Gongloe Challenge Bar Leadership to Build On Legacy

MONROVIA – The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) immediate past President, Tiawan Saye Gongloe, has challenged the body’s new leadership to build on existing legacy that he left behind for the betterment of the body.

He said this is because the present LNBA new leadership got elected based on the doctrine of continuity. As such, he no doubt that the legacy left behind by his regime will be built upon for the common good and betterment of the lawyering profession.

Gongloe made comments in his final and hand over note as former President of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) to the newly leadership of the body which was inducted into office last Friday, 28 January, in Monrovia.

His 3 years one term ended last November, 2021, in accordance with the constitution upon which an election was held and won by Gongloe’s Vice President, Sylvester Dorbor Rennie.

Gongloe Friday event marked the smooth handing over of the gavel of authority of the Liberian National Bar Association to a new corps of elected officers.

He said such an event is consistent with the constitution and by-laws of the Liberian National Bar Association which requires the President of the LNBA to serve a one term of three years without a right of re-election.

Gongloe believes the term restriction is only limited to the President of the LNBA and not the Vice President and other officers of the LNBA and the fact that the President-Elect of the LNBA was his vice president for three years explains this point.

“I am very happy that on this occasion, I am turning over the gavel of authority to my vice president. He and the treasurer-elect were elected along with me a little over three years ago in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County,” he recalled.

Gongloe continued: “They both campaigned on the slogan of continuity of the Gongloe administration and won their opponents with convincing votes. The President-elect, the treasurer-elect and the former secretary general and I worked together very closely as a team. Not once, did the president-elect refuse to carry out any assignment, even on a short notice.”

He pointed out that he and his vice president, now President of the Bar, will be an excellent president of the LNBA on the grounds that he knows the vice president and the secretary general very well; hence, he hopes that the association will enjoy the same cooperation from them.

“We raised the bar of the Liberian National Bar to a higher level. Today, the name of the LNBA is known in every household of the Republic of Liberia, from Cape Mount to Cape Palmas, from Mount Nimba to the Putu Mountain and from the St. Paul River in Montserrado County to the Cavalla River in Maryland County,” Gongloe boasted.

He then recounted achievements made under his regime as President of the bar during his 3 years one term tenure stating how the bar guided the government on adherence to the rule of law by loudly raising the voice of the LNBA, whenever, there was a violation of any provision of the Constitution or a statute by the Government of Liberia.

“We improved the standard of the legal profession by entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Liberia Revenue Authority by which the LRA delegated its licensing authority to the LNBA, retaining its duty to collect professional license fees from members of the LNBA,” the LNBA former President noted

Gongloe said as a result, every Liberian lawyer must fill an application form in order to be licensed as a lawyer, indicating whether he/she is a natural born Liberian or naturalized and if naturalized showing the same by attachment of a copy of the certificate of naturalization.

“The form also requires an applicant to state whether he/she  has acquired ten credits of continuing legal education (CLE) and has paid all accrued bar dues and levies. With the introduction of the licensing system, each lawyer in Liberia has a unique license number beginning with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as number one,” he lamented.

Gongloe stressed that the issuance of license to members of the LNBA has helped the bar to get rid of quacks who, without any training in the law were practicing law in the various lower courts of Liberia, adding “The licensing system has also helped the LNBA to raise more money.”

As a result, he went further the LNBA has now become more self-reliant, and  today, the five legal aid clinics that were established in Montserrado, Bong, Margibi, Grand Bassa and Bomi Counties with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development under its  Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption (LPAC) program, is still running and being exclusively funded by the LNBA.

The Law Day Programme, the Assembly and Convention that were previously held with the support of donors, is now being exclusively funded by the LNBA and his administration erected the first floor of a three story headquarters of the LNBA that is being constructed on the Robertsfield Highway.

About accountability, Gongloe his regime strengthened accountability in the management of the LNBA funds by improving the accounting system based on the advice of LPAC as they also accounted for funds received to travel abroad on behalf of the LNBA.

For example, he noted that he accounted for funds received from the LNBA to travel in the following manner received US$1000 to travel to a meeting of the Governing Board of the African Bar held in Nigeria and returned US$817.00 with receipts because most of the expenses of the trip were covered by the African Bar.

Thereafter, he traveled to Ghana and when he came back, he reported the entire US$500 that he received from the LNBA because the trip was fully sponsored by the host and then, another trip to The Gambia, he received US$500 and returned US$480 because he only spent US$20 as airport security fee.

On his returned on a trip to Lome, Togo, to attend an international conference commemorating the 20th anniversary of the ECOWAS COMMUNITY COURT OF JUSTICE, Gongloe returned the entire US$1000 received from the LNBA as per diem because the trip was fully sponsored by the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice as the disclosure of his return of per diems not used should be a normal routine.

However, he said it is instructive to do so in Liberia, given the national record of continuous reckless disregard for public funds but under his administration, the LNBA hosted its first international conference of lawyers since its establishment in 1907 by hosting the 2019 Annual Convention of the African Bar Association.

“According to the President of the African Bar it was the best ever and this record was not beaten by the 2021 Annual Convention held in Niamey, Chad. This achievement was made with the full cooperation of the LNBA,” Gongloe reflected.

On what left in the LNBA’s account, he boasted of leaving behind US$134, 112.98 as of Sunday, 31 October, 2021, having hired an external auditors who audited his leadership beside what US$46,788.22 he met there when assumed the LNBA leadership in 2019.

About physical assets, Gongloe stated among many things how his administration disposed of two used vehicles, because it had become very expensive to maintain them.

However, the LNBA received a Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep and a Nissan Patrol Jeep from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its LPAC project, saying, “We also acquired one used vehicle through the Justice First Project. Therefore, we are leaving three vehicles with the LNBA.”

Gongloe then paid tribute to Counselor Cyril Jones and members of the dissolved election committee of the LNBA for a job well done. Mr. President, this is a legacy that I have no doubt that you will build upon.

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