The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) is calling on the chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Liberian Senate, Cllr. Varney Sherman, to recuse himself or resign the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee in the wake of the US Department of Treasury’s Global Magnitsky designation placed on him for corrupt practices in the Liberian Judiciary.
In December 2020, the US Department of the Treasury named and publicly shamed Senator Sherman for reportedly facilitating bribery in the Liberian judiciary and that, in one instance, he allegedly bribed Liberian legislators “to support the impeachment of a judge who has ruled against him.”
The Association, in a release issued on January 22, 2020, says at the very minimum, public servants should be held at a high ethical standard especially those charges with the sacred responsibility of enacting laws. The Grand Cape Mount County Senator is one of several individuals in Africa and Asia that the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has placed on its sanction list for brazen acts of dishonesty in their respective countries.
An OFAC Executive Order (E.O.) 13818 issued in December 2020 said the designation of Senator Sherman and the others for placement on the sanction list by the Department of the Treasury is one of several actions by the US government “targeting corrupt actors and their networks across several countries in Africa and Asia…” The Executive Order builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of corruption and serious human rights abuse.
ALJA says while it welcomes Senator Sherman’s recent efforts aimed at exonerating himself from the charges levied against him by the US Department of the Treasury, he should do the honorable thing by recusing himself until his innocence is proven locally and internationally because the prevailing situation has drawn his credibility into question.
ALJA says the Senator’s current debacle also has the potential of putting a dent in the image of the Senate Judiciary Committee if he refuses to remove himself or resign the chairmanship. The Association says if the Senator fails to honorably step aside or resign the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, then the leadership of the Liberian Senate should replace him with immediacy. ALJA emphasized that “a lawmaker accused of undermining the Liberian judiciary and the rule of law is unfit to head the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Meanwhile, ALJA has expressed disappointment over the recent election of Grand Kru County Representative, J. Fornati Koffa by the House of Representatives as Deputy Speaker. Representative Koffa represents District-2 in Grand Kru County in the Liberia National Legislature.
The Association says it opposes the Grand Kru County Representative ascendency to the position of Deputy Speaker because he is a former convicted felon. ALJA says it is mind-boggling that members of the House Representatives at their own volition opted to elect the Grand Kru County Representative to such a high profiled position in government given his recent past criminal history.
ALJA says while it acknowledges that Representative Koffa has already served a prison term in the United States for the criminal act committed fifteen years ago, he, however, lacks the moral rectitude and character for the post of Deputy Speaker.
The Association says the Grand Kru County Lawmaker has a stained character. ALJA says the Lawmaker is a dishonest and disgraced Liberian lawyer. In 2006, Representative Koffa, who then worked as a lawyer and a former Zebulon Town Manager in Raleigh County, North Carolina, USA, duped the federal government and his clients of nearly half a million US dollars.
As a result, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to nearly two years of prison time in a federal penitentiary. Also, he served three years of probation time and was made to restitute his clients’ money. Additionally, he was barred from practising law in the US.
ALJA says the House of Representatives election of the Grand Kru County Lawmaker, who is known locally and internationally for integrity problem and malfeasance as the second most powerful person in the National Legislature speaks volumes about the lawmakers’ apathy to ensuring honesty and accountability in the public sector.
Meanwhile, ALJA is calling on Liberians at home and abroad, and friends of Liberia to join the Association in condemning members of the House of Representatives for their selfish and unwise decision made by electing a known and convicted fraudster as Deputy Speaker.
ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. It is a 501c (3) non-profit organization. The Association was founded in 1998 with the objectives of fostering companionship amongst its members and their American counterparts. Additionally, the Association is committed to advancing press freedom through media capacity building and the fostering of good governance in Liberia through media advocacy.