Lofa County Senator-Elect Brownie J. Samukai, Jr. Lofa County Senator-Elect Brownie J. Samukai, Jr.

As Supreme Court Halts His Certification: Samukai’s Fate Still Hangs in the Balance

Monrovia, Liberia: The full representation of Lofa County at the level of the Liberian Senate has been dealt another blow with latest ruling by the full bench of the Supreme Court of Liberia, as it on Friday, August 20, 2021 ordered the country’s electoral body, the National Elections Commission (NEC) not to certificate Senator-elect, former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, Jr. until his disability imposed on him be relied by the Criminal Court 'C' Judge Yamie Q. Gbeisay.

Located at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill, Monrovia, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of Justice in the country.

Handing down the verdict, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, Sr., said Samukai and his former deputies were convicted and have not served the sentence and satisfied the penalty imposed on them by the law.

This is an outcome of a Writ of Prohibition filed by the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) Political Leader, Simeon Freeman and the Government of Liberia (GoL) by and thru Ministry of Justice in which they prayed the nation’s highest court to halt the certification process of the Lofa County Senator-elect on grounds that he was indicted and convicted as an economic criminal through the final ruling of the Supreme Court.

MPC argued that such a person lacks the moral and integrity to uphold public office.

But the MPC’s Writ of Prohibition was quashed and denied by the man, who is regarded as the “Chief Priest” of the judiciary, stating that while the party remains an embodiment of the citizenry of Liberia, only the Ministry of Justice is authorized by law to represent the sovereign interest of the Republic of Liberia and its organs, especially, when said law has been violated by an agency of government.

"Therefore, MPC Writ of Prohibition is denied and dismissed. The Alternative Writ of Prohibition issued is quashed and the peremptory Writ is denied," he further ruled. He added that with the basis set listed above MoJ has the standing to file petition for the Writ of Prohibition.

He mentioned that Samukai and others are convicted for felony and have a suspended two- year sentence, stating noting that the sentence imposed on Samukai and others is susceptible to revocation on non-compliance with the condition set which is to pay the money or go to jail.

"Samukai and others could still be incarcerated if they fail to comply with the terms and conditions of the sentence as prescribed by law," he stressed.

Though the NEC has the jurisdiction to certificate a successful candidate in an election, the conviction of felony has not been removed, and as such, it would be utterly wrong and illegal for the NEC to certificate the Lofa County Senator-elect while his disability has not been removed.

Additionally, the Writ of Prohibition is preventive rather than a corrective procedure remedy and will lie where the Court, Tribunal or Administrative agency acting in a Judicial or quasi-Judicial capacityhas no jurisdiction or where it has jurisdiction, it is proceeding by the wrong rules.

"The Writ of Prohibition will lie to prevent the NEC from certificating Samukai as the winner of the special Senatorial Election held in Lofa County on December 8, 2020," he pointed out.

Due to such remedies, he adjudged, the Writ of Prohibition filed by the Government of the Republic of Liberia and through the Ministry of Justice is granted, and the peremptory Writ prayed for is granted.

Meanwhile, Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie withheld her signature from the judgment of the Court, while Judge In-Chamber, Joseph N. Nagbe who decided the case before reaching the full bench of the Supreme Court, did not participate in the hearing and determination of the case in the proceedings before the full bench of the Supreme Court.

It can be recalled that Samukai and his two Deputies, Joseph Johnson and J. Nyumah Dorbor, were indicted in 2020 for the crimes of theft of property, criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage, misuse of public money and money laundering.

According to Judge Yamie Gbeisay’s ruling, which the Supreme Court confirmed and affirmed, Samukai and his deputies were given six months’ time to restitute US$1,147,656.35 or fifty percent (US$573,828.175) in AFL Account or risk serving a-two-year sentence at the Monrovia central prison.

Recently, Criminal Court 'C' Judge Ousman Feika cited Samukai and his deputies for a post-trial conference scheduled for August 26, 2021. But Samukai filed a motion of Enlargement of Time based on the fact the time given to them had elapsed, which was August 10, 2021.

A day after, Samukai withdrew his motion and promised to pay the money, and hence on August 19, 2021, the Lofa County Senator-elect, obeyed the court’s order and restituted his position of the 50 percent of the AFL pension money.

Ever since former Defense Minister Samukai made his intension to contest the Lofa County’s highest elected seat, he has found himself in the middle of different controversies and legal battles both at the county and national levels.

It could be recalled that during the nomination process of candidates for the 2020 Special Senatorial Election, a “concerned citizen” took on former Minister Samukai at the NEC, asking the Commission not to allow him (Samukai) participate on grounds that he was a convicted criminal. But his complaint was denied on grounds that it lacks all legal backings.

Also following the declaration of Samukai as winner of the December 8 poll on the ticket of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties(CPP), three of the candidates in persons of James K. Marley, Hamet Kromah and Gayflor Tarnue petitioned the Supreme Court to halt Samukai's election, claiming election fraud and irregularities.

On the basis of their complaint, a three-member panel of the Supreme Court in its series of hearings and judgments delivered within three hours, said candidates Tarnue, Marley and Kromah were unable to prove the allegations of fraud and irregularities, which they claimed marred the exercise in District#4 in Lofa County.

"Wherefore and in view of the foregoing the ruling of the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission which confirmed the ruling of the Hearing Officer is affirmed. The clerk of this court is ordered to send a mandate to the National Elections Commission to give effect to this judgment. Costs are ruled against the appellants. And it's hereby so ordered," the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

It means that the Supreme Court upheld the ruling from the National Elections Commission (NEC) declaring him winner of the December 8 Special Senatorial elections.

But that was never the end of the Samukai’s rigmarole as he is again being dealt another big legal blow with the future of Lofa County’s full representation at the Liberian f Senate otherwise known as the Upper House of the Liberian Legislature, remains uncertain.

Legally, there isn’t any clear provision of the law as to whether there would be a by-election if Samukai is denied sitting.

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