Liberia: Senate to Vote in Justice Ja’neh’s Impeachment Today
MONROVIA – Lawyers representing the legal interests of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh and the prosecution will today hold final arguments in the impeachment trial of the under-fire Supreme Court Justice. The argument will give a clue to jurors (Senators) on how to vote.
It is expected that at the end of the argument, a vote will be taken by the Senators as required by the rules of the Senate to make a final decision on the matter.
On Wednesday, both sides rested on the production of oral and documented pieces of evidence and “submitted”. The decision came after a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Cllr. Philip A. Z. Banks’ three-day testimony ended.
The two sides rested their individual argument of the case and submitted to oral argument before the hearing and the jury, who are the senators. The argument is scheduled for Thursday March 28, 2019 at 11:00 am. It is expected that at the end of the arguments, the jurors — senators — will make their final decision in a process of vote taking. It is not yet clear how the votes will be taken.
Also, on Wednesday the prosecution lawyers withdrew a request made to provide a rebuttal witness to rebut testimonies made by Justice Banks. According to Senate sources, senators will vote on counts in the impeachment.
The embattled Supreme Court Justice is accused of multiple offenses including theft of property (stealing House of Representatives’ records), acquiring property wrongfully, and denying the government money rightfully due it from the road fund.
The money Justice Ja’neh is accused of allegedly denying the government of obtaining, is the road fund, which totaled US$27 million and should have been a part of the 2017/2018 national budget. This money, according to lawyers of the opposing party, should have been placed into government’s coffer by two petroleum importers — Srimax of businessman Musa H. Bility and Aminata of businessman Shaka Turay. By agreement between the government and the importers, the consumers would be charged an additional US$0.25 cent for every gallon of gasoline and fuel they buy at any filling station.
The House of Representatives believes that Ja’neh’s, who was the Justice in Chambers, action was abuse of power and gross breach of duty by issuing the prohibition, which stopped the government from collecting the US$27 million of the Road Fund.
The Political Influence
Twenty-nine Senators are poised to vote in the trial. Per the Constitution, an impeachment would require two-thirds of the Senate membership’s votes.
Many pundits believe that the 2020 midterm Senatorial election could have a very huge influence on the way senators will vote, especially those seeking re-election. It is believed that Senators relying heavily on the support of the ruling party might likely votes for his impeachment.
Of the 20 Senators needed for the two thirds that would ensure the removal of Justice Ja’neh, eight of them are seeking re-election. They include Peter Coleman- Grand Kru, H. Dan Morias – Maryland, Dallas Gueh – Rivercess, Matthew Jaye – River Gee, Thomas Grupee – Nimba County, Edwards Dagoseh – Cape Mount, George Tengbeh – Lofa County and Henry Yallah – Bong County.
From sources, names of senators, who are might vote for the removal of Justice Jan’eh are Albert Chie – Grand Kru, Peter Coleman – Grand Kru, Francis Paye – Rivercess, Dallas Gueh – Rivercess, Thomas Grupee – Nimba, Alphonso Gaye – Grand Gedeh, Marshall Dennis – Grand Gedeh, Jim Tornolah – Margibi, Matthew Jaye – River Gee, Henry Yallah – Bong, H. Dan Morias – Maryland, Morris Saytumah – Bomi, Saah Joseph – Montserrado, Varney Sherman – Cape Mount, Edward Dagoseh – Cape Mount, Milton Teahjay – Sinoe, George Tengbeh – Lofa, and Augustine Chea – Sinoe.
Senators who are allegedly protesting the removal of Justice Ja’neh are Nyonblee K. Lawrence – Grand Bassa, Sando D. Johnson – Bomi, Bleh-Bo Brown – Maryland, Oscar Cooper – Margibi, Steve Zargo – Lofa, Daniel Naathan – Gbarpolu, Conmany Wesseh – River Gee, Prince Y. Johnson, Nimba and Armah Jallah – Gbarpolu.
Impeachment Decision Can be Protested
In his earlier testimony as an ‘Expert Witness’, Justice Banks disclosed the impeachment process was initiated on an unconstitutional premise and the outcome can therefore be challenged before the Supreme Court.
In a recent interview in Nimba County, Senator Prince Y. Johnson, also described the entire process as having no legal basis, thereby rendering it unconstitutional.
“The whole process is unconstitutional because we must give someone accused due process before impeachment. Kabineh was not given due process by the lower House when he was impeached,” he said. The Nimba County Senator explained that an impeachment proceeding, according to the Constitution, starts from the lower House. “The lower House has the responsibility to prepare the bill of impeachment. The bill of impeachment will carry the charges. When you have done that, the second step is for the legislature – that means the Senate and the lower House to come out with the rules of proceeding.” However, both the Senate and House didn’t come up with one set of rules for impeachment, rather each chamber, drew their own sets of rules for the process.