Liberia: Supreme Court Puts Temporary Stay Order on Nominations to Tenure Positions as LTA, GC Takes Matter before the Court

MONROVIA – Five Commissioners of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) have filed a petition for a Writ of Prohibition against the Liberian government arguing that their removal from office by President Joseph Boakai is unlawful and violates the Telecommunications Act of 2007, which established the LTA and governs the appointment and tenure of commissioners.

By Lennart Dodoo,

The petitioners include Edwina Crump Zackpah (Chairperson), Israel Akinsanya, James Gharwen, Zatowon Titus, and Osborne Diggs.

According to them, they were appointed as commissioners with fixed terms set to expire in 2026, but have been targeted for removal before the completion of their tenures. They argue that the President’s nomination of new commissioners for confirmation by the Senate, while they are still serving their lawful terms, is a violation of their rights and the laws of Liberia.

According to the petitioners, the Telecommunications Act explicitly outlines the process for appointing commissioners to the LTA, including Senate confirmation and fixed terms of office. They maintain that the President’s authority to appoint commissioners is subject to these statutory provisions and cannot override the tenure guaranteed by law.

The petitioners cited legal precedents, including the case of Martin S. Kollie vs. Executive Branch of Government, which established that removal from office must be for cause and in accordance with the law.

The petition: “That consistent with the Liberia Telecommunications ACT of 2007, a person serving as commissioner or Chairman may not be removed from office prior to the completion of his or her term of appointment without cause as defined by the ACT.  In the instant cause, the Petitioners have done nothing in violation of the law to warrant their replacement or removal. Court is requested to take judicial cognizance of the law controlling. Also, in the case, Martin S. Kollie Versus Executive Branch of Government Heard on October 30, 2018, Decided, August 2019, the Supreme Court held thus… for the President of the Republic of Liberia to remove the Director General of the National Lottery Authority, that removal must be for a cause as provided by law. It was therefore wrong for the current President of Liberia to have appointed another person as Director General of the National Lottery Authority while the tenure of the Petitioner as Director of the National Lottery Authority had not expired.”

In their plea to the Supreme Court, the petitioners emphasized the importance of upholding the rule of law and protecting the tenure rights of government officials. They argued that allowing their removal without cause would set a dangerous precedent and undermine the stability and integrity of Liberia’s democratic institutions.

The petitioners’ legal counsel, represented by Zoe and Partners, urged the court to grant the Writ of Prohibition, prevent the unlawful removal of the commissioners, and uphold the principles of justice and legality.

In the same vein, Mr. Garrison Yealue, the Chairman of the Good Governance Commission who has also been replaced by Dr. Alaric Tokpah.

Mr. Yealue has also prayed the Supreme Court to put a prohibition on the Dr. Tokpah’s nomination arguing that it contravenes the Act establishing the Commission.

“That Petitioner says and avers that prohibition is the appropriate remedy to prohibit the Government of the Republic of Liberia from proceeding contrary to law by nominating Prof. Alaric Tokpa to the position as Chairman of the Commission while his tenure is still active and effective for the period of four years in said autonomous agency as provided for by the Article 89 of the Liberian Constitution which gives rise to the creation of the Governance Commission,” the petition averred.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has scheduled a conference between the complainants and the government, represented by the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday, February 28, at noon. The Court has also ordered the Executive to stay further actions relating to the nominations to those positions until the conference is held.

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