MONROVIA: The planned confirmation hearing for two nominees put forward by President George Manneh Weah to fill vacancies created in government due to the death of former Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority(LRA) Thomas Doe Nah and the request for earlier retirement of Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe suffered a serious setback yesterday, Thursday, January 4, 2024 when legislative staffers from the senate side of the national legislature disrupted the process in demand of their “extension benefits owed us as the result of coming back here to work when we should be on break”.
According to our legislative correspondent who covered the story, both the standing senate committees on Judiciary and Banking and Finance had duly notified Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, Minister of Justice and Attorney General who was chosen to succeed Associate Justice Nagbe and Atty Dr. Samora Wolokollie, Deputy Minister of Finance for Fiscal Affairs who was nominated to succeed the late Thomas Doe Nah that their confirmation would have been held on yesterday at different interval in the day with Cllr. Dean billed to appear first and Wolokollie later in the day.
However things took the other way around earlier yesterday morning when staffers in their numbers converged on the ground of the capitol building and prevented lawmakers, especially the Senators from using their vehicles from reaching their office premises. Their vehicles were allowed in but they had to disembark from their official cars and walk to their offices.
The staffers then moved to senate plenary hall where normal sessions were held and prepared for the confirmation to be held. Others were all over the hallways singing and chanting anti-government slogans and making defiant statements that unless their arrears were given to them, there will be no confirmation. “No payment of benefits, no confirmation”, some of the staffers said.
Being alarmed about the consequences of the protest would have on the planned confirmation of the day, the leadership of the Senate mandated Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County who is the Chairman of the Ways and Means committee of the Senate but for two attempts made, nothing came to fruition and the staffers decided to continue their protest until their demands are met.
An ugly situation that would have led to violent clashes between the staffers and some persons suspected to be members of the youth wing of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) was prevented when security personnel at the national legislature led the CDCians out of the premises. Eyewitness accounts had it that the staffers had accused the CDCians of intruding in the cause with the insinuation that the protesters were brought in to foil the blockade on the confirmation because both Dean and Wolokolie are government officials.
According to one of staffers who spoke to The Analyst but preferred not to be identified, the staffers were demanding their own share of the special extension sitting fees that were given to the senators for the two special recalled sittings on the request of President George Manneh Weah to deliberate on crucial national issues including the national budget and confirmation of Dean and Wolokolie.
“This is a long issue we have had with our bosses who are the lawmakers. Whenever they are recalled from their vacation, they get all their benefits but we do not have and at times they will not be truthful to us as they will insist that they came back on their own volition and not the President. So for this one which is at the tail end of their tenure, we will not allow ourselves for them to use and they go with all their benefits and we are short changed again”, he said
The spokesperson of the staffers, Charles Brown who dismissed the insinuation their protest was politically motivated to stop the pending confirmation of Dean and Wolokolie because the opposition Unity Party(UP) had kicked against going through the nomination process to be appointed to their respective position, said their claims are legitimate and have nothing to do with a process that should be held according to the constitution of the country.
“We are not driving into the politics of certain people who do not want confirmation. Our fear is if they confirmation goes through and their objective is achieved on the floor on Tuesday, and the work for which the president asked them is completed, for example, the Chairman of the Ways and Means who will lack legitimacy, where the 54th legislature will be dissolved on Tuesday, who do we go to for our benefits?
“So we are saying these actions here will continue until the leadership of the senate pays us. The Chairman of the Executive just admitted that we have legitimate concerns. Our stay here is constitutional, adding if they wanted to compromise their legitimacy they should have told us. They should have told us to stay at home and they come to work for the President free. But article 18 of the constitution says equal work, equal pay, you can’t tell me to come here to work and you tell me say the senator says the central government has not paid”, he said.
He said the staffers whom he claimed to be 900 in number will continue to press on for their legitimate benefits and insist until then there will be no other function or activity going on in the senate without them getting paid.
Meanwhile, there is a serious uncertainty hanging over the fate of Dean and Wolokollie as there has not been any other information if the senate will be able to meet before the expiration of the extended time requested by President Weah which is Tuesday, January 9, 2024. If the confirmation does not hold until the end of the expiration, the nomination of Dean and Wolokollie will be nullified as there is no indication that their nomination will be sustained by the incoming administration under President elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai.