The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

The Law-Making Process And Vagueness: The Issue Of Dual Citizenship

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

What I have noticed in public discussion is that whenever there is a discussion on an issue, it would bring about other issues. Today, there is a discussion on whether or not a naturalized Liberian can head the National Elections Commission (NEC). This debate cropped up as a result of the nomination of

Cllr. A. Ndubusi Nwabudike, a naturalized Liberian as Chairperson of the National Elections Commission. Others are Davidetta Browne Lansanah, Co-Chair; Cllr. Ernestine Morgan-Awar, Commissioner; Floyd Sayor, Commissioner; Barsee Kpangbai, Commissioner and Josephine Kou-Gaye. They were nominated recently by President George Weah replacing Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah, former chair and other Commissioners whose tenures expired this year.

At present, the nominees, in keeping with the Liberian Constitution are undergoing confirmation by the Liberian Senate. As a result, there are mixed reactions on the confirmation of the new chair-designate on grounds that he is not a natural born Liberian, while others say the la w is too VAGUE on the issue.

Howbeit, this piece is not intended to look into that matter as to whether or not the new chair should be confirmed or not, but to deal with the issue that there are attempts to draft a law on the issue of Dual Citizenship, which has been a controversial issue for years now.

In the first place, let us look at the issue of dual citizenship. Research shows that “dual citizenship is the status of an individual who is a citizen of two or more nations; Also called dual nationality, the status of a person who is a legal citizen of two or more countries.

Furthermore, it said, “ Dual citizenship is when a person is legally a citizen of two countries at the same time. They will have legal rights and obligations in both countries. The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a national of two and that a person may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws…”

In the simplest sense, it refers to individuals who hold loyalties in two countries. That is, one is a citizen of two countries. The word, “DUAL,” clearly denotes only two.

Frankly, the issue of dual citizenship never comes into conflict, unless one who holds such status decides to seek political power or political offices. This is why it is said that in some countries, a demarcation is drawn as to the political posts a person who holds dual citizenship cannot hold or holds.

And so as we embark on the law of dual citizenship, we should ensure that it is not vague; it must be specific to state the kind of positions people with dual citizenship status can hold.

For instance, in Article 52(a) of the Liberian Constitution, it is succinctly and unambiguously clear that to be President of Liberia, ONE MUST BE A “natural born Liberian citizen…”as such no foreigner or naturalized Liberian knowingly and intentionally dare think about contesting such post or seek for such post.

Vagueness and ambiguities in the law-making process can bring about all kinds of interpretations. I recall that few years ago, there was this issue as to whether or not the President of Liberia could appoint the mayors of cities. The controversy came about based on Article 54 of the Liberian Constitution concerning the appointing powers of the President.

In that Article, it is said that the President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate appoint and commission, “Superintendents, other county officials and officials of other political sub-divisions.” The issue in dispute at the time was that which says, “OTHER COUNTY OFFICIASLS,” which came to the issue of city mayors.

The argument was so profound that it went to the Supreme Court of the late Jonnie Lewis for “Judicial Review.” After reviewing the matter the majority of the justices interpreted that provision of the Constitution that the President was empowered to also appoint city mayors. Judicial Review, in law refers to a court’s power to review the actions of other branches or levels of government; a court review of a lower court’s or administrative body’s factual or legal findings.

However, on the issue of city mayors, two of the justices, the then senior Associate Justice Francis Saye Korkpor and former Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh dissented, thus disagreeing with their three colleagues that that provision of the Constitution empowers the President to “appoint” city mayors.

As the present debate on dual citizenship continues, I gathered from Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence that two months ago they overwhelmingly passed a proposition in the constitutional review on dual citizenship, which among other things states that naturalized Liberians cannot hold certain governmental positions.

If this is true, then, it is vague and ambiguous because it failed to state those positions such persons cannot occupy or be appointed to. Laws should be made clear for proper understanding and interpretation.

For example; in the case of homicide, which is the killing or death of another human being, there are specific elements that distinguish the different kinds of homicide charges. It would be manslaughter, negligent homicide or murder.

Even though they are relate to human’s life, based on the facts and circumstances, a specific charge would be brought against the accused. Similarly, as it relates to stealing, when one speaks of “embezzlement,” there must be the element of “entrustment,” and not because one is poor or rich, as we were made to believe in the past.

Likewise, in the case of self-defense, there must be this element of “proportionality of force.” When I was growing up in New Kru Town, I was made to believe that once someone enters your yard to fuss, one could do anything to the person, even if the person, unarmed, decides to leave, one could shoot and kill the person and invoke ”self-defense.” It was until I entered the law school that I really understood the issue of self-defense and mainly the element of “proportionality of force.”

Today, as we concentrate on this law for Dual Citizenship, we should learn from past mistakes to predictably avoid future controversy. This pending law must not be vague and ambiguous; it must be specific in dealing with the ”DOs and DON’Ts”.

I Rest My Case.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.