MONROVIA-Lofa County Senator-elect J. Brownie Samukai seems closed, yet still far from representing the people of Lofa at the National Legislature anytime soon.
Samukai’s Hope and chance of taking his seat at the house of Senate was dashed by the supreme Court over the weekend until his liability is settled.
Prior to his elections by the people of Lofa, Samukai was convicted along with his two deputies for misapplying the Armed Forces of Liberia personnel fund and was ordered by the court to restitute said amount or risk a-two year jail term.
Handling down verdict on Friday, July 9, 2021, the Chamber-Justice of the Supreme Court issued the peremptory Writ of Prohibition on Lofa County Senator- elect, J. Browine Samukai as prayed for by the Ministry of Justice until the liability imposed on him by his conviction is removed accordance with law.
Justice Joseph Nagbe asserted that the writ of Prohibition has been properly applied for and taking into consideration of the laws cited saying; “Therefore, the petition for a writ of prohibition should be and same is hereby granted.”
Justice Nagbe further ordered the clerk of the court to Issue the peremptory Writ of Prohibition and send a mandate to the National Election Commission disallowing the certification of Samukai until his liability imposed on him by his conviction is removed according to law.
It can be recalled, on Tuesday, March 29, 2021 the Ministry of Justice filed a petition for a writ of prohibition before the chamber justice of the high Court to stop, inhibit and prevent the National Election Commission from certificating J. Browine Samukai to represent the people of Lofa.
The petition holds that Samukai is judicially disenfranchised citizen and a convicted felon therefore, as a Senator-elect for Lofa County, it might be inequitably affected by the judgement from NEC if he is certificated.
The petitioner contended that once you are a convicted felon, there is no way you can occupy any public office citing section 3.1 and 3.23 of the New Elections Law and section 50.12 of the New Penal Law of Liberia as their reliance.
The state petition further quoted section 50.12 of Chapter 50 of Liberia Penal code, Part II ” a person convicted of any of the crimes listed below or of any attempt or conspiracy to commit such crime or of facilitation or solicitation of such crime, shall forfeit any public office he then holds and may be disqualified from any or a specified public office or category thereof for such period as the court may determine, but no longer than five years following completion of the sentence imposed for such crime: (a) Treason ( Section 11.1) and the crimes affecting national security defined in section 11.2. ( b) any felony committed in connection with his employment as a public servant and (c) A crime expressly made subject to this section by statue”.
They furthered that Samukai was convicted on March 24, 2020 by the First Judicial Circuit for Monsterrado County, Criminal Assizes “C’ for the crimes of theft of property, criminal conspiracy and misuse of public funds which final ruling the honorable Supreme Court confirmed and affirmed on February 8, 2021.
Government Lawyers mentioned that Senator-elect has not served the sentence nor satisfied the penalty imposed as required by Article 21(j) of the 1986 constitution of Liberia. They added that Samukai is precluded from exercising his basic fundamental rights and civil liberties which include the right to public service.
Based on Government’s petition, Justice Nagbe cited both parties for conference that led to the issuance of the alternative writ of prohibition on April 15 2021 against Samukai and NEC.
On April 22, 2021, Samukai Lawyer filed his returns. He contended that prohibition can not and should not lie against him because he( Samukai) is not a tribunal, but a Senatorial Candidate who contested and won the December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Election in Lofa County . He said that a single Justice of the Supreme Court cannot issue a writ of prohibition to restrain the executive of a prior mandate by the full bench of the highest decisions.
He contented that the Supreme Court affirmed the final ruling of the lower court with modification which did not include disqualification and forfeiture of public office. The said punishment above must be a decision duly made by a court and forms part of the sentencing.
Additionally, section 3.1 and 3.2 of the New Elections Law relied by the state are pre-election challenges which can not be applied in the instant case. Samukai is not a disenfranchised citizens and that section 50.1w of the New Penal Code is also not applicable wherein the Supreme Court did not prohibit or restrain Samukai from holding public office.
He narrated that suspending a jail sentence does not negate the fact that the crime was committed but previously had no past criminal records which the court could not make the jail sentence activate.
Justice Nabge said though the court conditioned the sentence on a foundation that the failure of the defendants to restitute 50% of the amount would be reactive. This means that Samukai is still a convicted felon.