MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ After failing to convince senators that he met the legal eligibility criteria, the confirmation hearing for the Nigerian-born nominee for the chair of the National Elections Commission has been suspended. Meanwhile, four of the six persons nominated to head the National Elections Commission have been confirmed.
On March 21, Pres. George Weah nominated Ndubusi Nwabudike and five others to head NEC for the next five years.
On March 30, the confirmation hearing for Nwabudike was suspended after the nominee was asked to present his certificate of citizenship. Instead of providing the original, Nwabudike displayed a difficult-to-read photocopy of what he said was the certificate.
Gbarpoluâ€™s Sen. Armah Jallah suggested that the confirmation hearing be suspended until Nwabudike could prove that he was a naturalized Liberian citizen by displaying the original certificate of naturalization. The hearing committee endorsed Jallahâ€™s suggestion and the hearing came to a close on Monday.
On Wednesday, April 1, the hearing resumed and when Sinoeâ€™s Sen. Milton Teahjay asked about the original copy of the certificate, Nwabudike responded that he did not have it.
Besides the lack of the original naturalization certificate, senators also noted several inconsistencies with Nwabudikeâ€™s credentials, including conflicting dates of birth.
Grand Bassaâ€™s Sen. Johnathan Kaipay uncovered that Nwabudike had conflicting dates of birth on both his passport, which carried 1965, and his university credentials, which carried 1963. Nwabudike admitted that these discrepancies existed.
Sen. Henry Yallah of Bong also askedÂ Nwabudike if he had renounced his Nigerian citizenship and whether he had any document indicating so. However, Nwabudike said he does not have a copy of such document and noted that the law does not require him to carry a copy with him.
â€œOur law states that once you have renounced your nationality, it is now the responsibility of the clerk of the court to forward your document to the attorney general and the attorney general, in return, forwards your document to the countryâ€™s treasury,â€ Nwabudike said.
Due to these conflicting accounts and inconsistencies, Sen. Teahjay, the chairman of the hearing committee, prematurely ended the confirmation hearing: â€œMr. Nominee, we have heard enough, and it is the agreement of this committee that you be discharged as we go back to our committee room to decide.â€
It is now unlikely that Nwabudike will be confirmed, given the explicit critiques he has received from many senators. Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa has already said she wants the nominee, who had been confirmed to head two agencies in the past, charged and prosecuted for lying under oath.
â€œJust because this man sat before this Liberian Senate before and passed does not mean we do not have the courage to correct ourselves,â€ she said. â€œWe are now correcting ourselves from the many mistakes we made in the past. The next step is Sen. Darius Dillon will do a communication on the floor asking the plenary to put all necessary mechanisms in place so that we can forward his man to the Justice Ministry for prosecution and perjury.â€
Meanwhile, four of the NEC nominees were recommended for confirmation by the Committee on Autonomous Agencies, headed by Sen. Teahjay. The committee noted that the nominees met all necessary criteria and asked the general Senate body to confirm them to the positions nominated to. The Senate voted to confirm the nominees in a session closed to the public.
Davidetta Brown Lansanah was confirmed as co-chair, while Ernestine Morgan-Awar and Barsee Leo KpankgbaÂ were confirmed as commissioners. Josephine Kou Gaye, who openly said during her confirmation hearing that she knows nothing about NECâ€™s functions and that she had only served as a sales agent at the National Port Authority, was also confirmed.
Initially, the committee had decided to approve five of the six nominees, but a motion for reconsideration from Sen. Varney Sherman stalled the confirmation of one of the five, Floyd Sayor, the current head of the data center.
Sayor played a controversial role in the by-election in Montserradoâ€™s 15th district in 2019. Sayor disregarded his supervisorâ€™s instruction to quarantine a number of polling centers and also to stop all counting processes of the votes cast in those centers until allowed at a later date. His action led to a re-run at several polling precincts.
Sen. Sherman and others, including Sen. Steve Zargo of Lofa, hold Sayor responsible for what they say was a fraudulent by-election that brought Rep. Abu Kamara to power.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah