Home Politics Boakai Again! …From Mass Dismissal of EPS Agents, Others, To LTA Board Suspension

Boakai Again! …From Mass Dismissal of EPS Agents, Others, To LTA Board Suspension

by newsmanager

MONROVIA: In less than 72hrs after accepting the Supreme Court of Liberia’s ruling concerning the wrongful removal of Tenure officials from various State positions, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr., has suspended, with immediate effect, the Board of Commissioners of the State-owned Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA).

The Presidential office at the Executive Mansion said, those affected by the President Boakai’s suspension include Madam Edwina C. Zackpah, Mr. Israel Akinsanya, Mr. Zotawon D. Titus, Mr. James Gbarwea, and Mr. Osborne K. Diggs, Chairperson and Commissioners respectively of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority based on “questionable financial transactions and other malpractices at the Authority.”

The Executive Mansion said, the President has requested a comprehensive audit of the LTA by the General Auditing Commission (GAC).

He urged the suspended officials to cooperate fully with the GAC as it undertakes the audit.

According to the Executive Mansion, “The Liberian Leader expressed confidence that the investigation would reveal any financial impropriety and help identify corrective measures to prevent such occurrences in the future.”

“The LTA is a critical institution responsible for regulating the telecommunications sector in the country and the institution should uphold high standards of integrity and accountability in carrying out its mandate,” the statement said.

“The suspension of the Chairperson and Commissioners is a clear indication of the President’s confidence in his Administration’s commitment to ensuring that the LTA operates in the best interest of the Liberian people,” the Executive Mansion statement said.

The President has emphasized that the Government is committed to promoting transparency and accountability in all sectors and urged all public officials to uphold the highest standards of integrity and accountability in carrying out their duties to the Liberian people.

However, there are widespread public outcries against the President’s latest decision on the suspension of the LTA Board of Commissioners without prior investigation.

Some critics of the Boakai-led administration view this measure of the President against the LTA Board members as “total witch-hunt” and an act which is counterproductive to unifying the country.

Elected on the mantra of “ARREST,” which calls for respect of the rule of law, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai on April 25, 2024, formally welcomed the ruling of the Supreme Court of Liberia relative to his recent nominations of people to tenure positions in government including those of the LTA.

Confirming the President’s acceptance of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Executive Mansion, in a statement, reaffirmed the Liberian leader’s commitment to “upholding the rule of law and will, therefore, honor the rulings of the High Court.”

The Executive Mansion’s statement maintained that “President Boakai believes that straight adherence to the rule of law is fundamental to strengthening institutions and building a vibrant democracy.”

“This principle”, he noted, “is at the core of the government’s ARREST AGENDA that focuses on Agriculture, Roads, Rule of Law, Education, Sanitation, and Tourism.”

The President further pointed out that “the rulings of the Supreme Court also sets a significant benchmark for administrative actions and the procedures leading thereto.”

“That benchmark”, President Boakai says, “will have significant implications for all government agencies and the country as a whole.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling was delivered following President Boakai’s decision to nominate officials to the Liberia National Lottery Authority, Governance Commission, National Identification Registry and Liberia Telecommunications Authority, among others.

“These cases were lost based on procedural errors on the part of President Joseph Nyuma Boakai in nominating individuals to these positions,” according to a Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday, April 24, 2024.

“There being no showing of the existence of any of the conditions for the petitioners’ removal from office as stipulated in the Acts Creating the respective entities to which the petitioners are appointed, their said removal from office prior to the expiry of their tenures without due process is “ultra vires,” the Supreme Court told the Liberian Nation.

“This decision also affirmed the alternative Writ of Prohibition issued by Justice in Chambers and granted the peremptory writ prayed for by the petitioners,” the Supreme Court opined.

The Court said the petitioners’ rights were violated, noting that tenure should be respected while unexpired.
The Court decision means that the petitioners, Andrew Peters of the National Identification Registry; Atty Garrison Yealue of the Governance Commission; Edwina Crump Zackpah of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), and Reginald Nagbe of the National Lottery Authority, will remain in their respective positions and at the same time, accorded due process as provided by law.

Using Article 89 of the Constitution of Liberia and Article 56, as its reliance, the Supreme Court opined that nominating persons to the petitioners’ positions while their tenures are still in force and unexpired is tantamount to their removal from offices.

“The nominations giving rise to these petitions are hereby ordered revoked,” the High Court declared.

Earlier to the court’s ruling, the government and the heads of the five agencies have been in a legal feud over the legitimacy of the tenure positions.

The four victorious petitioners who filed separate cases at the Supreme Court against President Boakai’s decision to appoint individuals to various agencies argued that it was a violation of their rights and the Acts establishing these institutions for nominations to be made to tenure positions while their terms have not yet expired.

More than that, since the incumbency of President Boakai, there have been series of administrative reported missteps as regards national governance which are said to be brewing political tension in the country.

Recently, the Boakai administration dismissed over 200 Presidential Guards, operating under the umbrella of the elite force, Executive Protective Service (EPS).

It may also be recalled that a United States based Non-Governmental and Research Organization (NGO), reported recently that the new government of Liberia fears a possible coup by dismissed officers of the elite Executive Protection Service (EPS) because of their loyalty to ex-President George Weah.

The Report, published on the website of the NGO, styled: Robert Lansing Instituted indicated that “It’s likely that the new EPS Director, Sam Gaye, tries to clear its staffs from unloyal officers to, and increase loyalty level of …this structure and save his position.”

“However, we think his steps will unite opponents of President Joseph Boakai in armed forces, police and other military bodies,” the Research group, said in its Report.

Approximately 200 officers of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) are reported to be facing termination under the directive of the new Director, Sam Gaye.

Allegations suggest that these personnel are being let go due to their perceived loyalty to former President Weah.

Other sources at the Executive Mansion hinted this paper that the officers in question were not employed with the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs but contractors who are earning more money than regular EPS officers employed by the State.

Howbeit, the co-chairman on the Lower House Committee on National Defense, Montserrado County Representative, Yekeh Kolubah, has called on the Executive Branch to re-employ the dismissed trained security agents (officers) of the Executive Protection Service (EPS), arguing they were trained with the country’s taxpayers’ money.

In March this year, EPS Director Gaye told former President Weah to hire private security if he feels insecure and wants additional security bodyguards.

Weah is the first former President who has received the highest number of bodyguards, though the leadership of the elite security force refused to reveal the total number of officers assigned to the former President.

The EPS stated that there is no law mandating EPS to provide bodyguards for former Presidents, former vice Presidents, etc., but it has been a longstanding tradition that the incumbent President usually authorizes security protection for those who had occupied the office before him or her.

According to the Report of the US based group, captioned: “Cleansing In EPS Signals About Possible Coup Risks In Liberia.”

Director Sam Gaye has defended the terminations, stating that the aim is not a witch-hunt but rather to ensure the professionalism and adequacy of the EPS staff.

Gaye emphasized the importance of having well-trained and qualified individuals in the EPS, pointing out that the General Auditing Commission (GAC) had also raised concerns about the qualifications of some officers during an audit.

“Those who were deemed unqualified to provide VIP protection will be removed. And those we have been vetted and declared qualified will be retained and sent for training at the police academy. We want to be fair and transparent. This is not a witch hunt,” the Report quoted Director Gaye as saying.

Gaye highlighted that individuals who do not meet the necessary standards for VIP protection are being removed to enhance the effectiveness and credibility of the EPS.

According to information from EPS sources, there have been concerns about the recruitment practices under the previous administration, criticizing the lack of thorough background checks, training, and educational requirements for personnel.

According to the Research Group’s Report, during a recent incident on Thursday, April 18th where some dismissed officers of the EPS engaged with the Liberia National Police, a tense situation arose when the officers resisted disarmament, citing grievances over unpaid benefits and disputing the legitimacy of their dismissals. The police managed to detain three of the officers involved.

The situation remains tense as the dismissed officers expressed their discontent, seeking intervention from House Speaker Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa.

In the midst of these developments, the Human Resource Officer of the EPS has reportedly resigned, citing being pressured to sign dismissal letters against his will, the Report added.

Some of the officers who have been dismissed believe their dismissal is a witch-hunt and a disservice to them based on perception because Gaye doesn’t know on which side their interests had been centered, even though they could not show up due to their ethics.

EPS claims that almost all the agents who were terminated have not reported to work since January 2024. The report further asserted that information received by the EPS indicates most of them have left the country.

Some of the officers are reportedly in possession of weapons and have maintained that if proper reasons are not given for their termination, the EPS should stand ready to face them or pay for damages the current leadership has created for them morally, psychologically, and financially, according to the group’s report.

Unless these issues are addressed timely, the officers said they will remain unwilling to turn over weapons in their possession.

Some of the dismissed officers claim they are college graduates but were being classified as George Weah children, the research group reported.

Apart, the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs also labeled some 700 individuals as ‘ghosts’ employees on its payroll.

Currently, the Boakai led administration is pushing for the dismissal of some 35,000 civil servants who are said to have been placed on state payroll without going through or satisfying approved Civil Servants Agency (CSA) recruitment procedures and guidelines.

Other members of the public said, few days after his inauguration, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, formally authorized the audit of his inauguration team amid claims that thousands of public funds used in preparation of said presidential which was held on January 22, 2024, was mismanaged or corrupted.

But many weeks have passed without the Liberian public knowing the status of said audit as mandated by President Boakai, or its outcome, if it was carried out.

Moreover, the outcome of the investigation as authorized by President Boakai bordering on establishing the factors and causes of the violent street protests involving the wives of some serving men of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and which led to the resignation of the former Chief of Staff of the AFL and later Defense Minister, Prince C. Johnson, is yet to be made public.

Some members of the public referenced presidential appointment of two persons to single ministerial post in government, frequent nominations of individuals to various state positions and their subsequent withdrawal of the nominations from said public offices or transfer of such presidential nominees, as some of the issues that raise more questions than answers since President Boakai was inaugurated.

Other members of the public indicated that these apparent administrative lapses, among others, on the part of the new administration headed by President Boakai are heightening political tension in the country, with some politicians characterizing the situation as “political witch-hunt.”

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