Liberia: Senate Calls for By-election in Lofa; Says Samukai Cannot be Seated


MONROVIA – The Liberian Senate has written the National Elections Commission (NEC) of a vacancy for the seat of Lofa County pursuant to Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution.

In a letter addressed to the chairperson of NEC, Davidetta Browne Lansanah, the Senate, through its secretary J. Nanborlor Singbeh, wrote: “I have the honour by the directive of the Presiding Officer (IN SESSION), presents my compliments and apprise you that by operation of the law, fifteen (15) counties vacancies were created in the Liberian Senate (one for each of the 15 counties) at the end of the Third Session of the Fifty-Fourth  Legislation, and elections were held on December 20, 2020 to fill the vacancies for those 15 counties.”

“That after those elections, Mr. Brownie J. Samukai was declared the successful candidate to fill the vacancy in the Liberian Senate for Lofa County but he couldn’t be seated as a consequence of the case: Republic of Liberia by and through the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and through the Ministry of Justice, Plaintiff versus Brownie J. Samukai,  Joseph Johnson and James Nyumah Ndokor, Defendant for the crime: Theft of Property, Criminal Conspiracy, Economic Sabotage, Misuse of Public Money and Money Laundering for which Mr. Brownie J. Samukai and his co-defendants were convicted by Criminal Court “C” of the First Judicial Circuit Court.”

Mr. Singbeh stated that having appealed to the Supreme Court to reverse their convictions and pursuant to the law that a convict is not eligible for position to public office or hold public office, the vacancy for a seat in the Liberian Senate for Lofa County remains outstanding pending determination by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Singbeh further stated the Constitution provides that in the event of a vacancy in the Legislature the presiding officer in the Chamber in which the vacancy occurs shall within thirty days after such occurrence notify the NEC thereof and the NEC shall not later than ninety days cause a by-election to be held to fill the vacancy, the Presiding Officer would have to formally notify the Senate about a vacancy for a senatorial seat of Lofa County exists.

The Senate’s decision comes after the Supreme Court of Liberia early this month ordered the incarceration of  Samukai and co-defendants for two years for their failure to comply with the mandate of the court.

The court said Samukai and co-defendants will now serve for two years imprisonment and pay the full judgement amount of $ 1,147, 656.35, less than the amounts already paid by them. The Supreme Court said: “Upon their failure to pay, they shall remain in prison until the full balance is liquidated at the amount of $25 per month.

The Supreme Court in its ruling said that the law provides that “where criminal defendants are jointly adjudged guilty of a crime, they are together considered collectively responsible for any fine or penalty until the Judgement is fully satisfied”.

“That Judge A. Blamo Dixon inappropriately executed the Mandate of the Supreme Court when he relied on the ruling of Judge Yamie Gbeisay (which had been modified by this court) and apportioned the judgement amount of $147, 656, 35 among the three respondents and ordered that each respondents, including the co-respondent J. Brownie Samukai, pays his share of the judgement amount  of 50 percent which he calculated to be $191, 276, 05, the judge is clearly in error and hence the bill of Information will lie.”

“Given the clear language of the February 8, 2021 of the Supreme Court regarding the joint liability of restituting the judgement amount, the payment by Samukai in the amount of $191, 276,05, can’t be considered as compliance with the Mandate of the Supreme Court,” the court said.

Samukai and the Supreme Court saga

Samukai, former Defense Minister, has faced hurdles in taking his seat as Lofa County’s senator after the Supreme Court of Liberia temporarily halted his certification by the National Election Commission (NEC).

The nation’s highest court’s decision against Samukai, of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), was trigged by a Writ of Prohibition filed March 2,2021, by O’Neil Passewe, chair of the Movement for Progressive Change.

Passewe asked the court to halt the certification of Samukai because he has been convicted by the Supreme Court for the crime of money laundering.

Samukai received the most votes in the December 8, 2020 Senatorial election. Of the 11 candidates who vied for the Lofa County senatorial seat, Samukai received 20, 431 votes, followed by Independent candidate Cllr. Joseph Jallah with 13,968 votes.Samukai has experienced mixed rulings with the Supreme Court since he won the senatorial seat in Lofa. 

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