Tough talking Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Eugene Fahngon was brought to his knees and ‘nailed’ on Wednesday by the House of Representatives after a complaint filed by Representative Edwin Snowe, a staunch member of the opposition Unity Party (UP).
Following the incident, several Liberians insinuated that the action means the opposition Unity Party (UP) has ‘nailed’ the CDC in its first attempt on official in the executive branch of government.
Deputy Minister Fahngon was humiliated on Wednesday September 12, 2018 for allegedly insulting Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe of the opposition Unity Party (UP).
The Bomi County lawmaker filed a complaint against Fahngon before the plenary of the House of Representatives which resulted to him being handcuffed in the joint chambers of the National legislature and subsequently incarcerated at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police, fined with LRD4999.99 cent and declared as ‘none governmental material’.
He was said to have insulted Bomi County electoral district one Representative, Edwin Melvin Snowe following an incident with a staff of the lawmaker’s office, Kelvin D. J. Matadi who Minister Fahngon alleged of photographing him in a public place while having his private life.
This according to many Liberians who called on various talkshows across the city following the humiliation, they said such humiliation is a real victory for the opposition political parties because the lone and loudest voice for the ruling establishment is said to be silenced by members of the opposition political parties.
According to them, lawmakers of the governing CDC should not be happy for such decision by the House of Representatives because it is the beginning of several humiliation for anyone perceived to be in defense of the government.
Representative Acarous Gray vs Isaac Jackson:
It can be recalled that war of words ensued between Representative Acarous Gray of Montserrado County electoral District eight and former Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Isaac Jackson during the administration of then President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf government.
Representative Gray and the Deputy MICAT boss tussle led to the subpoenaing of former Information Minister Lewis Browne and others to the House of Representatives to show reasons why they should not be held in contempt.
At that time, former House Speaker Alex Tyler who was a member of the Unity Party (UP) reportedly lobbied with his colleagues to settle the misunderstanding between one of their colleagues, Representative Acarous Gray and Deputy Minister Jackson.
The issue was quietly settled with Minister Jackson not humiliated as done to Fahngon while in the same position as Fahngon.
Deputy Minister Eugene Fahngon reportedly ordered officers of the Liberia National Police and the National Security Agency (NSA) to seize Kelvin Matadi’s phone after he had asked Matadi to delete the photos he has taken.
Later, Matadi called his boss Hon. Snowe to the zone three police depot that he has been detained on the order of Minister Fahngon. According to eyewitnesses on the scene, Hon Snowe went to the station to seek Matadi’s release. But in his phone conversation with the Deputy Minister, led to bitter exchange of words between him and Representative Showe.
Based on the alleged insults from the Deputy Minister toward Representative Snowe who is also a member of the first branch of government, the plenary of the House of Representatives invited Deputy Minister Eugene Fahngon and Minister Eugene Nagbe to appear on Tuesday, but they didn’t appear for unexplained reasons.
Due to the gravity of the issues at hand, the plenary of the House of Representatives convened a special session on Wednesday September 12, 2018 to deal with the issue.
The Information Ministry’s officials were asked in the citation to appear with their lawyers, but Fahngon said he and his lawyers came earlier, but session delay, so, the legal counsel decided to leave.
However, Minister Nagbe apologized and said due to the collaboration with the executive and the legislative branches, they couldn’t come with their legal counsel, but to just beg and the minister was immediately removed from under oath, but maintained Deputy Minister Fahngon under oath.
While taking the witness stand, Deputy Minister Fahngon completely contradicted Minister Nagbe, saying he needs to talk to his lawyer first before any comments.
After several hours waiting for his lawyers, Deputy Minister Fahngon’s lawyer, Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison appeared at 7:19PM, but Fahngon maintains that based on Article 21 (c) of the 1986 Liberia Constitution, he wouldn’t make any comment except through his lawyer.
But as per the rule of the House of Representatives, the Lawyer cannot be placed under oath and cannot speak, but only speak through the witness on the stand.
The audio recording concerning the alleged insults from Deputy Minister Fahngon to Representative Snowe was played in the overcrowded, but quiet joint Chambers of the National Legislature and Fahngon was loudly heard raining insults and calling his name in the recording.
After speaking to the lawmakers, the Deputy Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives was mandated to read the constitutional provision as evoked by Deputy Minister Fahngon.
Article 21 (c) of the Liberian Constitution says “Every person suspected or accused of committing a crime shall immediately upon arrest be informed in detail of the charges, of the right to remain silent and of the fact that any statement made could be used against him in a court of law. Such person shall be entitled to counsel at every stage of the investigation and shall have the right not to be interrogated except in the presence of counsel. Any admission or other statements made by the accused in the absence of such counsel shall be deemed inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.”
Following the reading, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, Grand Kru County Representative, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa gave his legal opinion and said due process has been given to Deputy Minister Fahngon and as such, the process should continue.
A motion was filed by Lofa County Representative Clarence K. Massaquoi for Fahngon to be considered as ‘None Governmental material’ and the chief clerk be instructed to communicate with the Liberian Senate and President George Weah of the decision that has been taken.
An amendment was made by Nimba County Representative Samuel Kogar to the motion for Fahngon to spend two days behind bars, fined LRD4,999.99cent. The amendment was endorsed by the movant in totality. After that, members of the House of Representatives voted unanimously for Fahngon to be taken to jail, fined and declared ‘none governmental material.
He was immediately handcuffed by the Sergeant-At-Arm, General Martin Johnson and taken to the headquarters of the Liberia National Police for one night and later forwarded to the Monrovia Central Prison for another night on Thursday September 13, 2018. Few people this paper spoke to said the action of the lawmakers was wrong.
“They are using contempt power to disgrace people. They are hiding behind the scene to do many negative things in this country,” Anthony Kaidi, a business man said.
For his part, Justin Pewee, petty trader said, “the UP is trying to nail the CDC. This is the beginning of it. You will see in the future. If Snowe had issues, he should deal with the matter since the person in question was not on official duty.”
“I am not supporting the minister insulting the honorable, but the excessive use of power here is wrong,” he said.