Liberia: Weah's 'Controversial' NEC Pick Faces Senate Today

-As barrage of criticisms and skepticisms abound

The intense anger and sentiments that have erupted since the controversial appointment of the new chairman designate at the National Elections Commission, Cllr. Austin Ndubusi Nwabudike is about to be put to bed depending on the outcome of the Senate's confirmation as the nominee faces members of the Senate -- the deciders of his ultimate fate.

Cllr. Nwabudike appears before the house of elders at a time when the public is rift with mixed views over his nationality, loyalty, and neutrality.

The intense tension generated since the nomination, many believe, would put some level of pressure on the Senators as they convene today. Public sentiment is high and emotions are running deep as many believe a naturalized Liberian should not hold such a critical national position.

He is currently in the limelight as crucial elections -- the October 2020 Mid-Term Senatorial elections and the 2023 Presidential and legislative elections, and as times for these elections approach, many are questioning his loyalty and neutrality.

A barrage of criticisms and skepticisms from many quarters, led by top Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), abound.

CSOs such as the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) and the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) have been calling on President George Weah to withdraw Cllr. Nwabudike's nomination because he is not suited for the post.

The ECC on Tuesday added its voice to opposition to the new NEC Chair designate, calling on the Senate not to confirm him in case the President refuses to rescind his decision. The ECC is a national civil society platform, comprising 30 organizations that monitor elections.

ECC Chairman, Oscar Bloh, said at a press conference that elections are about people and the public needs to have trust in the election management body, which is a fundamental requirement for the peaceful outcomes of election processes. "Cllr. Nwabudike confirmation will create insecurity and lack of trust in the NEC," he said.

Mr. Bloh: "Not everything that is legal is expedient."

He warned that Liberians should not forget that the rigged elections of 1985 by Samuel Doe planted the seed for the 1989 civil conflict.

The new nominee so far appears to be the darling-boy of the George Weah government as he is the only one who has been appointed thrice since the inception of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) administration.

Many Liberians have become concerned that within a year, Cllr. Nwabudike has been appointed to two other important government institutions the Governance Commission (GC) and the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and now the NEC.

Bloh expressed shocked and could not fathom why the nominee enjoys so much favor from President Weah as he has been appointed three times in a year. "He is firstly a Nigerian citizen and this questions his loyalty to Liberia. So he is not a suitable candidate to lead and manage a sensitive state institution like the NEC."

Many have said that there is much at stake, as it relates to the credibility of the commission if Cllr. Nwabudike is confirmed as the new NEC Chairman. The nominee is a natural-born Nigeria who reportedly naturalized in Liberia--a report many are still questioning.

The doubt over his naturalization status has prompted Grand Bassa County Senator, Nyonblee Karnga, to demand from the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commissions, Senator, J. Milton Teahjay, to make available to fellow Senators the naturalization papers of the nominee.

"I want to request from you copies of Cllr. Nwabudike's naturalization papers to be given to each senator before the hearing," she said in a communication.

Senator Teahjay had earlier told the media that the Senate would conduct confirmation hearing for the NEC nominees today.

He said the committee would carry on what he termed, "due diligence" in line with Article 54 of the Constitution of Liberia, though the concerns of the public will be taken into consideration during the hearing.

Though Cllr. Nwabudike by law is eligible for the office as he is a Liberian by paper, ECC Chairperson, Oscar Bloh said at a press conference "Not everything that is legal is expedient."

Several corruption scandals have also been reported against the nominee.

Cllr. Nwabudkie considers himself a patriotic Liberian who wants to contribute his quota to the development of the Liberian state.

"Some argue that I am a naturalized Liberian, from Nigeria. Others say I am a Liberian but was not born here," he said.

"I' am a Liberian. My father, a Nigerian, came here, lived here, naturalized and went back to Nigeria. I grew up, became conscious and naturalized here in Liberia.

He told his many critics that patriotism is not something that you can just claim, but it is in the action of people.

But a Nigerian national, Amaigwe Boyler, took to the social media to express his discontentment over President Weah's decision to appoint Cllr. Nwabudike, whom he described as a 'notorious criminal.'

"This is no time for window dressing! It's about your country. I'm glad that President Weah appointed my fellow Nigerian as the head of NEC, but the country is in trouble in the hand of this notorious criminal. Austin Nwabudike is a born criminal," Boyler said in a Facebook live video.

He said the former LACC boss will throw the country into turmoil and packs his bag back to Nigeria.

He said it is false that Cllr. Nwabudike's father came to Liberia. "Austin Nwabudike came to Liberia on ECOMOG ship called Buckchallange.

"Austin lied about how his father came to Liberia around 1947. The real story is Nwabudike came to Liberia with an ECOMOG ship called Buckchallange. He was among those who vandalized the high tension wires and Cooper and send his loot back to Nigeria."

He was married to one Ngozi who works in the embassy of Nigeria in Liberia that helped him to send him to UL and connect to many prominent Liberia. He later abandoned the woman, Boyler.

He facilitated the escaped of Kingsley, a Notorious Nigerian armed robber from prison.

Though Cllr. Nwabudike considers himself a Liberian, Boyler said the man was a member of the Nigerian Union in Liberia but was expelled for defrauding the union. "The records are there at the Supreme Court, Temple of Justice," Boyler added.

"Nwabudike defrauded many of his friends and breached the ethic of office while working with the United Nations. He was summoned by the United Nations in Liberia for misconduct several times," he said.

Boyler called on Liberians not to celebrate and elevate this "individual who is capable of sending the country backward for his personal gains."

"Nwabudike knows how to manipulate, that's why he serves 3 positions under this Gov."

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