Liberia: Dillon Admits to Missteps in Boakai’s Appointments

Liberia: Dillon Admits to Missteps in Boakai’s Appointments
Liberia: Dillon Admits to Missteps in Boakai’s Appointments

Africa-Press – Liberia. Senator Abraham Dillon of Montserrado County, a staunch supporter of President Boakai, has admitted to public criticisms of ‘some missteps’ in appointments being made by the President. Dillon’s rare admission, which the Presidency has yet to acknowledge, raises concern about Boakai’s long-touted public experience record and his pledge of a responsible government that would abide by the country’s laws.

“We note that there are some early missteps,” said Dillon who, during last year’s election, was one of Boakai’s campaign managers — serving Montserrado County. “We note those things, and we don’t get angry. This rescue mission is not about a person; it is about a country.”

The Senator, during an evening appearance on OK FM on Monday, disclosed that the President has been appointing people to positions in government, which should not have been the case in the first place, including tenured positions.

According to Dillon, the situation means that the Boakai administration has to go back to the drawing board to look at all of the Acts to know where the President can appoint, where he cannot appoint, and what alternatives exist.

“We have to go back to the drawing board to look at all of these Acts to know where the President can appoint, where he cannot appoint, and what the board can do,” Dillon said yesterday. “[We will look at] what the board cannot do, where the President can appoint for nomination or direct appointment or nomination and places that have been filled so there can be no double appointment or nominations.”

Dillon’s position comes amid some serious missteps from the President as it relates to appointments.

The first of the missteps came with Boakai Jaleiba and Emmanuel Azango as Vice Presidents of Administration and Finance at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) respectively.

The appointments, which have seen Azango already starting work, violate Article 12e(i) of the 2016 act that created the NOCAL as an autonomous agency of government.

According to the act, “the President and Chief Executive Officer shall, subject to approval by the Board, appoint a vice president in charge of operations and such other vice presidents as he or she may deem necessary.”

However, despite the act being violated by the President, he has yet to withdraw the appointments of Jaleiba and Azango. The President would, in theory, after withdrawing the nominees’ appointments, have Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis, the President/CEO of NOCAL designate to have Jaleiba and Azango reappointed to the position when the board is constituted.

Another latest misstep is the appointment of Abdullah Kamara as Chairperson of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA). Other appointees are Patrick Honnah, Commissioner; Clarence Kortu Massaquoi, Commissioner; Ben A. Fofana, Commissioner; and Angela Bush Cassel, Commissioner.

The appointments at LTA come as Edwina Crump Zackpah, chairperson, and four other commissioners still have at least two more years to their tenured positions as they were appointed, confirmed, and commissioned in 2022 by former President George Weah.

The term of office for the Commissioners, according to the LTA 2007 Act, shall be four (4) years and only permits commissioners, including chairpersons, to be disqualified or removed for criminal involvement, dishonesty, and corruption where the penalty for such an offense includes imprisonment for one year or longer (irrespective of whether such penalty has been or is imposed concerning such conviction). President Boakai has, however, yet to say whether Zackpah, the chairperson, and the four other Commissioners meet the removal conditions as outlined in the LTA acts before appointing new crops of officers.

Another tenured position misstep is at the National Identification Registry (NIR) where the current Executive Director Andrew Peters has about two years on his four-year tenure. According to the NIR Act, it is the Board of Registrars who shall have the right to appoint the Executive Director, who shall serve a tenure of Four (4) years. Peter was unanimously endorsed and appointed to his current position by the NIR Board chair by former Minister of Internal Affairs Varney Sirleaf on June 22, 2023. Peter can be removed by a new Board for administrative reasons which, amongst other things, include gross incompetence.

Another misstep is the latest appointment of Robell Laytee Gbeintor as Director of Public Health Research at the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL). This government agency has no senior politically appointed position, such as it is now being created by the President in violation of the acts that created NPHIL. The NPHIL has three presidential-appointed positions: Director-General, Deputy Director-General for Administration, and Deputy Director-General for Technical Services.

These missteps in appointments have caught the attention of Rep. Musa Bility, who is the House Chair on National Security.

Bility, in a Facebook post yesterday, noted that the President needs to be reminded that “some of your appointments announced a few hours ago, are in tenured positions.” For instance, Bility cited the case of the LTA, saying the President needs to succumb to pressure from his supporters for “Jobs” to make him “flaunt our laws.”

“Liberians expect the very best from you. You see, Mr. President, like you I swore to uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia. So, if these appointments are not withdrawn in time, I will be constrained to take the necessary actions to ‘DEFEND AND UPHOLD’ the laws. Mr. President, we condemned and criticized the past administration on this issue of tenure and we must ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated,” Bility.

As for Dillon, whose comment on the President’s political missteps came a day before Bility’s post, raises concern about the President not communicating with the Senate about the withdrawal of Cllr. Cooper Kruah’s nomination as Minister of Justice. The President later appointed Kruah as Minister of Labor after much public outcry about the now Labor Minister designate’s involvement in alleged corrupt acts.

According to Dillon, “there has been no communication sent to the senate stating that [Cllr. Kruah] has been nominated again as Labor Minister.

“So I cannot say that Cllr. Cooper Kruah’s nomination was withdrawn as Justice Minister; nothing of such is before the Senate,” he added. “Let me speak as a Senator. No nominee before the Senate whose nomination has not been formally transmitted to the senate for us to read is on the floor on the agenda for it to be forwarded to our colleague’s committee for the appropriate confirmation. If a press release comes up on the Executive Mansion website or… on the radio, [it] is not before the Senate. Unless somebody can prove me otherwise.”

While Dillon is saying that the Senate is not aware of Kruah’s nomination being withdrawn, he was, however, part of the Senators who conducted a confirmation hearing for the Labour Minister-designate on February 16.

Yet, while appearing on OK a few days later — Monday, February 19 — Dillon asked: “Where is that green letter forwarding Cllr. Cooper Kruah to the senate as a nominee that was withdrawn? What appears before us formally is what we know.”

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