Liberia: The Grades Are In, How Did The Senate, Judiciary Fare?

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Monrovia – With the clock ticking toward the end of the year, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor is struggling with impeachment proceeding from the Legislature, racing against time and limping near a tidal wave of daunting legacy.

Key issues like overcrowded dockets, arbitrary arrest or detention by magistrates, poor magistrate sitting, denial of fair trial, the much-anticipated fight against corruption, and the continued denial of bail by magistrates and judges.

The US 2017 Human Rights Report on Liberia says Human Corruption persisted in the legal system. And in 2018, the culture persisted with little or no amends by the Judiciary.

According the report, some judges accepted bribes to award damages in civil cases. Judges sometimes solicited bribes to try cases, grant bail to detainees, or acquit defendants in criminal cases. Defense attorneys and prosecutors sometimes suggested defendants pay bribes to secure favorable decisions from judges, prosecutors, and jurors, or to have court staff place cases on the docket for trial.

According to the UNMIL Human Rights and Protection Section (HRPS), while the Supreme Court has made provision through the establishment of the Ethics and Grievance Committee for the review of unethical conduct of lawyers and has suspended some lawyers from legal practice for up to five years, the public has brought few cases for fear of retribution.

Mechanisms for the public to bring complaints of corruption and malpractice include the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which deals with complaints on judges’ conduct, and the Grievance and Ethics Committee, which deals with lawyers. Both lacked appropriate guidelines to deliver their mandates effectively.

FrontPageAfrica presents our final annual assessment of the Judiciary gauging the pros and cons of judges, Public Defense office, Magistrates and Court Staffs.

CHIEF JUSTICE FRANCIS KORKPOR

THE LOWDOWN: The year 2018 is climaxing on a somewhat disappointing one for the Chief Justice due to the split on the high court bench predicated by the impeachment proceeding of Associate Justice Kabineh Jan’eh and the call by the Legislature specifically Grand Cape Mount Senator Varney Sherman for the establishment of a ‘judicial oversight committee’ within the Legislature.

The split was palpable in the recent opinion delivered by the majority justices including ad-hoc Justice Boima Kontoe and dissenting opinion by Justices Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh and Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie.

During the Bar Association leadership election in Buchanan, Grand Basa County, the Chief Justice was seen sitting alone while the other three justices were sitting together until newly appointed justice Joseph Nagbe arrived.

Earlier before the Buchanan showing, Korkpor’s disappointment was reflected in the charge he gave at the October opening of the court in which he said he was surprised about the establishing of a Legislative committee to review the judiciary is being made from an unlikely source.

According to him, the call does not only undermine the independence of the Judiciary but it also directly assails the doctrine of separation of power enshrined in our organic law – the Constitution.

He reiterated that the Judiciary will continue to work so that the Supreme Court will remain neutral, non-aligned and non-political Branch of Government – a sanctuary to which the injured and distressed, irrespective of color, creed, and religion or political persuasion can seek justice. We will continue to protect the liberty and freedom of all.

Korkpor averred that it should be clear by now, judging from the court’s many positions and opinions that it favors no particular person or institution, including the Government.

“We will remain only on the side of the law. So, party litigants who have matters before this Court should harbor no fear or apprehension of the expected outcome of their cases. Your fate will be decided solely on the facts and the laws applicable.”

During the March 2018 Term of this Court, the high court heard and decided 35 cases; two other cases heard during the same term of court involving remedial writs were decided shortly after the Court closed sine dine making it a total of 37 cases.

Amongst the cases heard were the petitions of seventy-five (75) attorneys-at-law who applied to be admitted as counselors of the Supreme Court Bar. After hearing the various petitions, the names of seventy (70) attorneys-at-law were passed upon and submitted to the Boards of Examiners to be examined. Two (2) of the applicants were granted dispensation by this Court. This means that they did not have to sit the written examinations. A report from the examination committee revealed that fifty-five (55) attorneys-at-law sat the examinations and thirty-eight (38) passed; the successful candidates were duly admitted to practice as Counselors-At-Law

Despite his limitations, Korkpor has been the first to acknowledge the plate before her: The process of reconstruction, infrastructure, building courts, getting laws and rules right, building the capacity of judicial officials but tackling corruption is always going to be a daunting proposition from the get-go.

Equally so, emerging from a post-war nation, the enormous priorities have been unsettling complicating by the unexpected Ebola virus outbreak and judicial lapses over the course of the past years.

2018 HIGHS: Korkpor begun the year with the dedication of a judicial complex in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, funded by the Government. President George Weah also showed up alongside the Chief jUstice to unveil the new complex houses of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court, the Debt Court, Revenue Court, Traffic Court and the Magistrate Court of the County, with offices for key judicial actors.

Three of the four magistrate courts funded by the Swedish Government through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), were completed, they are the magistrate court in Karnplay, Nimba County, the magistrate court in Vahun City, Lofa County and the magistrate court at the Omega Community, Montserrado County.

Under the UNMIL Quick Impact Project, two magistrate courts were constructed during the period in review; one in New Kru Town, Bushrod Island, and the other in Nyen, Todee District, Montserrado County.

Additionally, the renovation of West Point Magistrate Court and unnecessary delay in the completion of the magistrate court in Botota, Kokoya District, Bong County.

The year finally marked the construction of the judicial complex nearing completion in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County and a fence around the premises that house the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court in Barclayville, Grand Kru County.

Currently, there is a judicial complex nearing completion in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County. It is expected to be dedicated this year.

Said Chief Justice: “We are constructing a fence around the premises that house the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court in Barclayville, Grand Kru County, and will seek funding to construct an annex thereto to accommodate other subordinate courts, thereby transforming that facility into a full judicial complex. RiverCess County remains the greatest challenge in our efforts to build court facilities around the country. The structure that houses the 14th Judicial Circuit Court in River Cess County is in a deplorable condition. And there are only two magistrate courts in that county which are not only also in deplorable conditions, but they are very far apart.”

2018 LOWS: Korkpor is the first to acknowledge that while there has been progress over the course of the past years, the judiciary continues to grapple with the negative perceptions regarding its stance on corruption which has dogged the third branch of government from the start.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors sometimes suggested defendants pay bribes to secure favorable decisions from judges, prosecutors, and jurors, or to have court staff place cases on the docket for trial. rocked the government.

Though the Grievance and Ethics Committee and Judiciary Inquiry Commission is set up for both lawyers and judges less is been done to tackle corruption carried out by court staffs.

He is been accused of supporting the impeachment process of Justice Jan’eh because of his son’s works in President Weah’s office.

2018 OUTLOOK: The country looks forward to seeing how the justices on the bench will repair the damaged relationship they have and if the impeachment of Justice Jan’eh will be successful.

The recent opinions by both majority and dissenting shows the bad blood. The public expects sanity back in the Judiciary.

Will judicial workers who are involved in ethical transgression be discipline specifically as it relates to corruption? Many are also concern about the improvement of court staffers’ welfare.

Grade: C

KABINEH JAN’EH

THE LOWDOWN: In 2006 he was nominated and appointed Associate Justice to the Supreme Court Bench of the Republic of Liberia. Some legal experts hail him for continuing to demonstrate his dedication and commitment to the Judiciary.

He’s currently struggling with the impeachment proceedings against him by members of Legislature who are stalwarts of the ruling party, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).

The two lawmakers calling for removal from the bench claims he has a “proven misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, fraud, misuse of power and corruption.”

The bill of impeachment was submitted by CDC Representatives Thomas P. Fallah, and Acarous Gray, on what they believe is a litany of factual and legal reasons.

2018 HIGHS: Despite the impeachment process and denial by the Supreme Court bench to issue the writ of prohibition requested by his lawyers, he is consistent at work and has promised that he will not back down till the impeachment reaches the end.

He has described honesty and transparency as traits of good leadership that those aspiring for any position of trust should practice. He stressed that it was important for leaders to work in the open and avoid hiding things from their members, an act that would create suspicion in the minds of the governed.

He admitted that there are a good number of cases where pretrial detainees have languished in prison for years waiting to be accorded their ‘days in court’ which, according to him, most of these persons awaiting trial for weeks, months are on account of non bailable offenses like armed robbery, sexual offenses, and murder.

He said tagging certain offenses as “un-bailable offenses”, same being the emerging pattern in Liberia, tends to subject an accused to legislated imposed punishment long before trial and conviction. This, according to him, has the tendency to breed despair and disappointment especially amongst the largely affected poor and marginalized population towards the rule of law.

2018 LOW: Ahead of the end of impeachment proceeding, many of his critics have been calling on him to resign instead of enduring an embarrassment of a lifetime. We will keep tap on his impeachment proceeding and see whether he survives.

Grade C+

OUTLOOK: Ja’neh resilience skills will be put to the test as the impeachment proceeding may not end now and may heat up in the coming months. The split bench problem can be only addressed by him, so the public look out on how he can mend the broken relationship among justices.

JAMESETTA HOWARD WOLOKOLIE

LOWDOWN: One of the justices who dissented on the majority opinion of Jan’eh stating that the majority raised issues that were not raised by the adverse party. She saw the refusal of the Legislature to honor the citation from the high court as disrespectful and they should be chastised.

She has oversight over Grand Kru, Maryland, and RiverGee County. She has enjoyed close ties with Jan’eh than Korkpor.

During the petition hearing on the impeachment process filed by both minority senators who alleged that the Senate was not proceeding legally, she was vocal asking questions back and forth to the lawyer of Cllr. Varney Sherman who represented the majority senate.

2018 HIGH: Associate Justice Howard- Wolokolie, presiding as Chambers Justice has temporarily blocked two appointments by President George Weah.

Mr. Moses Owen Browne was appointed to serve as Liberia’s permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), replacing Mr. Isaac Jackson, who was previously named to the post by former President Sirleaf.

And Neved Kortu to replace Ms. Agnes Effiong as Deputy-Director General of the National Lotteries Authority (NLA). She ruled that those presidential appointments were illegal.

According to the order, the temporary halt to Weah’s appointing power comes after a legal challenge from Isaac W. Jackson, presently serving in that position at the IMO in London, the United Kingdom and Agnes Effiong and Martin Kollie of NLA.

2018 LOWS: Despite her oversight in these counties it is rarely how regular she visted them in 2018 to institute oversight.

At the same time, she needs to increase her participation in proceedings, most of the times it is Justices Jan’eh, Youh and Korkpor discussions as she sits without saying anything.

Grade B-

OUTLOOK: Many are expecting active participation in hearing and regular visitations to courts in her oversight areas. Also establishing a better relationship with Justice Nagbe and Korkpor for the sanity of the court.

SIE-NYENE YUOH

LOWDOWN: Justice Yuoh has been praised for being very vocal against issues like Jan’eh impeachment and other issues relating to the judiciary. This has been reflected in a speech given by Chief Justice Korkpor who said she was impeccable and one that deserves emulation by colleagues on the bench.

Youh’s toughness has been on display during the Supreme Court’s hearing of legal arguments.

2018 HIGH: Justice Yuoh during the year under review granted a writ of certiorari filed against Judge Roosevelt Willie of Criminal Court ‘A in the murder trial of the Tyron Brown.

Large numbers of criminal defendants were jointly placed on a single indictment (accusation or charge), and she said they have the legal opportunity to appeal for the separation of their charges from each other.

She said that prosecution’s charges against defendants Alice and Edwina Youti had been wrongly handled by Judge Roosevelt Willie.’

Defendants Alice and Edwina were along with the prime defendant, Jonathan Williams jointly indicted by the government for the death of Journalist Tyron A. Browne of Super FM Radio Station on April 15 this year, in the Duport Road Community, Paynesville.

She maintained that Willie was in error to have denied the defendants separate trial and that such denial endangers the rights of the accused to have a free, fair and impartial trial.

Of recent, serving as Justice in Chambers, she notified the House of Representatives to appear in her chambers on August 18, 2018, to show cause why the writ of prohibition on the proceedings to impeach Associate Justice Ja’neh should not be granted.

The writ was not honored by the Legislature which led to a dissenting opinion by Howard Wolokolie.

She also ordered the Judge of Monrovia City Court Kennedy Peabody to grant the bail filed by officials of National Housing Authority Ambassador Augustine Weah, Isaac Roberts, and Tugbeh C. Tugbeh, was charged with multiple crimes that ranged from theft of property, economic sabotage, bribery, criminal conspiracy, and criminal solicitation for allegedly extorting US$92,000 from a man identified as Emmanuel Tapsoba, former coordinator for a Burkina Faso company called GHLPAZ-IMMO, which has been in the country to construct over 5,000 housing units along the Roberts International Airport (RIA) highway.

LOWDOWN: Many believe that she has to know the role of the branches of Government and also has to mend the sour relationship among justices of the bench.

The majority said she prematurely issued the writ against the Legislature in the impeachment proceedings of Jan’eh. Though she oversees Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu, it is unknown how regularly she visits these counties.

GRADE: B

2018 OUTLOOK: The writ of certiorari issued in the murder trial is before the full bench after an appeal was taken, the jury is still out on her to see if the full bench will confirm or reverse her decision.

JOSEPH NAGBE

LOWDOWN: When legal luminary Philip A.Z Banks III clocked 70 his spot was quickly occupied by Justice Nagbe.

Nagbe who took to the bench less than six months is in a big shoe as he is still observing to participate in arguments before the high court.

There were concerns he was too easily confirmed by the Senate mainly because he was switching from the Senate to the Judiciary. Nagbe, now a former politician, has been a politician for the most part of his life. He advocated politically for his constituents and many wonders if it will be easy leaving his advocacy posture and take on a totally new apolitical nature?

2018 HIGHS: He is among the majority who gave permission to the Legislature to continue the impeachment proceeding of Jan’eh.

Prior to that, lawyers objected to him sitting on the case, but Justice Korkpor denied the objection by Jan’eh’s lawyers accepting Nagbe to sit on the proceeding.

On the day he was nominated he told journalists that “Every case will have its own facts and circumstances unique to themselves. The facts may be there but there are circumstances that impel upon the facts and those circumstances may make a difference in the opinion of the Justice.”

The statement sparked legal arguments in which lawyers said it was controversial, one has to listen to every side of the arguments and that one’s ruling would have to be based on the facts, not the circumstances, which he stressed would also have a huge bearing on your opinions.

2018 LOWS: When he was confirmed there were issues in the political atmosphere relating to concessions and especially those granted in his native Sinoe County.
Another thing is how he struggles with his health. Because of his frequent illness in time past, he missed many sessions in the Senate.

The Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) 2016 report on then Senator Nagbe shows that he officially requested 31 medical absences. IREDD’s scorecard also shows that he was present 43 times, six absent, and 31 sick leaves, which amount to 55.13 percent of appearance in the Senate.

His timeliness as compared to the person Banks has been rated poor. He is always the last to appear at the Temple of Justice.

GRADE D+

OUTLOOK: As Nagbe struggles to balance his former political career and his new found judicial career, many think that his past will come hunting him at the Temple.

Up to date, there are concerns about how he allowed Russian rapists to jump bail and leave the country in 2006.

It can be recalled in 2006, he posted bail as a guarantee that the Russian rapists would show up for trial. But during the trial date, the alleged Russian rapists were out of the bailiwick of Liberia.

THE SENATE
ALBERT CHIE – Senator, Grand Kru County (Pro-Tempore)

2018 HIGHS: He was elected Pro-tempore of the Liberian Senate replacing short-term Armah Jallah, who was completing the tenure of former Pro-Tempore Milton Gbezhongar Findley. Findley had failed to get re-election in the December 2014 midterm Senatorial election.

Senator Chie did not become Pro-Tempore on a silver platter. He contested against the likes of Senators Steve Zargo and Oscar Cooper of Lofa and Margibi counties respectively. He later won through a resolution signed by 27 of the 30 members.

The resolution became necessary following an announcement by Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo’s late withdrawal from the race to keep the Senate united. Pro Temp Chie replaced former Senator Cletus Wortorson, who did not contest for re-election.

Since he was elected Senator, he has worked to maintain the unity amongst senators even though there have been some ups and downs. Bulk of Chie’s first year leadership has been engulfed with the impeachment of a Supreme Court Bench member, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh.

Just a year after he was elected, he seemed to very well understand the rules of the Senate and has tried to maintain order and unity amongst Senators. As a Senator from the South-east of Liberia, he seems to have a good working relationship with President Weah, who also hails from the region of the country.

Apart from his position as Pro-Temp of the Liberian Senate, he is undertaking some personal initiatives to include scholarship, community development and many others in his home city.
2018 LOWS: He has presided over the confirmation of all newly appointed officials of President George Weah Government, even when there were serious concerns raised against nominees. With the exception of Cllr. Charles Gibson, whom the President had nominated to fill the Ministry of Justice post and was rejected by the Senate, all Presidential nominees even those with questionable characters got Pro-Temp Chie’s Senate’s endorsements.

Senator Chie presided over the failed Eton and EBOMAF loan ratification and signed a resolution from the House of Representatives that gave the President a blank check to solicit for more loans.

GRADE: B

2019 OUTLOOKS: The head of the Senate is expected to get better in handling of the Senate especially with his level of tolerance and anxiousness to understand the rule and deal with his colleagues as equals but as the first amongst equals.

SENATOR VARNEY SHERMAN, Grand Cape Mount County

2018 HIGHS: Sherman is a lawyer by profession.

Senator Grand Cape-Mount County (Chairman on the Judiciary Committee)

He did not have a smooth landing into the Senate as he was challenged in court by his opponents after the release of final results by the National Elections Commission. It took him almost three months to get inducted after election due to legal complications.

He also faced a major health challenge and had to undergo a ‘major’ brain surgery.

Despite undergoing brain operation on the eve of the 2017 presidential and legislative elections, and all other odds, and challenges, he did not rest but ensured that bills submitted to his Committee were acted upon.

The performance of the Grand Cape Mount County Senator, who is one of the country’s learnt lawyers, has made some of his colleagues to refer to him as the Senate’s “Legal Professor.” According to these senators, Sherman’s participations are often educative and entertaining.

Despite the unavailability in most sittings of the Senate’s electronic public service intercoms, Sen. Sherman never disappointed his colleagues or the media as his buzzing voice is audibly heard all across the Senate’s Chamber and it is clear enough to relay his message or debate across the floor.

The Sherman-headed Judiciary Committee has handled several legal and constitutional bills and instruments, among them the proposal for Amendment of Articles 45, 46, and 48 of the Liberian Constitution of 1986. While his committee has done an extensive work and submitted same to Senate plenary, on proposed Amendments to the 1986 Constitution as recommended by the Constitution Review Commission (CRC).

Sen. Sherman’s Judiciary Committee, in conjunction with the Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, did a comprehensive work on the long-delayed Land Rights Act, which has led to its final passage.

Sherman’s last major task in the First Session of the 54th Legislature was a request by the plenary last Thursday, September 13, to review any rule on impeachment and related matters; complement the Senate Rules with other rules and procedures to ensure adherence to the principles of due process as enshrined in the Constitution and Laws of Liberia; prepare a matrix of activities with timelines for the trial of the impeachment, and report to plenary through the leadership. The instrument is in preparation for the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Associate Justice Kabineh Mohamed Ja’neh.

In the amendment, Sen. Sherman recommended for the reduction from 30 to 15 days activities leading to the final announcement of results after a given election. As it is currently, the results of the elections shall be declared by the Elections Commission not later than 15 days after the casting of ballots.

The current law also states that any party or candidate, who complains about the way the elections were conducted or who challenges the results thereof, shall have the right to file a complaint with the Elections Commission. Such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the announcement of the elections result

2018 LOWS: He still has on his head the Global Witness bribery court which landed him and former House of Representatives Speaker Alex Tyler and other members of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration in court.

He has also voted for all officials and at some point presided over the confirmation of some of President George Weah’s cabinet members even when legitimate qualms were raised from the public for certain nominees them not to confirm certain officials.

GRADE: B

2019 OUTLOOKS: With the level of zest judging from his legal background, he is expected to proffer more bills and work with his colleagues, helping his colleagues to understand the legal ramification of bills and other issues that will surface on the Senate floor. He may also work to address some of the ambiguity in the constitution.

GBLEH-BO BROWN – Maryland County

2018 HIGHS: Senator MaryLand County (Chairman on Internal Affairs)

Senator Brown had a rough ride to the Senate as he too had to face legal proceedings before being ruled in his favor by the Supreme Court to take the seat as Maryland County’s Senator. Though before the Supreme Court’s ruling, he had already been announced by the National Elections Commission as the winner of the senatorial race.

Senator Brown had to face legal hearings to legitimize his victory against a lawsuit from now House of Representatives Speaker Bhofal Chambers, who, being a representative, had contested for the Senate seat of Maryland County.

After many hearings, the Supreme Court of Liberia sustained the ruling of the National Elections Commission in the case involving Bhofal Chambers and Gbleh-bo Brown of Maryland County. Chambers of the Congress of Democratic Change (CDC) filed an appeal to the high court against the National Elections Commission and Gbleh-bo Brown stating that there were gross irregularities in the special senatorial election process conducted on December 20, 2014.

The Internal Affairs Committee under Senator Brown performed splendidly during the First Session, especially in confirmation hearings for hundreds of local government officials, and his work that convinced his colleagues to pass one of the most important legislations in recent times — the Local Government Act.

Interestingly, both the Local Government Act and the Land Rights Act were signed into Law by President Weah on Wednesday, September 19, 2018.

2018 LOWS: He’s amongst many other senators who confirmed individuals into positions even when there legitimate concerns from the public. He also voted to ratify the ‘failed’ Eton and EBOMAF loan agreement with the Government of Liberia.

Grand: B
2019 OUTLOOKS: Consider by his colleagues as the Okongo of the Liberian Senate, is expected to enter 2019 with the zest to do more work and honor more committee responsibilities.

PRINCE Y. JOHNSON – Nimba County

By some, he is considered a kingmaker. By another group, he can be regarded as the face of Nimba as he calls himself. However, to many others, he is a war crimes prime suspect. Since the campaign for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia, the Nimba County Senator is becoming vicious and dreadful by the day, reminiscent of his war era in the early 1990s. He has threatened to go after just about anyone and everyone, including his own kinsmen who dare support calls here for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal for Liberia.

Last November, Sen. Johnson threatened that any attempts to arrest him will be met with stiff resistance.

“If you were to come to arrest me, I will fight you. I am a Senator looking for job and you there talking about war crimes court, come catch me,” the Senator threatened.

According to the Nimba Senator, the same d*mned crime that people want to arrest him for, is the same crime that the Liberian people “compensated” Charles Taylor and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for and gave them Liberia’s Presidency for six and 12 years. He further stated that Taylor was his boss and former President Sirleaf was his sponsor and both of them are not being talked about to be tried in Liberia for war crimes but only him people are after; terming it further as “selective justice,” and asked rhetorically, “How did he get free from an American maximum prison?”

Trying to make people to think that Nimbaians work at his whims or caprices, he boastfully stated, “My people believe I am a hero while others think I am a devil. When they were being killed I stood for them…Go grab Prince Johnson, you won’t be able to even come closer; you won’t even catch me because the resistance you will receive from young guys will be maximum, uncontrollable and ungovernable.”

Again, last October, when Sen. Johnson, who claims to be an evangelist, preached at his Christ Chapel of Faith Ministries, he stated, “God knows that people are after me for no reason, war crimes court, we will grab this man, we will do this one here, if my people abandon me, they make me vulnerable.” He boasted that the people of Nimba will never leave or abandon him.

He is one of many senators who do not regard plenary participation and attendance as means of getting re-election. He pays less interest in attending session and even when he is in session, he usually walks out when important discussions are on the floor.

The Nimba County Senator’s recent statement against the establishment of a war crimes court that young men in the county will take up single barrel to defend him, many saw it as anti-peace and one that deserve the highest level of condemnation from all peaceful citizens.

GRADE: F

2019 OUTLOOKS: Senator Johnson could do better if he pays more attention to the Senate and avoid being complacent about the love his people have for him. He could play important role in the Senate plenary if he attends session regularly.

ALPHONSO GAYE – GRAND GEDEH COUNTY

2018 HIGHS: Senator Alphonso Gaye has proven to me one of the outstanding and influential members of the Liberian senate. His worth of experience in government has helped him achieved. He is one of the ever-present members of the Senate and a major member of the Joint Ways, Means and Finance Committee.

Recently, he was named by the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) as one of the senators who scored the highest points with an average attendance score of 89.2%.

2018 LOWS: He voted in favor of all confirmations despite criticism from the public about some of the nominees.

GRADE: B

2019 OUTLOOKS: Gaye may have scored in the IRED grading for attendance and participation, but it is expected that in 2019 he will step up his game and be more serious on issues. If Gaye pays attention his expertise could change the dynamics of the Senate and he could have a far reaching, positive impact on the country.

PETER COLEMAN – Grand Kru County

2018 HIGHS: Senator Dr. Peter Sonpon Coleman is a Liberian Physician, Medical Professor and humanitarian, who was elected overwhelmingly by the people of Grand Kru County in 2011. He was elected on the ticket of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), which was then an opposition political party.

He is one of the regular senators and his wealth of experience in the Health sector has lured him the position of Senate Health Committee Chair. Base on his performance in the Senate, he is poised to be one of 15 senators, who might go for re-election in 2020.

Primarily apart from attending sessions, extensive working sessions have been taking place with the Ministry of Health to review the Public Health Law, National Public Health Institute Act, Liberia’s Approach to ONE HEALTH. He was also instrumental in helping Liberia become a member of the Global TB Caucus that promotes more budgetary support for the support of the National TB Program and that members of the Liberian Legislature have signed the Barcelona Declaration aimed at gathering global attention and the need for national governments to act through budgetary support.

He also worked extensively with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee in sourcing Funding for the placement of over 2000 healthcare workers on the national payroll as well as upgrading salaries and allowances for doctors.

Two weeks ago, he convened a Joint Legislative working session on Health as there had been numerous complaints on the declining health situation in the counties and unending complaints on limited fiscal disbursement from MFDP. The focus of the meeting was to avoid, next time during the height of the rain season, when roads are deplorable to still have basic medical supplies in the counties.

2018 LOWS: In 2017, he resigned from the CDC stating several reasons. In Senator Coleman’s resignation, he accused the CDC of gradually departing from its initial principles on which it was founded.

The Grand Kru lawmaker claimed that he finds it difficult to comprehend the decisions reached by the Executive Committee of the CDC and have found himself at loggerheads with the leadership

In 2018 he rejoined the CDC blaming his departure on “Cerebellum Malaria.” The Grand Kru Senator was also accused of receiving salary from the John F. Kennedy Hospital management while serving as a siting Senator. This report was unveiled in one of the national audits.

In response, he said handouts he received were legitimate for surgical works that he had performed at the JFK Medical Center. He also joined colleague senators to vote for all of the presidential nominees with questionable deportments.

GRADE: B-

2019 OUTLOOKS: It is hoped that the Senator, who is a professional medical practitioner will continually use his background to push for more healthy living for all Liberians.

MARSHALL DENNIS – Grand Gedeh County

2018 HIGHS: The Senate Committee Chairperson on Banking and Currency, Marshall Dennis, is on recording for saying the Central Bank of Liberia lacks the capacity to regulate Liberia’s foreign exchange. According to him, the failure by the CBL has led to the depreciation of the Liberian dollars.

The CBL, he believes is very weak when it comes to ensuring certain regulations especially when discussing the fluctuation of foreign exchange rates across the country. Senator Dennis said the introduction of the single currency regime will help save the economy.

Private and public institutions, Senator Dennis said, should be instructed to accept the Liberian dollars during business transactions because it is the country’s legal tender but has failed to take the necessary steps.

Senator Dennis got elected during the December 2014 special senatorial election replacing then Isaac Wheyee Nyanabo now Liberia’s Ambassador to Belgium.

2018 LOWS: Since Dennis was appointed Chairman on the Senate Banking Committee, he has failed to make an indelible mark.

Two separate occasions, the Grand Gedeh County Senator failed to perform when he was given a task. On one occasion, when Senator Nyounblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa County wrote the Senate seeking inquiry on the state of the economy, Marshall failed to perform his committee role.

As chair on Banking and Currency he was tasked to investigate and make findings available to plenary of the Senate but he didn’t provide any findings.

In keeping with the Senate rules, a petition was sought and granted to take the task from the Marshall Committee and dedicate the responsibility to an ad-hoc committee established by the Senate Pro-Tempore because of its important nature.

In another incident, a communication was proffered by another colleague on the printing of the new bank notes that are now in circulation. Concerns were raised about the amount being printed as there were confusion and speculation about the exact amount being printed by the Central Bank. But Senator Marshall was also lackadaisical in ensuring the CBL provide clarity.

GRADE: F

2019 OUTLOOKS: It is expected that as chairman on the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency and with the current economy crisis faced by the country, he will honor committee responsibility and help address the situation through legislation.

STEVE ZARGO – Lofa County

2018 HIGHS: Senator Lofa County (Chair on Defense and Security)

He now serves as the National Chairman of the opposition Liberty Party. He got elected during the 2014 mid-term election replacing Sumo Kupee, who failed to get re-election. Zargo was one of the few, who stood up in January to contest for position of the Senate Pro-Tempore but later withdrew his ambition.

Zargo is one the few strong voices currently in the Senate. Maybe, because he comes from the opposition background. He is also a Member of the ECOWAS Parliament, representing Liberia.

He has tried to bring enthusiasm into everything he does especially at the Committee. As someone with a security background, he never ceases to remind his colleagues about the security implication in everything they do.

GRADE: C+

2019 OUTLOOK: As an opposition chairman, it is hoped that Zargo will continue to hold the government feet to the fire on all of its missteps. He might use his position as Chair on Defense and Security to correct some of the wrong decisions in this sector.

NYOUNBLEE-KARNGA LAWRENCE – Grand Bassa County

2018 HIGHS: Senator, Grand Bassa County (Chair on Rules, Order and Administration)

She is one of two female senators in the Liberian Senate. She continues to strive to make her voice heard on issues of national concern. Currently she is the political leader of the opposition Liberty Party. As the lone female voice in the Senate, she tries to make her voice heard on national discussions.

She’s currently considered the hope of women in the Senate as her colleague, Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, has spent a considerable portion of 2018 under the scissors fighting illness.

Outside of the Senate Plenary Karnga -Lawrence runs a local organization that support education and has sponsored several kids from her home county, Grand Bassa to travel to the United States of America to join other students from around the world to participate in a robot competition.

2018 LOWS: She is current being sued by Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee for comments he claimed the Grand Bassa Senator made that damage his personality. In one of her recent communications to the Senate the Grand Bassa Senator explained her eye-witness experience in the election violence allegedly orchestrated by the Monrovia City Mayor in District 13, Montserrado County and asked the Senate’s intervention.

GRADE: B

2019 OUTLOOKS: As the lone female voice now in the Senate. She has an uphill battle with the men. But she can rise above all and make a difference.

CONMANY WESSEH – RIVERGEE COUNTY

2018 HIGHS: Conmany B. Wesseh came to the Senate after the 2014 special senatorial mid-term election by beating his closest rival, former soccer star Jonathan Boy Charles Sogbie by a margin of 953 votes. The tally, according to the official website of the National Elections Commission (NEC), was the result from all 77 of the county’s polling centers even though Sogbie took exception and ran to court.

Currently he chairs the Senate’s Modernization Committee. He spearheaded the construction of the Chinese annex of the Capitol Building that houses the Liberian Legislature.

He is one of four senators who took the Senate to court praying the Supreme Court to place prohibition on impeachment proceeding for bench member Justice Kabineh Ja’neh.

He proposed the establishment of a Media Commission in Liberia. According to him, said Commission is necessary because it will be entrusted with the task to regulate and monitor activities of media houses across the country.

He said unlike the PUL, the media commission will, among other things, regulate and monitor the activities of the media and institute measures against media houses and journalists engaging in ethical breaches.

Senator Wesseh urged to the Press Union of Liberia to collaborate with his office at the Senate to ensure that all formalities leading to the establishment of such commission are finalized for legislation.

2018 LOWS: He got suspended by his colleagues of the River-Gee Caucus. In the letter of suspension signed by Alexander Poure, secretary of the caucus and Francis Young, Co-chair, the caucus amongst many things accused Senator Wesseh of undermining and vilifying the caucus and constantly exhibits disrepute to the Office of the President.

GRADE: C+

2019 OUTLOOKS: It is hoped that Senator Wesseh can truly work with the PUL toward the establishment of this proposed Media Commission.

Sando Johnson

2018 HIGHS: Bomi County (Chair on Concession and Investment)

Sando Johnson chairs the Senate’s Investment and Concession Committee. He is one of the loudest voices in the Senate. Not regarded as one to mince his words, Senator Sando Dazoe Johnson (National Patriotic Party) has established himself as one of the strong voices in the Senate. Since his election in the 2011 elections, the Bomi lawmaker has not shied away from taking on some of the most controversial issues of the day while holding the Executive Branch’s feet to the fire.

He currently chairs the Senate Committee on Concessions and Investment, Co-Chairs the committee on Internal Affairs, Good Governance and Reconciliation and is a member of the committees on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Commerce, Trade and Industry, Post and Telecommunications and Public Works and Rural Development.

In the debate regarding a controversial loan from an Asian Conglomerate, undertaken by the Executive Branch of government he did not hide his feelings.

2018 LOWS: He was heard in a secret recording allegedly soliciting bribe from a businessman. The tape was released by the businessman, James Cooper. However, the Bomi Senator alleged that businessman Cooper, who is in the production of rubber, is a scandalous businessman.

GRADE: D+

2019 OUTLOOKS: It is hoped that Senator Johnson will do all to clear the stint that has now clouded his name as it regards the bribery allegations from businessman James Cooper. Also, being vocal, he will remain holding the Executive’s feet to the fire.

OSCAR COOPER – Margibi County

2018 HIGHS: Senator Oscar Cooper of Margibi County contested for President in the just-ended Presidential and Legislative election and ended up as one of the candidates, who performed very poorly. Cooper has been a strong voice in the Senate; he is very vocal on issues.

2018 LOWS: Cooper is on record for calling for the deduction of salary of senators but has not had the courage to take the first step to reduce his salary. He is one of the four senators who took the Senate to the Supreme Court.

GRADE: F

2019 OUTLOOKS: Folks are hoping that Senator Cooper lives up to what he preaches.

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