Liberia: Court Orders Boakai to Withdraw Nominations

Monrovia — Liberia’s Supreme Court has ordered President Joseph Nyumah Boakai to withdraw nominations he made to various tenured positions, having determined that tenured officials’ rights to due process were violated.

Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh read the court’s opinion on Wednesday, 24 April 2024. The court’s ruling followed weeks of hearing a petition for a writ of prohibition filed by several past government officials accused of violating the Code of Conduct by partaking in active politics.

The court’s opinion means the Boakai administration lost the legal battle to Garrison Doldeh Yealue, Chairman Governance Commission, Andrew Peter, Executive Director of the National Identification Registry, and Edwina Crump Zackpah, Chairperson of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA).

Additionally, the administration lost to LTA officials Israel Akinsanya, James Gbarwea, Zatowon Titus, Osborn Diggs, and Liberia National Lottery Authority Director General Reginald Kpan Nagbe.

These officials, the court said, had their rights to due process violated by the administration.

But the full bench of the Supreme Court also quashed and dismissed a petition for the writ of prohibition filed against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by its former boss, Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh.

Tarpeh had been claiming to hold a tenure position and was allegedly removed illegally by the Boakai administration.

However, the Supreme Court ruled that the appointment of Prof. Tarpeh by former President George Manneh Weah without the approval of the Policy Council was an action that erased the legally required process procedure of being an Executive Director.

Delivering the ruling, Chief Justice Yuoh said the alternative writ of prohibition issued by Justice-in-Chambers Yussif D. Kaba is hereby affirmed, and the peremptory writ prayed for by the tenured groups is granted.

At the same time, Chief Justice Yuoh ordered President Boakai’s nominations to various positions and institutions withdrawn.

She further ordered the Clerk of the Supreme Court to inform all the parties about the court’s mandate accordingly.

“Their said removal from office before the expiry of their tenure without due process is ultra vires,” Chief Justice Yuoh stressed.

Chief Justice Yuoh explained that the Supreme Court has held that Article 89 of the Constitution of Liberia (1986), which gives the Legislature the authority to create autonomous agencies, does not contravene Article 56 of the Constitution.

Counselors James N. Kumeh, Arthur T. Johnson, Samuel Y. Zazay, Alexander B. Zoe, and Fredrick L. Gbemie represented the officials challenging their removals, while Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia, Cllr. N. Oswald Tweh, J., and Adolphus Karnuah represented the Government of Liberia.

On March 28, 2024, the highest court in the country heard arguments from both government lawyers and the petitioners’ lawyers.

Justice Minister Tweh argued before the Supreme Court that it’s a privilege and not a right for all those holding public offices.

He added that the president only nominated individuals who had not been confirmed by the Senate or commissioned by the President, and therefore, it didn’t cause those petitioners any injuries.

“If you think [the] government has breached your contract right, what you do is to request for your benefits and not run to court, “Justice Minister Tweh argued.

In his earlier comments, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai’s Legal Advisor, Cllr. Bushuben Keita revealed over the weekend that the cabinet had authorized the President to scrap all tenures except those protected by the Constitution-urging him to appoint his trusted lieutenants in those positions.

Cllr. Keita said the cabinet reached the decision at its first meeting on Friday, February 23, 2024.

“The cabinet has authorized the president, and it has been concluded as government policy that in all of those tenure positions, the president will exercise his authority to appoint people in any position in the executive whether the person has tenure or not, except those positions that the Constitution of Liberia protects,” he said.

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