…In Tenured Positions Saga

By Garmah Never Lomo (contributor)

Monrovia-April-23-2024-TNR:The nation’s high court, the Supreme Court of Liberia is expected to hand down ruling in the much-publicized turned position saga.

Today, all eyes will be on the Supreme Court of Liberia regarding its verdict on the legality of President Joseph Boakai’saction to nominate/appoint new people to at various state institutions since he came to power last January.

Liberia’s Supreme Court is expected to hand down advance opinion in five tenure cases brought before the full Bench this Wednesday, April 24, 2024.

Governmental institutions at the center of this controversy are the Governance Commission (GC), National Identification Registry (NIR), Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), Liberia Lottery Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The highest court in the country heard arguments from both government lawyers and the petitioner lawyers on March 28, 2024.

The pending opinions have sparked out debate among some lawyers with some saying prohibitions will hold which means those who petitioned the high court will be right while others are saying that the President didn’t commit any wrong by appointing people in those tenure positions.

As it stands, some lawyers and members of the public are also referencing the former LACC chairman Edwin Kla Martin and Liberia Lottery Authority cases where the Supreme Court headed by former Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor ruled then in favor of the Liberia Lottery Authority boss, while Cllr. Martin was told by the Supreme Court that his petition was premature.

The Liberia Lottery Authority case then opinion, which was handed down during the administration of Former Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, while Cllr. Martin’s case was the first case brought before Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh on this issue.

The recent argument by the new Justice Minister Oswald Twehat the Supreme Court appears to have contradicted the earlier contents by President Boakai’s legal advisor regarding the President’s appointment and removal of tenure position holders.

While arguing before the full Bench on some of those removed by President Boakai from their tenure position as such; Minister Tweh argued that the petition was prematurely filed.

He also argued that all those tenure holders are contractors and as such if any parties who breach the agreement under the law should settle the other parties.

Justice Minister Tweh further argued before the Supreme Court that all those holding public offices is a privilege and not a right.

He added the president only nominated individuals who hasn’tbeen confirmed by the senate neither commissioned by the President and therefore it didn’t cause those petitioners any injuries.

“If you think government has breached your contract right, what you do is to request for your benefits and not running to court, “Justice Minister justified.

Minister Tweh was arguing on behalf of the government of Liberia in the tenured position cases– Liberia Telecommunications Authority, National Identification Registry, Liberia Lottery Authority and Governance Commission (GC)

The new Justice Minister argued that no law has been violated and he maintained that their positions that holding public office is not a right but privilege and prayed the Supreme Court to deny, dismiss and quash the peremptory Writ.

In his earlier comments, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai’sLegal Advisor, Cllr. Bushuben Keita, revealed over the weekend that the cabinet has authorized the President to scrap all tenured officials except those protected by the constitution—urging him to appoint his trusted lieutenants in those positions.

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

“The cabinet has authorized the president, and it has been concluded as government policy that all of those tenure positions that 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 are protected by the Constitution of Liberia,” he said.

“If the tenure was created by statute, it is a position of the government that violates article 56a,” Keita said. Keita said the cabinet has decided that those tenure positions violate Article 56a, which states:

“All cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers and consuls, superintendents of counties and other government officials, both military and civilian, appointed by the President pursuant to this Constitution shall hold their offices at the pleasure of the President.”

He referenced two precedence cases that the Supreme Court ruled in, Martin Sallie Kollie versus Executive Branch of Government, and the LACC case filed by Edward Kla Martin on the constitutionality of articles 16.1 and 16.2 versus the new LACC Act. Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in the Edward Kla Martin, former Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Chairperson’s case, Keita said the court ruled that tenured positions are “contracts” and as such officials holding such positions “should be paid for their unexpired terms on a case- by-case basis.”

“For example, if you went there in 2022 you have four years in 2024, and you still have another two years to go, you are terminated today, and the government owes you your two years’ pay so we will treat it as if you are serving out your term.”

“That those contracts must be respected in keeping with Article 25 of the Constitution. Therefore, for all of those tenured positions, they are considered contracts for a definite period and in all of such instances where there is employer and employee relationship established and there is an unexpired portion of the contracts the supreme court has held — and we agreed — that those holding tenured positions should be compensated for the unexpired term.”

The Supreme Court, he said, indicated that the tenures are contracts and those contracts must be respected in keeping with Article 25 of the Constitution. The president’s legal adviser’s comment comes after President Boakai made several appointments of officials to tenured positions where the tenures of the current officers in charge have not ended.

Entities affected include the Liberian Telecommunication Authority (LTA), the Governance Commission (GC), the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL), the National Lottery, and the National Identification Registry (NIR).

However, lawyers representing the petitioners said the government of President Boakai has grossly violated the rights of those occupying tenure positions.

Their respective lawyers argued those acts that established the LTA, NIR, Liberia Lottery Authority and Governance Commission were violated by President Boakai and as such the President actions should be prohibited.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh said that the four petitions will have consolidated rulings excluding the Environmental Protection Agency.

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