“Politically Motivated” -UP USA Chapter vice Chair Terms SP Judgment -Urey Says Brownie Did No Wrong
Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai was all smiles on Friday, February 6, 2021 when the National Elections Commission reaffirmed his win as Lofa County Senator in the December 8, 2020 midterm senatorial elections. But Mr. Samukai’s joy was short circuited two days following the NEC reaffirmation when the Supreme Court on February 8 ruled against him, upholding the lower court’s guilty verdict that Mr. Samukai and others had misused pension funds for personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia. But against the Supreme Court judgment that demands Mr. Samukai and others indicted to restitute the amount of US$1.4 million or serve jail time for two years, a cankerworm of debate has opened across the country and abroad. Joining the fray, Unity Party’s USA Chapter Vice Chairman, Mr. George P. Lobbo, sternly maintains that the entire Supreme Court judgment is politically motivated because Mr. Samukai never, ever used monies from the AFL pension to enrich himself; rather, Mr. Samukai, acting on the orders of his boss former President Sirleaf, sought after the welfare of wounded and dead AFL soldiers who had been deployed in Mali at the time; and that the current government is aware so much that they even paid back portion of the used pension funds into the AFL Pension account. ALP Political Leader Benoni Urey too says Samukai did no wrong, otherwise why would President Weah order his government to put back the depleted funds into the AFL pension account.
According to Mr. Lobbo, who appeared on a Diaspora-based talk show Wednesday, “this whole money was not money that was used for Brownie Samukai personal affairs. All of the discussions we’ve had here today have not been on the merit of the case. Because if we were to look at the merit of the case, any rational human being would conclude that the case is politically motivated, because we sent our young men and women into harm’s way to go to Mali and serve, carrying the Liberian flag to serve; when they get wounded, and when a tragic incident occurs when one of them lost their lives, and they return to Liberia and the Defense Minister who was carrying out order, used $1.3 million from the pension fund to make sure that their medical bills were taken care of; that they receive treatment; it’s the precedent we want to set as a country. When we send our soldiers away and when something happens to them, this is how we should treat them. That is what we should be talking about.”
Further justifying why he strongly believes the Supreme Court ruling against Senator Brownie Samukai is politically motivated to jeopardize his standing at the Liberian legislature, Mr. Lobbo affirmed that the government of Liberia even acknowledged expenditure of the AFL pension fund by the Sirleaf Administration and has commenced payment into the AFL pension fund account.
“Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs Samora Wolokollie has confirmed that the Ministry of Finance has paid into the Armed Forces of Liberia pension account the amount of $460,000 as reimbursement funds towards the $1.3M used from the AFL pension account. At the same time, the Minister of National Defense, Daniel D. Ziankahn admitted the payment into the AFL pension account by the government through the ministry of finance. The two ministers, Wolokollie and Ziankahn made the disclosure on Friday, March 13, at Criminal Court ‘C’,” Lobbo asserted.
While strongly supporting former Defense Minister Samukai’s stance to allegedly use the AFL funds to cater to wounded and dead AFL soldiers who were serving in Mali, Mr. Lobbo was quick to brand the CDC government as having amnesia when it comes to prosecuting their own officials who divert state resources to their own benefit.
Recalling the case of former National Housing Authority boss Dwanna Siryon, Mr. Lobbo said although Mr. Siryon was involved in a $800,000 scandal in which audiotapes named the Ministers of Justice, Finance and State for Presidential Affairs, nothing came out of that incident.
“What has happened to that case. Like I said, the Brownie Samukai case is politically motivated. You can render your own judgment. But I hope the senate can investigate all those involved in this case and look at the facts, the merits and demerits and come up with an impartial judgment,” Mr. Lobbo appealed.
Legal pundits are of the express opinion that although there are no laws barring a legislator from holding office after declaration by the elections body, Mr. Samukai could face hurdles at the legislature, especially from senators from the ruling party and their affiliates.
CPP Urey Takes Exception to Court Ruling
Meanwhile, the Political leader of the All-Liberian Party, Mr. Benoni Urey, has clarified that the Collaborating Political Party (CPP) Senator Brownie Samukai never engaged in corruption as it is being wrongly misconstrued following the ruling by the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Appearing on the Costa Show immediately following the Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Urey said: “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, while attending the ECOWAS meeting, obligated the Liberian troops to Mali and she called back to Liberia to then Defense Minister. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf instructed Brownie Samukai to use the AFL pension money, promising that when she returned this money would have been refunded. Brownie Samukai did, the troops went on to Mali,” Mr. Urey stated authoritatively.
He said, when former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf returned to Liberia, she did not replenish the money as was promised.
“At the end of her administration, during the time of her turning over to Weah, she informed President Weah of her instruction to Minister Samukai, and that the money should be paid back. Weah agreed that the money will be paid back. In fact, Weah made an announcement on radio that he will pay the money. In addition to that, Ellen also came out and she told the Liberian people and the world that she authorized this money and Weah will pay back. Now, for heaven sake, Weah paid five hundred thousand dollars of that money, then how are they accusing Brownie Samukai?” Mr. Urey wondered aloud.
The CPP leader said the money in question was never used personally by Mr. Brownie Samukai.
“I want the Liberian people to know the genesis of this problem. I hear the Liberian people saying oh… the CPP is corrupt, NO!!!” Mr. Urey fumed.
It can be recalled that the Deputy Minister of Fiscal Affairs of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Samora Wolokollie admitted in court that the government of Liberia paid into the AFL’s account the amount of US$460,000 based on consultation and advice from the National Security Council of Liberia.
“At the receipt of the request coming from the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Finance proceeded in line with its budget execution process and with the advice from the National Security Council of the Government of Liberia to make payment to the Ministry of National Defense in the amount of US$460, 000,” Minister Wolokollie had testified at the time.
Confirming the MFDP Minister’s assertion, Defense Minister Ziankahn also stated that the payment was effected in line with a request from the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia to the Ministry of National Defense for onward submission to the Ministry of Finance, which was satisfied”
In another legal twist, defense lawyers had requested the appearance of President George M. Weah to testify, acknowledging the details of the AFL pension fund and Mr. Samukai’s assertion that it was an agreement between President Weah and former President Sirleaf that the Weah government restitute the money.
But Criminal Court C Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay denied Defense lawyers’ application for President George Weah to be summoned to testify in that trial, with the proviso that under the Liberian law, the President alone is the head of the Executive Branch of Government and other appointments as agents.
“The court is also of the opinion that, if the defense strongly believes that the testimony of the President is absolutely necessary besides the testimony that will be given by the Minister of Finance, then the defense may see it necessary to have other officials of government including the CBL who have handled the affairs instead the President of Liberia,” the Judge said, noting that there is no judicial record in the Republic of Liberia where a sitting President has decided to appear in court to testify in Liberia.
“Based on the forgoing reason, this court has no alternative but to deny the application as made by the defense team,” Judge Gbeisay had ruled at the time.