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S/Court Rules on Tenure Saga Today

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By: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: The case surrounding the removal from offices of several former officials who were serving tenure positions by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai will be decided today, April 24, 2024, by the Supreme Court of Liberia.

The determination would be contained in the H/ Court’s ruling on the matter.

This followed a Writ of Prohibition filed by some former officials of the government who were replaced from their posts by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai.

The affected officials protested that the President’s action against them violated their tenure rights.

There are claims that those replaced, during the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections campaigned for the erstwhile ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), in violation of their tenure mandate, and the Code of Conduct for public officials, a claim the affected officials have also rejected.

“The Cabinet has authorized the President, and it has been concluded as a 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,” said Boakai’s Legal Advisor, Cllr. Bushuben Keita.

“If the tenure was created by statute, it is a position of the government that violates article 56a,” Keita previously said.

Cllr. Keita disclosed that 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.”

However, the aggrieved tenure officials who were removed from their offices ran to the Supreme Court for legal relief and proper interpretation to the tenure laws.

Some of those who were affected by what they called “illegal removal” included the Chairman of the Governance Commission (GC), Garrison D. Yealue; Reginald K. Nagbe, Director General of the National Lottery Authority(NLA); Edwina C. Zackpah, Chairperson of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA); and Prof. Wilson K Tarpeh Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA).

They petitioned the Supreme Court of Liberia for a Writ of Prohibition to stop the Boakai government from removing them from their respective offices in consideration that they serve based on tenure provisions.

Reports from the Temple of Justice, the seat of the Liberian Judiciary indicated that the Chief Justice of Liberia, Her Honor Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh, has said judgments in these cases will have significant implications. Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court is eagerly awaited parties involved in the legal matter.

The decisions, the Chief Justice said, will be pivotal in shaping legal interpretations and providing clarity on the issues presented in these petitions for writ of prohibition.

The Unity Party, during its first two terms (2006 to 2017) created most of the tenured positions, especially at the end of the second term.

From the onset and with the advice of its international partners, the government thought, it wise to create tenured positions for integrity institutions like the GAC, and LACC, as a way of giving them that protection to work void of external interferences, especially political manipulation from the presidency as those entities went about fighting graft in public service.

However, the process later became manipulated as the government began giving tenures to entities that were not integrity institutions — a move that some said was meant to secure jobs for cronies.

However, when the CDC came to power under President George Manneh Weah, it challenged the tenured posts and wanted all such positions removed.

The UP, then an opposition party, argued that the tenured requirement of those jobs was meant to protect the integrity of the jobs and institutions so they were not subject to the caprices of an imperial presidency.

Ex-President Weah was accused of trying to become a dictator and all attempts to remove the tenure status on those positions failed as the Legislature also refused to repeal the acts that created those entities.
This will not be the first time for the Supreme Court of Liberia to rule in such matter regarding tenure position in the country.

In Decision 2023, the high Court denied the former Chairman of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s (LACC) petition to declare some provisions of the amended and Restated Act Establishing the LACC unconstitutional.

Cllr. Edwin Klah Martin had requested the Supreme Court to declare Sections 16.1 and 16.2 which he argued amounted to a breach of contract since the government was in error in dissolving his tenured position and then creating the same null and void.

The case reached the full bench of the Supreme Court after former Chamber Justice, Yussif D. Kaba, sent it to the full bench without ruling on its merits.

Martin’s lawyer, in his legal action, claimed that the 2022 amendment of the 2008 LACC Act amounts to a breach of contract as the government was in error to dissolve his tenured position and recreate the same.

Nonetheless, the Court said should it become necessary to terminate the services of the petitioner and others similarly situated before the expiration of their contractual rights, the sanctity of contract as enshrined in the Constitution should be given due consideration; and that no public official has vested right to a public office except for those officers or offices that are clearly and expressly protected by the Constitution.

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