8 February 2018

Liberia: Weah Withdraws Gibson As MOJ Nominee

Photo: FrontPage Africa
President George Weah delivering his first State of the Nation address.

President George Manneh Weah has with immediate effect withdrawn the nomination of Cllr. Charles Gibson, as Justice Minister-designate.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the decision was made on Feb 7, in an official communication to the Senate Pro-Temp, Hon. Albert Chie, and Justice Minister-designate Cllr. Charles Gibson. The question now lingering on the minds of the public is whether other nominees with questionable characters will follow suit.

It can be recalled that President Weah's nomination of Cllr. Charles Gibson to serve as Justice Minister ignited a virtual firestorm against his confirmation since the revelation of his unwholesome and unethical behavior which led to the suspension of his license by the Supreme Court.

A Lebanese businessman Anwar Saoud had filed a complaint against Cllr. Gibson before the Supreme Court alleging that Cllr. Gibson had appropriated to his own use monies he had collected on behalf of his client, Anwar Saoud.

The Supreme Court, having sat on the matter and concluded that Cllr. Gibson had acted unethically suspended his license and ordered him to refund his client's money. The mandate of the Supreme Court however went unheeded by Cllr. Gibson until a week before his name surfaced as a nominee for the post of Justice Minister.

Apparently sensing that his non compliance with the mandate of the Court would have imperiled his confirmation for the post, Cllr. Gibson hurriedly restituted his client's money and prayed the Court for the lifting of its ban on his legal practice.

When quizzed by the Court why it took him so long to comply with its mandate, the embattled Cllr. responded that he was broke, not having earned income since his license was revoked by the Court. He furthered that he had to rally support from his friends in order to raise the money put at US$25,400.

But an anxious public including media institutions, apparently edged on by President Weah's publicly declared non tolerance to corruption, continued to step up calls for Cllr. Gibson's rejection by the Liberian Senate.

His (Cllr. Gibson) call for the dissolution of national integrity institutions such as the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) etc, evoked a strong backlash with a particularly scathing reaction coming from the LACC.

The Daily Observer, taking up the issue in its Monday, Feb 5, 2018 editorial, questioned Cllr. Gibson on what moral grounds was he accepting his appointment as Justice Minister. The Daily Observer then called on him to decline his appointment and accord President Weah the opportunity to name a more reputable individual to head that Ministry.

The Observer further argued and warned that confirming Cllr. Gibson would have sent a wrong message which would have been regretted.

Meanwhile news reports that Cllr. Gibson's nomination has been withdrawn by President Weah and a new Justice Minister appointed appear to suggest that President Weah may not have been at all impervious to public concerns about integrity as wrongly assumed in many quarters, a highly placed source said.

In a related development, there is growing public concern about the likely confirmation of former representative Moses Y. Kollie's nomination as Labor Minister owing to his record as a perpetrator of gross human rights abuse, according to eyewitness accounts to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report.

According to eyewitness accounts, the Labor Minister designate, Moses Kollie was a notorious and feared commander of the NPFL during the country's civil war. He is alleged to have ordered men under his command to strip a woman naked and apply Baboon Koto to her private parts while tied up under the hot sun.

The incident is said to have taken place in the town of Kpaiyea located near the Liberia-Guinea border in Lofa County. The woman in question according to eyewitness accounts to the TRC was said to have been "captured" in Grand Bassa County and taken to Lofa as a sex slave.

She was ordered tortured after being accused of infidelity by commander Kollie. Her co-accused, a bodyguard to Kollie, was said to have fled across the border into Guinea to escape arrest and possible death.

At this stage, it remains unclear whether the Senate will confirm him or whether President Weah is going to withdraw his nomination based on the revelation about his role during the civil war. But pundits appear convinced that the Senate will go ahead and confirm the Labor Minister designate because as a local human rights advocate put it "Kollie will pass the Senate test because he has money". He did not comment further.

Meanwhile President Weah has received plaudits for his withdrawal of Cllr. Gibson's nomination. In a telephone chat with the editor, a local Lebanese businessman, name withheld, has commended President Weah for what he called a bold and unprecedented step taken by President Weah's withdrawal of Cllr. Gibson's nomination. "Such a thing never happened during President Sirleaf's time," the businessman noted.

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