Varney Sherman Nemesis Reportedly Tipped to Replace Benedict Sannoh as Justice Minister


Monrovia – Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is said to be facing a difficult dilemma over who to appoint as her next Minister of Justice, FrontPageAfrica has learned.

While it is unclear how far the President is on closing in on her decision, some political observers fear it could resurrect old wounds between the President and the party chair who has expressed his unflinching support for Vice President Joseph Boakai.

A void was created following the resignation of Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, who stepped down in the wake of the poor handling of the investigation into the death of Mr. Harry A. Greaves, the former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company.

President Sirleaf accepted Mr. Sannoh’s resignation but urged him to remain available to serve his Country in other capacities as the need may arise.

It had been widely speculated that Liberty Party chairman Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa had gotten the nod to become Sannoh’s replacement in the Sirleaf-led government, but Executive Mansion sources now say it is looking increasingly likely that the President is leaning in another direction. It is that direction that is the crux of Sirleaf’s dilemma.

Cllr. Johnny Momoh, a former partner in the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm is said to be in the driving seat to become Sannoh’s replacement. But some political observers say, the decision could come at a costly gamble for Sirleaf.

Momoh was recently expelled from Sherman & Sherman fuelling a major rift with Cllr. Varney Sherman who also happens to be the Chair of the ruling Unity Party.

Cllr. Sherman has had an on-again; off-again strain relationship with Sirleaf and the appointment of his Nemesis may not go down well in the aftermath of recent interventions to mend ties between the party chairman and the incumbent President.

FrontPageAfrica has learned that following Cllr. Momoh’s falling out with the UP chair, Momoh took Sherman and Sherman to the Ministry of Labor for unpaid benefits, claiming that the firm owed him money.

Sherman & Sherman, according to sources challenged Momoh at labor and the lawyer later withdrew his complaint. “He claimed the firm owned him money but he lost his case at labor.

However, it is my understanding that the lawfirm will pay him what is due him anyway, three times more than what the law requires,” said a source with knowledge of the situation, speaking to FrontPageAfrica on condition of anonymity.

Momoh’s appointment could also trigger a major confirmation showdown where Cllr. Sherman who is also chair of the Senate Judiciary committee will be presiding.

Momoh was elevated at the Sherman firm to Staff Counsel in December 1999. He accepted and served in this capacity for one year when he was elevated to the position of Assistant Counsel in 2000.

By 2005, Counselor Momoh was again promoted to the position of Senior Counsel, skipping the position of Senior Associate Counsel. In addition to his general responsibilities as a trial lawyer, he served as the Resident Legal Counsel for the Firestone Plantations Company, one of the firm’s most valued clients.

Counsellor Momoh is an honour graduate of Cuttington University College, now Cuttington University with a B.A. degree in History (1986) and graduate of the L. A. Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia (1996).

Immediately after his first degree, Counsellor Momoh served as secondary school teacher, first at St. Augustine Episcopal High School and then the Holy Cross Mission School (1987 – 1988).

He later moved to Monrovia to become a History instructor at the University of Liberia (1989 – 2000).  It was while in this last position that he attended Law School.

Prior to his expulsion, Cllr. Momoh managed the litigation department of Sherman & Sherman. In 2006, in addition to being Senior Counsel, Cllr. Momoh became a partner of Sherman & Sherman.

Reports of strain ties between President Sirleaf and Cllr. Sherman has been ongoing for some time now but heightened during the 2014 Senatorial elections during which Sirleaf reportedly threw her support behind Sherman’s rival in the Grand Cape Mount Senatorial race, incumbent Senator Abel Massalley.

Sirleaf also endure criticism for allegedly lobbying against Sherman’s Pro Temp effort following his certification by the National Elections Commission.

Political blogger Darius Dillon took the President to task in the aftermath of those elections and accused the President of making Sherman a lame duck Chairman of the ‘Ruling Unity Party’, running an empty ‘vessel’.

Dillon was among scores of politicians to accuse Sirleaf of undermining Sherman by supporting another candidate so that he would not win.

While it is unclear how far the President is on closing in on her decision, some political observers fear it could resurrect old wounds between the President and the party chair who has expressed his unflinching support for Vice President Joseph Boakai.

With the party already divided on the direction for 2017 amid developing rivalry between Boakai and Dr. Toga Gayeweah McIntosh, one party insider said, Sherman may not take the appoint lying down and could see it as an affront to his leadership of the party and Boakai’s Presidential quest.

Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]