Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean
The continuous silence of the Liberian Chief Executive, and President of the Republic of Liberia, Dr. George Manneh Weah on the reported crisis at the Ministry of Justice involving the Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia and Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean and the Solicitor General, Cllr. Syrennius Cephas is not healthy for the country’s justice system.
Amid this hullabaloo, Liberians are also expressing concern why the Liberian leader is not getting involve in the ongoing bad blood between the Attorney General and his aide, the Solicitor, questioning the reason why he is remaining silent into this ongoing crisis at the Ministry of Justice.
Observers believed the reason behind President Weah’s quietness to this issue is he is said to be reflecting on the role played Cllr. Cephus played as one of the lawyers who reportedly helped in crafting the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) legal documents during its formation, so the President does not want to get at him for doing what he is reportedly accused of most of the time by judicial actors and other political actors.
But one lawyer who has come public to pronounce that he played a key role in drafting CDC legal documents is Cllr. Jerome Verdier, former chairman of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It is believed a team of Liberian lawyers were tasked to do so, thus there is a belief that Cephas might have been among those lawyers.
Fast forward to the Ministry of Justice, Cllr. Cephas is reportedly becoming something else where he does not regard the Justice Minister nor any other appointed Minister at the Ministry due to his reported closeness to the President because of the legal work they did for the CDC during its formation.
Few Months ago, the Solicitor General accused Justice Minister Dean and other officials of the Justice Ministry of passing on call logs to FrontPage Africa for a story the news organ was investigating involving SG Cephas and Monrovia City Court Magistrate, Joma Jallah.
The Solicitor General then, among other things, also went on to accuse Minister Dean of trying to shield the political leader of the Alternative National Congress Alexander Cummings when the writ of arrest was issued on him on January 3, 2022.
The ANC political leader and standard bearer, Alexander Cummings, ANC chairman Senator Daniel Nathaan and Secretary General, Atty. Aloysius Toe were charged with Forgery and Criminal Conspiracy following a legal suit by All Liberia Party (ALP) political leader Benoni Urey over alleged alteration of the Collaboration of Political Parties (CPP) Framework Document that the CPP presented to the National Elections Commission.
Reacting to the allegations by Cllr. Cephus, Justice Minister Dean told a local daily, FrontPage Africa that Cllr. Cephus has been ‘running his own Justice Ministry’.
“In the description of the functions of the S.G., the Statute uses the words, ‘subject to the direction and control’ of the Minister of Justice. Unfortunately, the Solicitor General does not work under my supervision. He does not report to me; he runs a parallel Ministry of Justice,” Justice Minister Cllr. Musa Dean revealed recently when he reacted to the way and manner in which the Solicitor General of Liberia, Cllr. Seyma Syrennius Cephas is reportedly undermining him and acting as a de facto Justice Minister.
The Justice Minister said, as Attorney General, his first function is to procure evidence for, and conduct, prosecute or defend all suits and proceedings in the courts in which the Republic of Liberia or any officer of the Republic is a party or may be intended.
Minister Dean, however, lamented that Cllr. Cephus “is falsely parading himself as the Chief Prosecutor”.
This is not the first time that Solicitor General Cephas has been accused of undermining the Minister of Justice, Musa Dean or being involved in controversial issues.
It can be recalled SG Cephas was brought to public ridicule during the return of former Liberia Airports Authority (LAA) managing director, Ellen Corkrum after she had earlier fled the country to the United States of America after being indicted in a financial scandal at the RIA during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration.
Liberians were surprised why the Solicitor General could not push for Corkrum’s prosecution after her return, but it was revealed that prior to being named as SG he was one of her lawyers during the legal battle initiated by the Ellen Sirleaf administration to extradite Corkrum to Liberia. When the public outcry became so enormous, Corkrum again disappeared but SG Cephas said he had no knowledge how she left the country.
Months later, a leaked audio revealed Corkrum and SG Cephas in a telephone conversation, where the former LAA managing director referred to SG Cephas as ‘her husband’ when it was revealed by Corkrum that SG Cephas had allegedly told her that he could take her somewhere where she could obtain ‘juju’ to make the Liberian government drop charges against her. She alleged that Cephas demanded thousands of United States dollars which she reportedly gave to him.
But SG Cephas later came on through public radio to deny all the allegations levied against him by Ms. Corkrum.
Also prior to being named as Solicitor General at the Ministry of Justice, Cllr Cephas served as a Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture having obtained his first degree at the University of Liberia from the Agriculture College.
But under the Liberian law, no government official can work for two separate and distinct branches of government, like the Executive, Judiciary or the Legislature at a given time.
On the contrary, Cllr. Cephas then as Deputy Agriculture Minister which is under the Executive branch of government, was solicited by the House of Representative as a legal counsel during the impeachment trial of former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Kabineh Ja’neh. The Constitution was violated and Cllr. Cephas being an astute lawyer he professes closed his eyes on the law and violated the constitution.
Again President Weah remained silent when there was public outcry on why was Cllr. Cephas who was working for the Executive branch of Government being solicited by the House of Representatives, another distinct branch of government, to provide legal service in an impeachment trial of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court that falls under the Judiciary as another distinct and separate branch of government in Liberia.
Solicitor General Seyma Syrennius Cephas
Another time, FrontPage Africa reported that Assistant Justice Minister of Litigation, Wesseh A. Wesseh listed series of cases Solicitor General, Syrennius Cephas allegedly swept or attempted sweeping under the Carpet
In a letter to the Solicitor General, Cllr. Wesseh expressed surprise that he was complained to the elders of River Gee County over professional issues at the Ministry of Justice, where he claimed that the Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation is undermining his work as Solicitor General.
However, Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh did not take the complaint to his elders lightly, prompting him to sharply respond to the Solicitor General and reminded him of a litany of cases that he has reportedly undermined at the detriment of the Justice System.
Cllr. Wesseh reminded the Solicitor General that he has always followed his instruction, including when he Cllr. Cephas instructed him to Nolle Prosequoi the Ellen Corkrum’s case, which he and Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation are aware caused him serious embarrassment, because little did he know that he was conflicted when he represented her in that Economic Sabotage case before the coming in of this government.
“When I followed your unlawful instructions, to file the Nolle Pro, I ran into problem with the Minister because dismissing that major case needed his approbation,” Cllr. Wesseh reminded the Solicitor General.
The Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation went to add, “Even to this end, when I decided to prosecute the Barrobo murder case that was transferred to River Gee you made strives to undermine my efforts to prosecution those individual!, when you on several occasions, communicated with the Public Defenders in River Gee to file another change of Venue, without informing me as the prosecutor on the ground in River Gee.”
“You also attempted to kill an indictment that was brought against Nanborlor Singbeh and others when you and Edwin Martin, then County Attorney for Montserrado, told Judge Roosevelt Willie not to send the case to Criminal Court ‘C’ for trial, after the indictment was formed, even though you were conflicted, because you and Martin represented some of those parties in that case when you were in private practice.”
“I would have also like the pressure on you in the manner and form that you handled the Sampson Pennue murders case, I was the one that drawn that indictment before it was filed by the County Attorney. We all know what happened to this case when the Judge dismissed the case for prosecution’s failure to proceed, which was contrary to the real issues in that case where the evidence was overwhelmingly convincing to ask the court or jury to convict Sampson Pennue.”
“Now, you and I are aware that I was in Kakata from December 13, 2021, January 3, 2022, prosecuting the German man’s murder case that was venue changed from Buchanan to Kakata. I got involved with the Korlane Investment case in early January, 2022, after Cllr Lafayette Gould, on the instructions of the Attorney General, filed the application for a court freezing order of Korlane company’s account, when you wrote the Minister that Cllr. Gould was dismissed by you.”
“So, why are you going around and telling some elders from River Gee, including Sen. Conmany Wesseh, that I have always being disrespectful to you, undermining you and that I am too closed to the Minister, than you and accusing me of being used by the Minister to get at you”?
“I am baffled by your assertions because you have never one day confronted me by citing instances where I have undermined you or being disrespected to you.”
“Further, you are also aware that the statute under which we work, makes the Minister our direct boss, in that, we operate under his direction, supervision and control.”
“Let me say for the records that I have worked at the MoJ for closed to nine unbroken years, first as County Attorney before my current position, in that, I understand the working of my office, before I was even appointed and will remain under the direct supervision and control of the Minister who is my boss and will only follow his lawful instructions as per the statute, but will continue to respect you as my administrative boss and no manner of intimidation from you will cow me into submission, in as much as I am in adherent to the statute.”
The ongoing saga between Minister Frank Musa Dean and Solicitor General Seyma Syrennius Cephas has added salt to injury over how things are getting out of hand in recent times.
SG Cephas in a text message to SPOON Talk Show host, Stanton Witherspoon alleged Justice Minister Musa Dean instructed to him to prosecute ANC political leader Alexander Cummings, its chairman Senator Daniel Naatehn and Secretary General Cllr. Aloysius Toe over allegation of altering a Framework Document belonging to the opposition Collaborating Political Party (CPP) despite lack of evidence to prosecute the case.
In response, Minister Dean instructed the SG’s office henceforth that all cases that are to be prosecuted must pass through his office to give him the opportunity to vet pieces of evidence before going to trial.
In a related development, Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel Naatehn complained to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Albert Chea that the pattern of unethical conduct, abuse of power, and executive over-reach by officials of the Justice Ministry targeted at him and other ANC stalwarts is unwarranted.
He made reference to Solicitor General, Cllr. Seyma Syrennius Cephus revelation, in a text message to Talk Show host Stanton Witherspoon, about a conspiracy by Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean to have him and others arrested and indicted on charges of “forgery and criminal conspiracy” leveled by Mr. Urey against the advice of the Solicitor General due to a lack of evidence.
The Solicitor General said he had advised against the trial and had “quashed” an indictment and arrest order only to be “re-issued” by the Justice Minister.
Justice Minister Dean, however in an April 25 press release, denied claim by the Solicitor General Cephus and instead requested him to furnish his office (the Minister) with all “proper evidence which provides the basis for the prosecution of Mr. Cummings and others,” consistent with Section 22.2 of the Executive Law.
“The Minister’s request comes four months after the case had commenced in Court. Ironically, contrary to the Solicitor General’s claim of quashing the case for lack of proper evidence, he has ascribed unto himself the powers of the prosecutor, Judge, and juror, handing down guilty verdict and describing me and others as criminals in multiple media appearances,” Senator Naatehn said in his complaint.
He said the actions of the Justice Minister and Solicitor General run counter to the underlying purpose of criminal prosecution, abuses the integrity of the judicial system, and risks plunging Liberia’s struggling democracy into increased uncertainty and chaos.
Meanwhile, the court of public opinion and political experts are of the view that President Weah needs to act now or never, if he does not want for a single man or the two officials to destroy his administration with all kinds of sinister activities being linked to them by people in the very CDC government and other stakeholders.
Pundits say Solicitor General Cephas as a lawyer must respect the very laws he is trying to enforce by firstly respecting his boss, the Minister of Justice and other judicial actors if he wants the same respect accorded him, and at the same time divorce himself of party politics because as SG, he is serving the people of Liberia and the country.
The bookmakers are watching to see how President Weah will react to the many revelations that have come out against Solicitor General Seyma Syrennius Cephas during his administration if he wants to leave a lasting legacy. The ball is now in the court of the President