Liberia: Judge Sammy Rounds up NLA's Officials Over Alleged U.S.$3.1 Million, L$432 Theft

Weeks after she was assigned as the only female presiding Judge of Criminal Court 'C' in Monrovia, Cllr. Nancy Sammy, has begun rounding-up several officials of the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), who recently challenged President George Weah's intentional violation of the Act that created that entity.

Judge Sammy's decision resulted from an indictment (criminal charge) by the government against the past and current officials, including suspended director-general, Martin Kollie; former deputy director-general, Agnes Efflong, director of finance, controller Eric Vaye and an employee, Cecelia W. Sieh.

They were charged with theft of property, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, money laundering, misuse of public money and property.

The government accused the defendants of stealing US$3,102,024.10 and L$432,240, an incident that is believed to have taken, while serving in their respective capacities.

As of December 5, 2019, only Cecelia W. Sieh, has been arrested and subsequently detained at the Monrovia Central Prison. A late arrangement of her legal team to plead with Judge Sammy for a change of decision failed to yield any genuine result.

Suspended National Lotteries Authority Managing Director, Martin Kollie, charged with theft.

In the case of Kollie, he was suspended by President Weah on April 10 this year, and later replaced as director-general of the NLA for alleged acts of impropriety.

Shortly after he was suspended, Kollie's then lawyer, Cllr. Stanley Kparkillen, filed a writ of prohibition to the Supreme Court against government's decision that describe his client's "illegal suspension."

Cllr. Kparkillen argued that the NLA Board at no time cited Kollie to acquaint him about the alleged act of impropriety committed as claimed by the government, therefore, he was seeking legal redress as the only means to put an end to the "politically-driven decision" that the President took took against his client.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ruled into the matter, declaring the government's decision to suspend and later replace Mr. Kollie from the post, as "unlawful."

In its opinion, quoting Section 8.1 (b) of the Act establishing the NLA, the Court said the Act provides that its director-general shall hold office for the initial period of four years, but may be reappointed for another four years, and no more.

The Act also states that the director-general may resign his post by notice in writing, addressed to the President of Liberia through the board of directors.

The Court, however, said that Kollie may be removed by the President before the expiration of his tenure for inability to discharge the functions of his office, whether arising from infirmity of the mind or any cause or proven misconduct.

The Court then concluded that there is nothing to show that any of the conditions have been met under which the current director-general of the NLA may be removed by the President before the expiration of his tenure.

It can be recalled that in June of 2018, President Weah appointed Neved Kortu to Agnes Efflong's position, while she still had three months left to the expiration of her tenure.

Later, Effiong's lawyer, Stanley S. Kparkillen, argued that the appointment of the deputy director general at the NLA was not within the appointing power of President Weah, rather, one that is reserved for the board of directors to decide, "and that the appointment of Neved Kortu to the post of deputy director general was illegal and unconstitutional."

Thereafter, Cllr. Kparkillen filed a request for the writ of prohibition against President Weah's action, of which then Chamber Justice, Jamesetta Wolokolie, declared President Weah's appointment of Kortu to Efflong's position as "illegal and unconstitutional."

Under the Act that created the NLA, the board of directors has the power and authority to appoint a deputy director general for operations as the principal deputy to the director general for an initial term of two years.

Consistent with the mandate, NLA chairman of the board of directors, Claude J. Katta, pursuant to a resolution of the board and, upon review of the record, appointed Madam Effiong on September 20, 2015 as deputy director general.

By that, it means that Madam Effiong has the right to the office up to and including the expiry date of his official tenure in keeping with the Act.

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