Liberia: Independent Human Rights Commission Rules Against CARI For Illegally Dismissing Head Of Livestock, Aquaculture, And Fishery Program￼
Monrovia – The Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC) has found the Central Agriculture Research Institute of Liberia guilty of illegally dismissing one of its senior staff, Dr. Nyekoi Jomah director of livestock, aquaculture and inland fishery, and denying him his salaries and other benefits since 2019.
In the verdict, the INCHR Hearing Officer, Atty. Welleh Valentine ruled that Dr. Joma was not accorded due process and CARI should pay all his salaries from the period of dismissal.
Excerpt: “Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, it is the holding of this Hearing Office that CARI authority’s dismissal of Dr. Jomah is in violation of his due process rights, and therefore held liable by this hearing office to pay Dr. Jomah all of his benefits totaling 30 months’ salary from the period of his dismissal to present. The hearing office further says that CARI should return to status quo ante and accord Dr. Jomah all his rights in keeping with this ruling.”
While the Hearing Office noted that parties to the complaint reserve the rights to appeal, CARI’s management, represented by Dr. Victor Sumo said it accepts the ruling and will act accordingly.
End of Long standing Dispute
The ruling has brought to closure the long-standing dispute between CARI and Dr. Jomah which began in 2019 under the leadership of Paulette Findley when she served as the officer-in-charge of CARI. She accused Dr. Jomah of theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property, forgery, and misuse of public money, a charge he vehemently denies.
The legal wrangling began with a lawsuit filed in September 2021 where the management alleged that Jomah forged the signatures of David P. Tokpah, the agency’s head of natural resource management and Esen Joe Amara, its comptroller, and withdrew L$10,000 from the institution’s finance office for animal feed and purchase of building materials but later diverted the money to repair his vehicle.
A month or so later, CARI wrote the United Bank of Africa (UBA) a letter seen by FrontPage Africa, asking the bank not to pay Jomah until further notice. The letter, addressed to the bank’s branch manager Lionel Massaquoi, was signed by Financial Comptroller Enson Joe Amara and approved by Findley.
But the charges were dismissed by the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Bong County in June, 2020 over the failure of the prosecution to proceed with the case. “The defendant is therefore discharged by court from further answering to the charges levied against the defendant by the state on the premise that the matter is dismissed without prejudice to the state,” Judge A. Blamo Dixon stated in the June 12, 2020 ruling.
Despite the court’s ruling, Dr. Jomah was not reinstated. Since 2019, he has received only five months’ salary and has been living on handouts. Speaking to FrontPage Africa, he said the ruling and management’s willingness to pay, was a victory, not only for him but for all those, including the civil society who have stood by him in his ordeal.
“I am happy that the right things will be done. I need my benefits to living a normal life again. I have been living on handouts and help from my friends and family. This ruling is a clear testament that good always triumphs over evil,” he said.
Jomah has a Ph.D. in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and has been working at CARI since 2012. He is also a Fellow of the McArthur Foundation based in Chicago, Illinois.
But since 2019, he has been subjected to all forms of violations, ranging from unlawful denial of access to the workplace, salary and benefits to physical abuse.
At one point, he claimed he was forcefully chased out by a group of ex-militia fighters armed with knives and clubs, acting on the order of Findley.
He also went into hiding in 2020 after he was sued again at the Monrovia City Court by CARI’s management under Findley’s directive. In a July 4, 2020, Facebook post, he said: “My action to remain indoors reflects threats to have me murdered and or take me to Mrs. Paulette E. Findley’s location, according to three unidentified men with weapons on July 2, 2020.” He said he would only go to court if escorted by personnel of the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC), members of the diplomatic corps, and justice advocates.
Before going into hiding, Jomah staged a sleep-in protest on Capitol Hill, opposite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that hosts the presidency. The vehicle in which he slept was covered with a number of placards, brandishing inscriptions such as “President Weah’s appointee Mrs. Paulette Findley of CARI is corrupt, ignores good governance and fails to accept reforms” and “America, EU and ECOWAS please act now. Do not wait until we result into lawlessness.”
Jomah chose the location to grab the attention of President Weah to address his plight, he said. However, he did not meet the President or any official of the Liberian government.
Despite that, Jomah continued his protest. He took it to the United States embassy and submitted a petition to the US Ambassador Michael A. McCarthy, pleading for asylum if he was not reinstated and paid.
He accused the Minister of State of Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill of masterminding the maltreatment meted against him at CARI under Findley. Findley denied the allegation, but McGill did not respond to any of FrontPage Africa’s queries for comment on the matter.