Liberia: President Weah Wants Enactment of Law Terminating All Tenure Positions in Government

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Monrovia – President George Manneh Weah has submitted before the 54th Legislature a bill calling for the cancellation of tenure positions within the Executive Branch of Government.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

The bill entitled “An Act Prohibiting the Tenure of Public Officials Within the Executive Branch of Government” was captured on the agenda read by the Deputy Chief Clerk, J. Sayfah Geeplay, of the House of Representatives during the first day sitting of the Legislature’s re-called session on Tuesday, October 30.

Immediately after the adoption of the agenda, the Members of the House voted to go in Executive Session, asking reporters and members of the public, who had trooped in, to follow yesterday’s proceedings, to stay out.

The Plenary of the House did not hold a public debate on the bill because almost the entire session was held behind close door. And when the chamber was reopened to the public, Rep. Marvin Cole, (NPP, Bong Dist#3), citing the House’s rule, immediately filed in a motion calling for the adjournment of Plenary and all other items on the Speaker’s desk to be deferred to the next sitting.

Motives behind the unprecedented move to conduct the entire session behind close door remain unknown, but there are speculations that some members of the House have threatened to vote against the bill, terming it as a scheme by the Executive Branch to wheel excessive powers.

What’s in the bill?

In the preamble of the bill the President stated that the status of tenured personnel of the Liberian Government would impede and obstruct the development agenda of the President.

Although the bill did not outline how tenure position might obstruct the development agenda of the President, it gives the president full powers over the Executive Branch of Government.

It consists of four sections, the first reads: “Except as otherwise provided in the constitution of the Republic of Liberia, all statutory provisions of laws providing for tenure of office, terms of office, tenure, or anything that provides security of tenure, of all public officials appointed by the President under the Executive Branch of Government are hereby repealed.

Section two: “The President shall have and exercise all the powers necessary and convenient for the effective administration of the Executive Branch and all the institutions under its control, and to this end, all appointed officials thereof shall hold office at the will and pleasure of the president.”

Section Three added: “That the law supersedes all other statutory provisions regarding tenure office under the Executive Branch of Government; while Section Four calls for the law o take effect immediately upon publication into hand bills”.

Mix Reactions Swirling In House of Reps 

Some lawmakers, speaking to FrontPage Africa expressed mixed reactions to the President’s draft act.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a member of the House of Representatives called for total review of the law before acting upon it. The lawmaker indicated that the document should firstly be sent to committee’s room for review and recommendations be presented to plenary for action.

But Rep. Larry Younquoi, (Nimba District#8) has welcomed the President’s bill, noting that it will correct the wrongs made by the previous administration.

Rep. Younquoi, a member of both the 53rd and now 54th Legislature, told FPA that although the intent of creating tenured positions might be good, the law was however misused by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when she decided to make series of appointments at the end of her administration.

He said it is prudent for any administration to appoint people who could conform to the administration’s platform, adding that although he has not entirely read the bill, he was in support of it.

Said Rep. Younquoi: “We created a lot of tenure positions. The good intention is that you want these people to be paid and to do their job and not be subject to manipulations. But equally so, do you want the President and the larger government’s hands to be tied beyond a point where they cannot do anything? For me, in as much as I am a Unity Party lawmaker, I think this one falls within my thoughts and I will go for it,” he said.

He, however, called for key agencies included the General Auditing Commission (GAC), the National Elections Commission (NEC) and perhaps the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to retain their tenured positions; while the rest of the public agencies including the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), the Liberia Maritime Commission and the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NACSSCORP) are taken off the tenure position. 

Rep. Younquoi: “Let those ones that are provided for by the Constitution like the General Auditing Commission, National Elections Commission and perhaps the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission remain. The ones that are not provided for, let them go. The outgoing administration misused it. My Party misused it last minutes to time. And it’s working in our face. That’s’ how the LS$16 billion and some of the problems we are talking about today came about.”

Mixed Reactions from Opposition, Public

The news of the President’s bill is garnering mixed reactions from some quarters of the public including the opposition blog.

Abraham Darius Dillon, the Chairman of Political Affairs in the opposition Liberty Party, frowned on the President’s Bill. Dillon then called on the members of the 54th Legislature not to pass the bill into law.

Said Dillon: “The decision to send a bill to cancel all tenure positions within the Executive Branch is dictatorial in its nature. The President is practicing and wants to legalize his dictatorial tendency. That bill is against the tenants of good governance. It is against the intent and spirit of the constitution. He is dead wrong. And I am challenging all lawmakers including my Political Leader, Senator Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence, my National Chairman, Senator Steve Zargo and all members of the Legislature from Liberty Party, Unity Party and all well meaning lawmakers to not only frown on the act, but to refuse it and send it back.” 

Amos Brown, a follower of FPA online wrote: “We are moving towards autocracy gradually and subtly. This is Orwell’s Animal Farm in slow motion. Before we know it, it will be considered treasonous to criticize this i***t.”  

Victor Gee Gbenie, another FPA online reader added: “The President has no right to cancel tenured positions. These positions have functions that the President knows can implicate him if he is caught in corruption and there must be an investigation by an Agency that is tenured. The President must also understand that Liberia needs independent agencies that have technical Know-how in service areas that the Government cannot fill within a short time due to technical implications. I hope the Honorable House and Senate will reject such a move. Liberians cannot and will not accept such a total control by one man, called President.”

But Morris Karnuah backs the President; saying, “Why should one person serve in one position for five years. This provides the opportunity for corruption and I concur with the President to abolish it (tenure position).

The President introduced the bill in the midst of staunch criticisms meted against him from the civil society groups and the opposition blog for appointing or attempting to appoint officials to several government agencies that are governed by tenured positions.

Some of these agencies include the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (LEITI), the Liberia Maritime Authority and the National Lottery Authority.

At the LEITI, the President’s appointment of former Montserrado County representative, Gabriel Nyenkan as the head of the Secretariat was greeted by a barrage of criticisms from civil society groups, the Liberia Human Rights Commission and international anti-graft agency, Global Witness amongst others.

Nyenkan replaced Konah Karmo who was appointed by the Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) of the LEITI in 2014.   

President Weah is also attempting to dismiss Liberia’s permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization, Atty. Isaac Jackson, but that appoint was put on hold by the Supreme Court.

The court’s decision, which was handed down by Justice in Chambers, Her Honor Jamesetta Wolokolie, ordered that everything should returned to status quo in relation to the position. 

The decision was triggered by a Writ of Prohibition filed by Atty. Jackson who argued that the statue that established the Liberia Maritime Authority under which he serves, gives him a five-year tenure and as such the President’s decision to replace him was erroneous.

The headquarters of the National Lottery Authority in Monrovia has been a scene of upheaval in recent time following the appointment of Neved Kortu as the Deputy Director General of the agency.

He replaced Agnes Effiong, who claimed that the appointment was illegal.

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