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Supreme Court Places Stay Order …On Samukai’s Certification

By Grace Q. Bryant
The Supreme Court of Liberia has mandated the National Elections Commission (NEC) to place stay order on the certification of Lofa County’s Senatorial candidate, Brownie Samukai.
Over the weekend, the full bench’s decision came when the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) filed a petition for prohibition to the Supreme Court.
In their petition, the MPC prayed the Supreme Court to halt the certification of Brownie Samukai because he has been indicted as a criminal.
It can be recalled that the Minister of Justice, Attorney General Frank Musa Dean, wrote the Chairperson of the NEC Board of Commissioners (BOC), informing her that the Supreme Court had adjudged Mr. Samukai guilty of some crimes.
But before the Justice Minister had sent his letter to Mrs. Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, a series of events had taken place culminating into today’s disappointment for Samukai.
According to the team representing the legal interest of the ruling party’s candidate and others, who participated in the election in Lofa and lost, had lodged a complaint to the Hearing Officer of the NEC that Mr. Samukai’s win was marred by fraud. After few days of deliberations from two legal teams, both the winner and the loser, the Hearing Officer declared Samukai the winner. The legal team of the ruling party’s candidate took an appeal to the NEC BOC.
Again, the complaining party’s legal team, led by Cllr. Samuel Kortimai accepted the ruling and took an appeal before the Supreme Court.
While everyone was waiting the nation’s highest court to hand down its verdict, the Solicitor General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, sent a letter to the Chairperson of the NEC-BOC on February 14, 2021. In his communication, which wasn’t a typical Valentine’s Day’s letter, he instructed Madam Browne-Lansanah, and the entire BoC not to certificate Mr. Samukai on ground that he is a “convicted felon.”
This is what he had said in his letter: “Further, you will recall that prior to the December 8, 2020 election, Mr. Samukai was found guilty by the lower court along with his co-conspirators for the same crimes. But took an appeal to the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, which automatically stayed the enforcement of the convicted judgment.”
“Therefore, the recent judgment by the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia is not a novelty and did not depart from the holding of the lower court’s judgment; instead, it confirmed the lower court’s judgment, which means Mr. Samukai together with his co-conspirators has been a convicted felon from the date the lower court rendered its judgment in 2020.”
“Accordingly, since the guilty judgment is the law controlling, and constitutes a finality of the matter, and by law is not appealable in this jurisdiction, it is considered my opinion that it will be inarguable allay any and all concerns that may arise, and you will therefore proceed not to certificate him.”
On February 23, the Justice Minister was invited by the Senate to provide answers to qualms they had on another matter. Somehow, the issue of Mr. Samukai’s win was raised with him. He was asked whether he sanctioned or knew about the letter that had come from the Solicitor General instructing the NEC not to certificate Mr. Samukai as Senator of Lofa. He categorically denied having any inclination of the letter and that Mr. Cephus had acted on his own.
The Justice Minister told the senators that he himself only saw the communication on social media while traveling with President George Weah on the county tour.
“I only read that letter on social media; I have not received any copy of the Solicitor General’s letter that was sent to NEC.”
However, when he and Cllr. Cephus appeared on Thursday, February 25 before the Senate, he flipped and said he knows about the letter and he had approved of it. After some minutes of deliberations, the Senate ordered him to withdraw said letter as they were out of order to instruct the NEC on what to do.
But on Wednesday, February 24, the Supreme Court ruled and said that candidates James K. Marley, Hamet Kromah and Gayflor Tarnue were unable to prove the allegations of fraud and irregularities, which they claimed marred the exercises specifically 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.
In the Justice in Chamber’s ruling, the NEC was mandated to take charge of the matter again, meaning that since its BOC had affirmed their Hearing Officer’s verdict, Mr. Samukai should be certificated as the winner of the election.
But on March 1, the Justice Minister wrote the elections body not grossly mandating as was done by the Solicitor General but clearly did in his letter.
Cllr. Dean writes: “We present our compliments, and consistent with section 3.23 of the New Election Law, herewith inform of the attached final Judgment of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, affirming the Judgment of Guilt against Messrs. J. Brownie Samukai, Joseph H. Johnson and Nyumah Dorkor, for the commission of the crimes of theft of property, misuse of public money and criminal conspiracy.
“Further, may we inform you, it is the law extant in our jurisdiction that any person convicted of a felony, committed in connection with his employment as a public servant is disqualified from holding public office until the sentence is served and/or the satisfaction of any other penalty imposed. For reliance, please see: Penal law, 4LCLR, title 26, Section 50.12 (b) (1976) and 1986 Constitution of Liberia, Article 21(j).”
As everyone waited to see what the National Elections Commission would do, whether to take the mandate of the Ministry of Justice or the Supreme Court since it’s an autonomous body, strangely enough, the elections body set a new precedence, which will go a long way and will affect many elections to come.
The NEC went ahead and concurred with the Ministry of Justice not to go ahead with former Defense Minister Samukai’s certification on Tuesday, March 2.
In a statement on Tuesday, the NEC Chairperson, Cllr. Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, requested the clerk of the National Elections Commission to read the verdict of the Supreme Court and thereafter announced that the certification of Mr. Samukai, as Senator of Lofa County could not go ahead.
Cllr. Browne-Lassanah told Mr. Samukai and his legal team that a date would be announced further.

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