Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson has laid out a plot that he says, led to last Friday’s impeachment of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, noting that he had earlier warned the Supreme Court justice to resign so as to avert a political ploy to remove him from the bench but Jan’eh ignored him.
The Senator told a local radio station in Ganta, Nimba County over weekend that Justice Ja’neh ignored his warnings some sixteen weeks ago to step down from the bench and take a five-year incentive package offer from the “government of the day”.
“So I am trying to tell you kindly resign and you will get all of your incentives. I will bring the traditional leaders from Nimba, the thirty four paramount chiefs, I will bring them, they will join me to intervene, so you can now tell the world, tell Liberians, I’m not guilty but because my people in Nimba have appealed to me to step down, I honorably bowed out- and when that is done you will get your money for everything you need but if you put up a fight you cannot win the power of the government. Kabineh looked at me and said he will never step down but he will fight on,” he narrated.
The Nimba County Senator said he even visited the Associate Justice at 10.00 at night to put the proposal on the table to no avail. “I said to him, it’s a good deal; instead of disgracing him, let me go to him – and I went to see Justice Kabineh Ja’neh 10.00 at night. I said to him I am your leader, I will not fool you. This matter that is pending, what is going on is not a judicial trial where you will need lawyers to plead for you – they will only eat your money.”
Senator Johnson further explained that he informed Justice Ja’neh that the effort to remove him was far from the realms of the legal but strictly a political trial which required political solution.
“So, I am trying to tell you kindly resign and you will get all of your incentives. I will bring the traditional leaders from Nimba, the thirty four paramount chiefs, I will bring them, they will join me to intervene, so you can now tell the world, tell Liberians, “I’m not guilty”, but because my people in Nimba have appealed to me to step down, I honorably bowed out- and when that is done you will get your money for everything you need but if you put up a fight you cannot win the power of the government. Kabineh looked at me and said he will never step down but he will fight on.”
Senator Johnson further explained that even the Muslims from Nimba County prevailed on the Associate Justice to step down but he refused. “I’m also told, Musa Bility went to him and appealed to him to step down and he refused. Now, the Chief Justice of Liberia, Francis Korkpor said to Liberians that this case is not judicial, this case is political; then can’t you see that in a political issue no law should be there? In a political case, there’s not need for lawyer.”
Senator Johnson, who along with the county’s junior Senator Thomas Grupee has come under fire for voting to impeach one of their own, dismissed the speculations, and claimed that he actually voted against Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment. “I voted for him because of Nimba but he disobeyed me.”
He said Justice Ja’neh needed at least ten Senators to save his seat on the Supreme Court Bench. Both the opposition Liberty Party and the former ruling Unity Party are represented by eleven Senators in the Senate. He named the Unity Party’s Sen. Edward. B. Dagoseh (Cape Mount); Sen. Varney Sherman (Cape Mount); Sen. Morris Saytumah (Bomi); Sen. George Tengbeh (Lofa); Sen. Thomas Grupee (Nimba); Sen. Alphonso Gaye (Grand Gedeh); Sen. Matthew Jaye (Rivergee) and Sen. Milton Teahjay (Sinoe) and – Liberty Party’s Jonathan Kaipay, Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence (Bassa) and Sen. Steve Zargo (Lofa).
He told the people of Nimba on the radio that only seven Senators are believed to have stood their ground by either voting against the impeachment or abstaining; they are (Steve Zargo (Lofa), Conmany Wesseh (Rivergee), Daniel Nathan (Gbarpolu), Sando Johnson (Bomi), Henrique Tokpah (Bong), Nyonblee Karnga (Bassa) and Oscar Cooper (Margibi). The three abstentions were Henrique Tokpah (Bong), Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence and Oscar Cooper, Senator Johnson disclosed.
The Nimba County Senator who said of all those named, only Senator Sando Johnson made his vote public, indicated that Senator Grupee met with him in his office where they discussed which way to vote. “We met in his office and we discussed the way we should vote and that no matter what happened, blood is thicker than water. Mandingo people from Nimba, they stood with us and they told us clearly when it comes to voting they stand by us so we did the same, so that’s what we did.”
Explaining further, Senator Johnson added: Because I saw no bush to throw my child, I tried my best, I tried to promote his image, by telling him, look, I’ve been under the water, all the catfish, all the bull frog, I’ve heard everything, so please honorably step down, you will get all the incentives.”
But the Senator said, Justice Ja’neh looked him in the eye and rejected the proposal. “The man looked at me and said no – and he knows this is a political matter and in political matter, politics is a deadly game. So if the Chief Justice tells you it is a political trial, don’t you see that you need to shift your direction to know what to do? Then you still pursuing legal matter? Then they quoting constitutional clause, quoting this and that, you think it was correct? If it was me, I would be moving over night among my chiefs, among my elders, I was going to see them in Monrovia.”
He said the entire plot started when he was in Nigeria on ECOWAS duties. Senator Johnson explained that the entire plot to impeach Justice Ja’neh started in the lower house but the Nimba County caucus in the lower house asked him to intervene.
“They asked what should we do and I advised that all of them should boycott – and they boycotted the process because, number one, it was unconstitutional; it was wrong and illegal and they boycotted the process in keeping with the law and also because of solidarity.”
Senator Johnson said when he returned from Nigeria, he decided to find out what the actual problem was and it was then he discovered that the entire quest was a political matter and not a judicial trial that was pending. “I made some contacts – after making several contacts I found that Kabineh Ja’neh was no longer needed among his colleagues on the bench and that he was not anymore needed by the authorities of the day.”
He pointed out that the regime labeled Justice Ja’neh a ‘Saboteur.’ Probed for details, Senator Johnson further explained that in his quest to intervene and find a way out, he was told, without mentioning by whom, that Justice Ja’neh was regarded a saboteur against the current government of the day.
“I won’t tell you who told me, I won’t tell you who I discussed with but I made every frantic effort and I was told Kabineh is no longer needed, sabotage a lot of things for this republic but because he is a son of Nimba and you are the godfather of Nimba and Nimba County stood behind us, we would not like to take him on. What we want you to do is to intervene for win-win situation, and I said what do I do? They said, you know what to do. If he can honorably retire, we will pay him off for five years. Whatever he makes, we will give him all of the incentives, a diplomatic passport, his vehicle everything will remain with him, we just don’t want him there because he’s a saboteur.”
Asked why he and other Nimba County lawmakers did not support the Associate Justice during the impeachment process, Senator Johnson said: “Anybody who accuse us in Nimba, need to check their brains very well. Because we are two Senators and we are twenty nine in the place. If two of us cast our vote it means nothing, it means nothing.”
Pressed as to why he and Senator Grupee did not support the nine Senators who issued a statement prior to the vote, disassociating themselves from the process which needed just 10 votes to save Justice Ja’neh’s job, Senator Johnson argued that he spoke out against the illegal process which he had declared unconstitutional. “I like for people to listen when we are trying to set the proper basis for our people for our people to understand this when the matter got to the Liberian Senate. I gave my statement and I gave my position, that it was unconstitutional.”
Asked why he and Senator Grupee did not join with other Senators to disassociate themselves from the process, Senator Johnson said he can vote his conscience; so can Senator Grupee. “We cannot join nine Senators from an opposing side supported by Alexander Cummings, supported by Urey, supported by Brumskine – you know, let me tell you something, the last time, President Weah stood up in the public and told the entire world that there is a plan to assassinate him. It is the opposition that will do that, he told the whole world this. So, if the opposition people I oppose are coming to me, I will not join them.
The fact that Conmany Wesseh came to lobby me, it showed me that something is in the making. You cannot lobby me, I’m from Nimba. My citizen is in trouble, I should come to the floor and say you please support my candidate. This is the problem we have in the Senate whenever a Gbarpolu man is in trouble, the two Senators lobby, from Margibi, the same thing. So why it is someone from Nimba is in trouble and they cannot come to the Nimba citizens to try to lobby them. We should be the ones lobbying them. But we voted our conscience, if I didn’t have respect for my own people who respect me and put me here, I owe nobody explanation. This is a Senate action. I have to explain because blood is thicker than water, we got to back each other up.”
Senator Johnson said he was angry that one of his peers, Senator Conmany Wesseh was sent to lobby when he who is from Nimba, where Justice Ja’neh hailed did not initiate the process.
Said the Senator: “Two days after that you know who came to lobby me, Senator Conmany Wesseh from River Gee. How in the world you will have a River Gee Senator come and lobby me to support my own citizen who is in trouble? Who should be lobbying who? They went and receive whatever money from people to come and lobby me in my house at 10.00 pm. I put them outside my house because who should be lobbying who?”
Senator Johnson further explained that Senator Wesseh and others brought along a petition document for him to sign but he refused. “You can put your name on the petition and still vote the other way – that is why those nine Senators who were lobbying – whatever was used to lobby them I don’t know. Whether they put their name there for the truth or whatever other incentive, I do not know but by the end of the day, many of them disappeared and voted the other way that made the number twenty-two
But Tom Grupee and I whose citizen was in trouble definitely could not be the one to vote against, nobody saw my vote. So, how the world somebody will come and say to me and Tom Grupee voted against Kabineh Ja’neh.”
Senator Johnson said he has no reason explaining to the people of Nimba how he voted but his vote is private. “If I voted against Kabineh Ja’neh I will tell my people in Nimba I did because in the first place I made Kabineh Ja’neh to be confirm in the Senate. When Ellen recommended him, she went underground and blocked him from being confirmed, I confronted Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, after that she sent lobbyist to talk to me, that’s how he was confirmed.”
The Senator stressed that he has no fear telling how he voted because he has already condemned the process. “I have condemned the entire action as being unconstitutional, it was not a court matter. I could have been condemned for even taking part in the voting process because I already let my position known to the world and to the people of Liberia.”
Senator Johnson suggested that he has been a strong supporter of Justice Ja’neh even though the impeached Associate Justice of the Supreme Court has never been in his corner.
“If I had voted against him, I would tell you that I voted against him – noting he would do for me because when I wanted to become pro temp of the Liberian senate, I informed him, I informed Musah Bility – and they said they will give me their support and they came to my house in the night, 10.00. You know what they brought to me? They brought to me Senator Oscar Cooper of Margibi and said this is the man we want – and 2017 when I was running for election, they came to me again at 10.00 at night and took me to Brumskine house. They continue to take me to Congau people instead of supporting a country man like me, they were behind Congau people and took me there. So, If I wanted to revenge and wanted to put God business one side, I would say I voted against him but because blood thicker than water, Thomas Grupee and I voted for him.”
The Senator explained that he could vouch that Senator Thomas Grupee would never vote against Ja’neh. “Thomas Grupee and I got our own problem, he took my political party, he removed me from the party, and took over, but that is not the issue now. He voted against the man, he voted in chamber – I do not know but I know we sat down and we decided to vote before we went to vote. We voted in favor.”
The Senator however did not entirely rule out the possibility that some Senators received cash inducement to vote to impeach Justice Ja’neh. “Don’t forget that we got fifteen Senators going for elections, and they need other incentives and they need vehicles and other thing so we do not know what went wrong when the 22 Senators voted in chambers, we voted against it, you do not know our vote. How can you come and accuse us. We are twenty nine Senators, twenty-two voted, and the two of us did not vote. Geraldine Doe-Sheriff died, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence husband died, so that means 28 of us voted. So two of us were in there. So, why would someone come and say I voted against Kabineh.”
Asked why he voted for Justice Ja’neh as he claims, Senator Johnson made the following explanation. “First of all, he did not contact the caucus, the Nimba caucus that boycotted the whole proceeding in his favor, he never met with them to even say thank you but we still voted our conscience because blood is thicker than water.”
Pressed whether he lobbied any of his peers to back Justice Ja’neh, the Senator said he did lobby a lot of Senators but it was nearly impossible. “Don’t forget, I want all Nimbaians to know, political case, political impeachment process, if you are lobbying with your empty mouth, they assume that you are getting so much money from the other side and you keep it in your damn pocket and you bringing your empty mouth to them – they don’t listen you. You know politics is interest. This is a Liberianization issue – they think that you are getting so much money from the nominee and bringing you empty mouth to them.”
Asked whether he received or was offered inducements to support Senator Oscar Cooper’s bid for the Senate, Senator Johnson said: “I can tell you that they had a petition for me to sign and there will be incentives after and I just told them to get out of my house.
On allegations that most of the Senators received US$35,000 to vote in favor of impeaching Justice Ja’neh, Senator Johnson described the rumor as fiction. “I do not like fiction. Liberian people are used to too much fiction. I like to deal with facts, we are dealing with facts, I don’t deal with speculations. Did they give it to me – for even my bodyguard to see it? No! That Nicodemus way, that midnight thing. If they got money to give me, what I will do, I will put all of my bodyguards outside, I have a house in the fence, I have a house that got strong gate, I got dogs, nobody can enter and come harm me. So, I will put them outside and say your go home, your go rest and by the time they go I can signal them and say your go, nobody here. So, if you give me any money that secret. So, don’t mind what people are saying.”
Explained Senator Johnson: “They may not have received money, they may have, I don’t know – and I say politics thing that secret thing, nobody knows what happened but it is a political trial and the way the evidence went and he was acquitted of three counts but the fourth count regarding the road fund, that’s how he was convicted. But these people are going for elections and they got many fears but some of them may have dropped those fears – come whatever may, let’s vote this way but look at the evidence.”
Asked what he made of the angry response to the impeachment of Justice Ja’neh, particularly in Nimba, Senator Johnson suggested that those making noise are being backed by opposition leaders. “I just told you Alexander Cummings is a strong supporter of Kabineh Ja’neh, they supported him with lawyer, they supported him with finance, they supported him with people to go on the airwaves and they were comfortable at the trial – that’s what I’m saying to you. You got Cummings, Brumskine, Urey always there and they got their supporters making statements against the government of the day. Can you fight government of the day? I don’t care how much millions Cummings get to spare, can he take his personal money and just spend it like that?”
Asked whether he agreed with the verdict against Justice Ja’neh, Senator Johnson said he could not break ranks with majority of the members of the Senate. “The Liberian Senate voted in the majority, I cannot go against them, except that I made my position clear. I cannot revert their decision, their decision is guilty. But I voted not guilty on the ballot paper, Tom Grupee voted not guilty on the ballot paper, so no one should hold us responsible. The only thing I want people to know is that no one can stay on this job forever.”
The Senator took aim at the women of Nimba County who have been slamming he and Senator Grupee for not supporting Justice Ja’neh. “As far as I know those women are hanging on Alexander Cummings, Benoni Urey, that form the opposition on the coalition side, many of them didn’t even speak to me from the beginning and they have never been to my office, they have never been to my house at least to invite the caucus, to meet the caucus general to say this is the problem and what do you want us to do, what can the caucus do? So, how they got to Monrovia, how did they eat? Who sponsored them? The opposition? They voted for Boakai he didn’t win, we voted for Weah and he won. So what I could do is what I did. I saw inside and I saw outside and I told Kabineh to admirably bow out and get all of you incentives because this is a political trial.”
The Senator acknowledged that Justice Ja’neh had his back against the wall from the start. “In politics, sometimes there’s no fair play because you see there are five justices that signed the document, so why should they pick on Kabineh alone, Kabineh didn’t sign it and he submitted to the full bench and the full bench filed with the justice minister, with the public works minister, they signed it, so why should Kabineh be singled out. This is why Tom Grupee and I looked at the whole process and said we were going to vote against is and we did. But their votes overpowered our votes. Why should you now accuse us. Why! Why! This is not Nimba people talking, this is a bunch of unscrupulous people from the opposition side criticizing us.”
The Nimba County lawmaker laid the blame squarely on the head of Justice Ja’neh who he says should have taken the offer placed on the table. “What you saw yesterday was what I saw sixteen weeks ago. I’m a man of God. So, a lot of people don’t know the influence I have in this country, they do not know, they don’t know I’m a man of God who sees vision. I don’t say what I don’t need to see. God showed me things. I can see vision that’s why I make no mistake in this politics your put me inside so.”
Asked whether he has met with Justice Ja’neh since the entire plot became a reality, Senator Johnson said. “I don’t need to meet with him because I told him long time ago to step down and he refused to step down, he disobeyed me and what he say yesterday was what I foresaw sixteen weeks ago. Sorry, will not reinstate him, that’s why I wanted to avoid sorry, I wanted a win-win situation, he overlooked it, he disobeyed me, he did not meet the caucus that boycotted the whole process in his favor, he was depending on his political allies to defend him and he knew very well.”
The Senator said he voted for Justice Ja’neh because of Nimba but the truth of the matter is that his advice fell on deaf ears. “He disobeyed me but I still see no bush to throw my child.”