Liberia: Senate Mandates Justice Minister to Withdraw Letter to NEC Halting the Certification of Lofa County Senator-elect Brownie Samukai

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MONROVIA – The Liberian Senate has ordered the Minister of Justice to withdraw a communication served the National Elections Commission (NEC) by Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephas which instructed the NEC not to certificate Mr. J. Brownie Samukai, Lofa County Senator-elect.

The Senate decision came after the Minister of Justice backtracked on earlier statement that he had no knowledge about the Cllr. Cephus’ communication to the NEC.

On Tuesday, Minister Musa Dean told Senators he had no knowledge about the communication. However, on Thursday the minister told Senators that he approved the communication.

He told the Senate on Thursday that the Solicitor General acted within the context of law and that he did nothing wrong and that the letter was intended to serve as information and not a mandate.

In his own defense, Cllr. Cephus told the Senate that he did what he did out of expediency and while the Minister was out of town. “I acted in pursuant to the Liberia Code of Law Revise penal code title 26: chapter 50.1.2.”

However, Senators informed the Solicitor General that the provision quoted by him didn’t give him the authority to implement and that power is only vested in the Supreme Court. And that chapter 3 of the same law gives the Justice Minister the power to inform the NEC every December the list of people of indicted and charged and not the Solicitor General.

On Friday, February 19, Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephus wrote the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) instructing her not to certificate Lofa County Senator-elect J. Brownie Samukai whose conviction by the lower court was recently affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Cllr. Cephus’ letter to the Elections Commission Chairperson states, “You will recall that prior to the 8 December 2020 Election, Mr. Samukai was found guilty by the lower court along with his co-conspirators for the same crimes. But took an appeal to the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, which automatically stayed the enforcement of the convicted judgment.”

“Therefore, the recent judgment by the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia is not a novelty and did not depart from the holding of the lower court’s judgment; instead, it confirmed the lower court’s judgment, which means Mr. Samukai together with his co-conspirators has been a convicted felon from the date the lower court rendered its judgment in 2020.”

“Accordingly, since the guilty judgment is the law controlling, and constitutes a finality of the matter, and by law is not appealable in this jurisdiction, it is considered my opinion that it will be inarguable allay any and all concerns that may arise, and you will therefore proceed not to certificate him.”

Acarous Gray Reacts

In response to the Senate Action, Representative Moses Acarous Gray (CDC-District #8 Montserrado County) and the chair on the House Executive Committee and current president officer of the House of Representatives criticized the Senate for usurping the function of the President.

He criticized the Senate for abusing their powers to intimidate the two officials of the Executive who work at the will and pleasure of the President to perform a duty that is surely the function of the President of the Republic of Liberia.

Gray also criticized Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor for allowing such a decision while she serves as presiding officer. “The officials were not given due process. They should have allowed the two witnesses to defend themselves by explaining the reason of their action and I think that was not done which is a travesty of justice.”

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