Liberia: Solicitor General Cyrennius Cephas Instills Fear in Citizens Collecting Funds to Ensure Lofa County Senator-elect J. Brownie Samukai Restitute ‘Misapplied’ AFL Money
MONROVIA — It appears that the legal battle against Lofa County Mr. J. Brownie Samukai as Senator-elect of Lofa County is far from being over as the Government of Liberia (GOL), through Solicitor General Counselor Sayma Cyrennius Cephas, has threatened to arrest those forcibly luring citizens of the county and others to contribute towards the restitution of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) money “misapplied”.
Mr. Samukai, who was a candidate of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) in the December 8 2020 senatorial election, was declared the winner of Lofa after he accumulated 20, 431 votes, over his closest rival Independent candidate Cllr. Joseph Jallah who received 13,968 votes.
Few weeks after he was declared the victor, the Supreme Court of Liberia in February 2021, upheld a March 2020 ruling from Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay of Criminal Court ‘C’ against Mr. Samukai and two other co-appellants and sentenced them to two years in prison each for misapplication of US$1.1 million intended for the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
Mr. Samukai and former Deputy Minister for Administration and James Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller of the Ministry of Defense were found guilty of the crimes theft of property, misuse of public money and criminal conspiracy.
Though they were given separate jail terms of six months and two years if they failed to restitute the amount within a one-year period, the High Court ruled that the prison terms could be suspended if the convicts restitute 50 percent of the fund within six months and make full payment within a year.
Excerpt of the Court’s opinion: “That the evidence culled from the records shows that the appellants were fiduciaries of the soldiers of the AFL Pension Account; hence, every withdrawal from said account should have been by authorization or consent of the soldiers of the AFL. Therefore, the unrelated expenses of US$1,147,656.35 on the instruction of the former President of Liberia was without the pale of the law, and the appellants are held personally liable for the unauthorized expenditure on the accounts.”
Following the verdict, citizens of Lofa under the banner: “Movement of Lofa Residents in Solidarity with Samukai”, vowed to ensure the payment of the money “misapplied”.
The citizens believed that the entire legal process against Mr. Samukai was a “witch-hunt” aimed at going after them for not voting in favor of a George Weah presidency during the 2017 general and presidential elections.
But speaking when he participated on 50-50 talk show on Sky FM107.1 on Thursday, April 1, via mobile phone, disclosed that his office will not relent on arresting those in the habit of harassing peaceful citizens to make contribution towards the restitution of the money against their will.
He added that his office will act based upon complaint filed by anyone against the act.
“The man (Brownie Samukai) knows he has the people money and he there talking about Lofa County will pay. It concerns me because they are trying to indict their whole county; some places, they don’t even know his name. They’re forcing the people to pay money. If anybody brings complaint that they are being forced to pay, we will arrest some people”.
“When the man (Samukai) is going; he gets bodyguards behind him running. We supposed to be the victims; we are the ones who are suffering. Y’all going to make us the perpetrators and make him the victim? He supposed to be the perpetrator”.
Cllr. Cephas maintained that though his comments do not amount to a threat, no one should be forced or harassed to pay money for something they do not know about.
“The man (Brownie Samukai) knows he has the people money and he there talking about Lofa County will pay. It concerns me because they are trying to indict their whole county; some places, they don’t even know his name. They’re forcing the people to pay money. If anybody brings complaint that they are being forced to pay, we will arrest some people”.– Cllr. Sayma Cyrennius Cephas, Solicitor General
‘Judicially Disenfranchised Citizen’
Speaking further, Cllr. Cephas indicated that Mr. Samukai cannot be considered as a candidate who participated in the December 8, 2020 senatorial election in keeping with Section 3 of the New Election Law.
According to him, Mr. Samukai is a “Judicially disenfranchised citizen” that should not be certificated despite the Supreme Court’s first ruling ordering the National Elections Commission (NEC) to do so.
He argued that though the government did not fail a complaint against Senator-elect Samukai at the time, it does not in any way imply that a suit cannot be failed to prevent him from being certificated as a convict.
“The Government of Liberia has an interest in the matter because; it involves the interpretation of Section 50.1.2 of the New Penal Law that deals with de-qualification. Samukai was tried and convicted by the state. So, he remains a convicted felon. Under the law, we have the right to go to the court and explain that look; this man is a convicted felon consistent with the law. He’s not qualified to take office”.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling was separate and distinct. Issues must be raised squarely before the Supreme Court and so, the Supreme Court ruled in other matters that have to do with elections irregularities and fraud has nothing to do with the interpretation of Section 50.12 of the New Penal Law 3.1 and 3.32 of the New Election Law. He can’t take office; we are trying to prohibit any attempt to certificate him, because he was never even a candidate by law”.
Cllr. Cephas maintained that the case filed against Samukai by the government is “beyond restitution” of the AFL pension money and two others misapplied.
He denied claims being raised by citizens, particularly residents of Lofa that Mr. Samukai is being witch-hunted by the government.
“This is just more than the satisfaction of the judgment. The New Penal Code is clear. The Liberian government is not after Brownie Samukai. The GOL is going after a convicted felon who happens to be Brownie Samukai”.
He justified that the case with Mr. Samukai cannot be compared to Montserrado County Representative Abu Kamara, who admitted to criminally receiving double salaries from the government while serving as Assistant Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.
According to him, the matter involving Rep. Kamara, who is a National Executive Committee member of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) did not go to the court for prosecution after he admitted to the act and paid back the money into government coffers.
“I am going to be pushing for his non-certification because, once you are a convicted felon you are disqualified from assuming public office; it can be five years, two years, but it can’t be more than five years. That’s what the law says. Let this be a warning”.