Liberia: Courtrooms Abandoned Over Fuel Shortage

Temple of Justice hosts all courts on the ground of the Capitol Hill in Monrovia.

Judges at the Temple of Justice were forced on Friday, February 21, to abandon their courtrooms when the only generator supplying the building ran out of fuel. Besides the petroleum crisis in the country, an employee of the Judiciary said part of the problem is due to budgetary constraint that has hit the Judicial Branch of Government in the "Harmonization" process.

Employees at the Temple of Justice say most of the offices are out of light bulbs and they have run out of stationeries to perform tasks related to writing.

As a result, one of the judges, His Honor Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay of Criminal Court 'C', was forced to cut off the testimony of General Geraldine J. George, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).

General George was testifying about the "Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Pension Account at the Ecobank-Liberia, which the government accused the former Minister of Defense, Brownie Samukai and two of his principal deputies -- Joseph Johnson, Deputy Minister For Administration and Nyumah Dorkor, Comptroller General -- of misapplying US$1.2 million of the fund.

The account, established in 2009, was a contributory savings fund which deducted salaries from all ranks of the AFL to serve as a supplementary pension benefit to provide assistance to wounded soldiers and to families of deceased soldiers, which the AFL chief of staff was providing information about the internal investigation that was done by the AFL with respect to the pension account domicile at Ecobank-Liberia.

Another case that was suspended involved Representative Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado County District 10, who has been a staunch critic of the George Weah administration. He was indicted for assault and attempted murder by the grand jury of Montserrado County.

The fuel shortage comes at a time when judges have complained about the difficulty the government's harmonization exercise has had on their wellbeing of judges and the Judiciary in general.

An insider confided in the Daily Observer that, for the past year, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has not made available the operational funds appropriated for the judiciary.

Before the fuel shortage, several judges have been seen buying sheets and other materials for the upkeep of their various courtrooms.

Hours after the only generator went off, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor's motorcade immediately arrived on the scene. He was seen using the stairs rather than his usual elevator ride, due to power outage.

In an engagement with the press, Justice Korkpor said that he was on his vacation but was forced to come back to the court after he was informed about the breaking down of the generator.

"I was forced to leave my vacation to come back here to solve the problems. I have instructed my administrator to make sure that the generator is fueled," Justice Korkpor said.

When quizzed on the issue of logistical constraint, Korkpor admitted that the Judiciary is facing serious financial difficulty. "We are facing financial challenges," the chief justice admitted.

On the issue of the MFDP's alleged failure to provide operational funds to the judiciary, Justice Korkpor responded: "It is not your business. It is mine; so I am the one to say it and not for you to say it."

Up to press time on Friday, February 21, there is no information about fuel being supplied to the Temple of Justice as requested by the chief justice.

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