25 February 2014

Liberia: CBL Jones Before Supreme Court

Photo: The New Dawn
The Supreme Court of Liberia

A legal battle ensued over a recent Act passed by members of the Liberian Legislature to amend the Act establishing the Central Bank of Liberia or CBL, forbidding its Executive Governor from participating in active politics.

The move to amend certain provisions in the CBL Acts comes amid perceived fears that the current CBL Governor Joseph Mills Jones, whose microeconomics policy of dishing out loans to petty traders here is being viewed as one with a presidential ambition.

But the action of the Legislature is now being challenged before the Supreme Court with petitioners, the National Citizen Solidarity Council seeking to overturn the action by the Legislature.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's position on the new act is not known to the public; weeks after both houses of the Legislature concurred and forwarded it to her to be signed into law.

In the petition filed at the Supreme Court before Associate Justice in Chambers Jamesetta Wolokollie on 20, February, the petitioner's represented by Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould and Atty. J. Laveli Supuwood prayed the court to determine the amendment as unconstitutional.

The constitutional crisis erupts over the swift amendment of the act establishing the Central Bank of Liberia or CBL at a time the bank's Executive Governor Dr. Mills Jones faces longstanding mixed reaction on a loan scheme that many say is a designed political strategy to give him an edge in the 2017 presidential election.

The petitioner said the 'unconstitutional' amendment made by the Legislature now sets new grounds and methods for impeachment of the executive governor, the deputy and the board of governors of the CBL.

But one contention being raised by loyalists of the CBL Executive Governor Dr. Mills Jones and his deputy through their lawyers is that at the time of their appointment to the entity, grounds of removal and the requirement for impeachment contained in the act establishing the CBL were different.

Contrary to the 1986 Constitution, the petitioner's lawyers are arguing that the amended act sets new grounds and method for impeachment after the officers had taken offices.

The amendment provides that the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the Board of Governors shall be prohibited to contest political office(s) while serving in their respective offices.

It furthered that they shall not be qualified to contest any electable office within three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure with the Central Bank of Liberia.

"The said amendment is violative of the constitution and should be declared unconstitutional and petitioner so prays," Dr. Jones' lawyers had pleaded.

In specific reference to Chapter 11 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, the petitioner's lawyers argued that the amendment contravenes the Constitution which provides for equal protection under the law.

They said the amendment also violates articles 15 and 18 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia which guarantees the freedom of expression and equal opportunity for work.

They described the entire amendment as being exclusionary and contrary to the spirit and intent of the 1986 Constitution and is therefore unconstitutional.

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