Liberia: The Liberian Legislature Must Pass a Law to Determine Which Government Positions Shall Be Held By a Natural-Born Citizen

opinion

The Editor,

Since the nomination of NEC Chair Designate, Cllr. A. Ndubusi Nwabudike, by President Dr. George Manneh Weah, in keeping with sections 2.2 and 2.3 of the 1986 Election Law, as amended and printed into handbills on December 15, 2014, there has been disenchantment amongst Liberians home and abroad. The 1986 Election Law which was amended in 2014 states in sections 2.2 and 2.3 as follow: "The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission the Chairman, Co-chairman and other Members of the Commission, and who shall hold their office during good behavior for a period of seven (7) years effective as of the date of their Commission; they may however be removed upon proof of misconduct".

Section 2.3 "The Commissioners shall be Liberian citizens and shall not be less than thirty-five (35) years of age. They shall be of good moral character, and no two (2) Commissioners shall be from the same county". The latter provision of the law states that any person to be nominated by the President, to the Election Commission must be a Liberian citizen. The law did not however, qualify the category of citizenship that one must bear, whether Natural Born or Naturalized before becoming a Commissioner at NEC. This law was passed by the very Legislature in 1986 and amended in 2014.

If the Legislature wanted NEC's Commissioners to be Natural Born citizens, they would have clearly stated it in the provision of the Election Law. Unfortunately, the Legislature did not do so. Today, that same body that passed the Election Law, specifically the Senate, is now telling us that the word "citizen" means Natural Born when it comes to elections. This sounds funny to me, to say the least. It is a clearly established principle of law which states, "you do not use oral testimony to interpret written statement". What is written is written and must be interpreted. If you believe that the word "citizen" in the Election Law meant "Natural Born" and not Naturalized, this means, by expanding the logic, the word "citizen" as used in our constitution also means Natural Born. Throughout our constitution, there is ONLY one time the word NATURAL BORN APPEARED, and it is Article 52, which speaks of anyone intending to run for President or Vice President MUST be a NATURAL BORN CITIZEN. Beside this article, nowhere in our constitution the word "Natural Born" ever appeared. If we apply the logic we are hearing from our SENATORS, we will begin to ask ourselves why do naturalized citizens own properties in Liberia, if our reasoning is that "citizen" means "Natural Born". Under the Liberian law, especially the constitution of Liberia, Article 22 states, only citizens can own properties in Liberia.

This means by the reasoning of the SENATORS, only "Natural Born" citizens can own real properties in Liberia not Naturalized citizens. Unfortunately, this reasoning of the law is wrong. In the context of the constitution, the word "citizen" means both Natural Born and Naturalized, except expressly stated. This means as per the reasoning of the constitution, Natural Born and Naturalized citizens can own real properties in Liberia. Liberia has a General Construction Law, and it states that law should be interpreted as it is written, except there is an absurdity in the written law. The question now becomes, is there an absurdity in the Election Law? Absolutely not! The law means what it says.

To further widen the debate, do you know as per our laws that a Naturalized citizen can run for Representative and Senatorial positions? Do you also know that a Naturalized citizen can become SPEAKER OR PRO TEMPORE of the Liberian Senate? If a Naturalized citizen can occupy such position, why much more about the position of an Election Commissioner. Why are we crying loudly at this point in time? Have we just realized the loophole in our laws? Is it because election is next door?

The only branch of government that can solve this legal loophole in our law in the Legislature. They have the constitutional power to make laws. That power is solely vested in the Legislature. Considering the fact that we do not have laws to inform us, about positions that can be held by a Natural Born citizen, the decision to make such law purely lie in the purview of the Legislature. Taking cull from the case or situation of NEC Chair Designate,

Cllr. A. Ndubusi Nwabudike, there is a need for the Liberian Legislature to create a law that would clearly state which or what positions can be occupied by a Natural Born citizen. If the Legislature misses this opportunity to craft law that would state Natural Born citizen positions, they would continuously suffer in explaining the intent of the framers of the laws. Now is the perfect opportunity to write the wrong.

Until and unless the Legislature can have a clear cut law on which positions belong to Natural Born citizens, Cllr. A. Ndubusi Nwabudike deserves to hold the position of NEC Boss. This is my two cents!!

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