Liberia: Rtd. Justice Banks Links Justice Minister to Road Fund Petition Leading to Ja’neh’s Impeachment


MONROVIA – Former Associate Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III, has brought a new twist to the debate of the ongoing impeachment trial of Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh of the Supreme Court, disclosing that current Justice Minister, Musa F. Dean, filed and signed the petition which has become an element for the removal of Justice Ja’neh after he granted the petition for prohibition on the payment of road fund.

Report by Henry Karmo [email protected]

Justice Ja’neh is being impeached because, among other things, according members of the House of Representatives, his decision to grant the petition amounts to misconduct as he, in their view, blocked government needed revenue.

Rtd. Justice Banks, who served as one of the Justice in chambers that handled the petition, was on his second day of testifying in the impeachment trial and he was responding to whether or not Ja’neh’s decision amounted to misconduct.

He asked rhetorically, “The matter that is currently before this trial is complicated.”

“Are you aware that the petition that was filed before me was filed by and signed by your current Minister of Justice and after that signing he was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney general? If he misled me in petitioning the writ and I don’t think he did, because in my candid opinion the process that was being pursue was unconstitutional.

“How could the very person who filed the petition stating in the petition that the action being pursued by the Government was unconstitutional to be heading the very agency that is now saying that the action taken by the Justice in seeking to correct the problem is illegal?”

Justice Banks was keen to note during his testimony that issue of due process of the law is not a matter of politics and as an experienced lawyer, his understanding of due process is not meant to be politicized by people because Liberia is a country of law and anything to the contrary could plunge the country into chaos.

“Let me add further I did not come here to play politics, I came here to address issues of law. I stated last week that Article 34 of the Constitution vested exclusively in the legislature the authority to impose levy and tariff on our people,” he said.

He also claimed that records relating to the road fund shows that the steps followed by the executive in crafting the road fund was unconstitutionally done. According to him, from the beginning, it was a custom officer who informed importers about the tariff and when he did not have the authority, afterwards, the then minister of Finance Bioma Kamara issued a regulation of the Ministry of Finance authorizing a citation.

Even when the legislature did pass the road fund Act a year after LPRC, LRA and Ministry of Finance had imposed their tariff, they still did not deem it appropriate to follow what the Act said, which was to establish an interim ministerial steering committee that will set the tariff and go back to the Legislature for approval of the tariff being added.

“They ignored all of that and the Minister of Finance believed that he had the authority to impose tariff. They never came back to the legislature. If there was such violation again and I am in the position to halt it, I will do it; we must be a country of law.”

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Francis Kporkor has denied a request from prosecution lawyers to strike out from the record testimonies made by Justice Banks because he does not meet the requirement to sit as an expert lawyer because he has to have academic credential in constitutional law except that he teaches constitutional law at the Louis Arthur Gram School of law. According to the Chief justice, that decision is that of the jurors of facts (Senators).

The Chief Justice granted appeal by the prosecution lawyers to provide rebuttal witness against some of Justice Banks’ testimonies.

The Prosecution lawyers also claimed that the provision of the Constitution relied upon by the expert witness to suggest that the matter is unconstitutional was long been settled by the Supreme Court and that no single person has the authority to declare unconstitutional a provision of the Constitution.