above.
On Monday, March 30, 2020, the nominee for the position of chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC) alleged that he was 17 years old when he obtained his naturalization of Liberian citizenship in 1982.
Cllr. A. Ndubusi Nwabudike statement was in response to a line of questioning from Senator, Cllr. Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County.
“The law says before you’re naturalized in Liberia you must be 21 years old and you say you were born in 1964, that means you were 17 years old when you naturalized, so that suggests you were not qualified to become a naturalized citizen,” Senator Sherman asked the nominee.
In his argument, Cllr. Nwabudike said at age 17 when he decided to obtain Liberian citizenship he was required by the court to take along an adult who could stand as guarantor. He could not tell Senate committee members or show his certificate of renunciation of his Nigeria citizenship but was able to produce a photocopy of his naturalization certificate after the issue was raised by Senator Armah Jallah of Gbarpolu County, a ranking member of the committee
“When I filed for naturalization I was a minor; I was required to bring an adult to stand behind me for the taking of the oath. My argument is that our law has set precedence when a minor is about to take a decision under the law that minor is guided by an adult,” he said.
As part of his line of questioning, Senator Sherman also asked the nominee that as a Nigerian citizen by birth, his decision to take up citizenship of Liberia doesn’t qualify him to keep his Nigerian citizenship and as he intends to hold a top position, how he intends to handle his allegiance to Nigeria and Liberia.
“The reason why our people are concerned is that our laws do not say only a Liberian should be a Finance Minister or Health Minister, it is clear in the NEC law that the chairman and members of the board of commissioners should be Liberians,” Sen. Sherman said.
In response, Nwabudike said, “To interpret a law you must know the history of that law. That law you are referencing was amended to suit people who were in a country where dual citizenship is allowed. Even the United States does not determine where its citizens choose to live, to do that is a violation of basic human rights.”
“The law says before you’re naturalized in Liberia you must be 21 years old and you say you were born in 1964, that means you were 17 years old when you naturalized, so that suggests you were not qualified to become a naturalized citizen.”– Senator Varney Sherman, Grand Cape Mount County
Cllr. Sherman also inquired about what represents the interest of the NEC Chair-designate in Liberia. In his response he said, “If you mean I have real property, I do have real property. If you mean I have children, I do have a child in the US like you also. The interest I have in this country, I don’t think it is different from yours.”
His confirmation hearing continues today.
The Nigerian-born naturalized citizen of Liberia was nominated on March 20 by President George Weah to head the National Elections Commission alongside Cllr. Davidetta Browne Lansanah as Co-Chair, Mr. Floyd Oxley Sayor, Atty. Ernestine Morgan-Awar (Esq), Mr. Barsee Leo Kpangbai, and Madam Josephine Kou Gaye as Commissioners respectively. If confirmed they are to stay in their tenured positions for seven years.
His nomination has by far been the most controversial as it has generated lots of debates on social media. If confirmed, it is going to be his third senior governmental post in less than two years.
One of the controversial things that have now dogged the NEC Chair-designate is his nationality. Even though he is a naturalized Liberia, he has a Nigerian root, which his critics think should not allow him to head such a vital institution of the Liberian Government. These people think such a post should only be exclusively reserved for a born citizen and not a naturalized one.
Last Sunday, March 22nd, Cllr. Nwabudike, who is presently the head of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), told FrontPageAfrica in an exclusive interview that he is a Liberian.
“My nationality is Liberian, let’s settle that and my name is ugly, and let’s settle that, this is not the first time. It’s hard to pronounce, but its Ndubusi Nwabudike and my parents come from Delta State in Nigeria. My father was here, first in 1946. My father had a Master’s degree; he came here because the grandmother of his wife, a Gola woman, she wanted to know her history because she was never in Liberia. So, my father came here to trace that lineage. Unfortunately, he came with only a picture, there wasn’t too much history because the lady in question died young, I think she was 28 or 30. So, after staying here for a while, he started a relationship with President [William V. S.] Tubman as a consultant. He also worked for Firestone as consultant. He was in Liberia, he naturalized, became a citizen, some of his crowd at that time were the Jones, Wariebi, Adhigibe, people like Brown, Edwin Kaleku, a whole bunch of them, that class. He stayed here until 1960 when Nigeria got independence 1960, 1961 he went back. He was in Nigeria until the civil war in Nigeria started, I think 1967. 1968 he came back here.
“The civil war in Nigeria ended 1971, 1972, he went back to Nigeria. So, he was a citizen of Liberia. When I was born, I was born to a father who was Liberian already. And by our constitution, I really don’t need to naturalize. Our law provides that if one of your parents is Liberian when you are born, you are a Liberian citizen.”
He further stated that his Liberian nationality had to be proven before the Supreme Court of Liberia could allow him to practice law.
“So, the question of my nationality is really not in context. It’s a matter of law which is settled. In this Supreme Court opinion, my nationality is there because when you apply to sit the bar exam as Counselor at Law at the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court will investigate you. They will validate your nationality before you are admitted in the bar. It is already written in the volume, so that issue is settled.