14 July 2014

Liberia: Stay Out of Legal Issues, Madam President


Nursing The Injuries from the riot sustained on the properties of ArcelorMittal in Yekepa, Nimba County last week, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf sounds exasperated having seen the level of damage done on the company's facilities. The Liberian leader thinks that restitution must be made since individuals alleged to have committed the act have been arrested and awaiting trial.

President Sirleaf Is angry because those who damaged the company's properties should have pursued appropriate processes in seeking redress other than engaging in riotous act. In her nationwide address last week, the Liberian leader described the violent situation as an attack on the Liberian economy and vowed to use the social development fund for Nimba County to repair the damages done to Arcelor Mittal.

The County Development Fund is part of the national budget in which appropriations may go toward the development of the county. However, the statement by the President that she would use the social development fund for Nimba County to repair damages done on ArcelorMittal has provoked fuming reactions from politicians, civil society and members of the county's legislative caucus.

In A Statement released over the weekend in Monrovia, veteran politician, Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh said the President is breaking the Law by the action taken in the present Nimba crisis. He said it's an unfair and illegal decision-making by the Liberian leader, especially regarding a matter that is before a court of competent jurisdiction. Dr. Tipoteh, a former Presidential Candidate in the 2011 General Elections said the President's comment on the case that is already before a court clearly shows a sign of judgment and her assertion undermines due process.

He Told The President that due process refers to give any person being charged with any offence his or her day in court and that a person taking to court for an offence is innocent until found guilty. Also, the Nimba Legislative Caucus has taken exception to the President's statement. The Co-chairman of the Caucus, Matenokay Tingban said President Johnson- Sirleaf lacks the constitutional power to redirect Nimba County Social Development Fund.

He Said Members of the caucus are resolved and would challenge Madam Sirleaf's decision. According to him, the county social development fund is governed by the law and that no one person, not even the president can redirect the county development fund. Individuals who are alleged to have vandalized the company's properties have been arrested and taken to court. Therefore, it is only proper for the President to stay away from the case by stop making comments that would influence the determination of the case.

We Know President Sirleaf abhors the riot that led to damages - just like any other Liberian - but she cannot influence a process that would ultimately be decided by a court of competent jurisdiction or judge. The President should avoid confrontation with members of the Nimba legislative caucus regarding her statement that she would use the county's development fund to pay for damages at Mitta. The county development fund is a matter of law; therefore, she cannot take such a decision without the acquiescence of the people of Nimba through their lawmakers.

We Believe If the President insists, the Nimba caucus would resist and that could cause confusion in government which will not be good for peace and tranquility. Any confusion with the people of Nimba or their representatives could further dwindle her popularity amongst an already disillusioned population.

We Suggest That the President should refrain from the Nimba riot case and allow the court to do its work because what occurred in Nimba wasn't a collective decision of the people of the county. It is the court that should determine whether those arrested and charged are the ones responsible for the riot.

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