The latest appointment of former Inspector General of the Liberia National Police, Christian Massaquoi alias ‘Chris Massaquoi’ as head of ombudsman has reportedly sent a ‘shock waves’ across the country.
An ombudsman to look into the controversial ‘National Code of Conduct’ ahead of the impending October 10, 2017 legislative and presidential elections has been at the center of discussion since the Supreme Court declared that the instrument ‘legitimate’.
However, on Monday night, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf named the former police IG, Chris Massaquoi as head of the Ombudsman to address concerns arising from the National Code of Conduct.
According to an Executive Mansion release issued over the weekend, those appointed were Atty. Edward Dillon, as a member, Attorney Massa Jallabah, member and former Police Director now Attorney Christian C. Massaquoi as member.
Although he is an Attorney-At-Law, but political and legal pundits as well as ordinary Liberians are now saying the appointment is a misplacement by the president because of what they called ‘limited experience’ of Massaquoi when it comes to such portfolio in such crucial time in the history of the country.
What Liberians Say?
Following the disclosure on the Executive Mansion website, the Red Power Radio in Brewerville and other radio stations immediately conducted phone-in-programs to get the views of Liberians on the appointment.
Rufus Sahn of St. Paul Bridge community said based on what he has seen of recent, the appointment of Chris Massaquoi means there is problem ahead in the country.
“There is a need to take time with the peace we suffered for or else we will go back to where we came from,” he said.
Albert Kemokai of Chicken Soup Factory community also said Liberians are known for welcoming something that they will resist in the future.
“What brought about the 1980 problem was that some group of people were taking themselves to be most superior and considering the others to be inferiors,” he indicated.
Kemokai said if an individual resigns two years just for election, it means huge numbers of people surviving on him will suffer.
“That law is the most satanic, barbaric and wicked law in the country,” he noted.
MamadeeGassama of Banjor community said the National Code of Conduct is not in the interest of the Liberian people and appointing Chris Massaquoi makes it worse as well.
For Varfee Bility of Suehn-Mecca District in Bomi County, he argued that the National Code of Conduct is good because it will help safeguard the state and the appointment of Massaquoi is necessary.
“This law is in fact good because it will help fight corruption because public officials are using their offices and power to go for elected posts and marginalize those citizens who cannot afford,” he said.
Momolu Johnson, for his part commended President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for appointing the three member team to the ombudsman position.
“I want to appreciate madam Sirleaf for taking the decision to appoint the members. Those against the decision are people who don’t want to see Liberia moving forward,” he added.
Others believed that the law will ensure social justice for a country just emerging from war.
Besides the callers, every discussion in every corner in the Monrovia Tuesday was centered on the appointment of Chris Massaquoi as head of the ombudsman.
Who Are The Ombudsmen?
Atty. Edward Dillon is a 2016 graduate from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana and a paralegal certificate from Widener University Law School Legal Education Institute. He is currently a special assistant to the Attorney General/Minister of Justice.
Massa Jallabah is a 2012 graduate from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, currently works in the Legal Section as a Legal Adviser at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy.
Attorney Chris Massaquoi most recently worked as Director of Police and graduated from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law in 2016. He has a certificate in police science, MSc in Criminal Justice Administration and is a former Fullbright fellow.
He previously worked as head of the Bureau of Immigration and the investigation unit of the United Nations in Bosnia &Herzogovina.
The Hook Ahead:
The appointment of the Ombudsman comes amid concerns regarding the fate of several current and former officials of government who are expected to be affected by the ruling of the Supreme Court.
It can be recalled the Supreme Court of Liberia ruled that the Code of Conduct, signed into law by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2014, is legal and binding on the republic for all its intents and purposes.
What the Law States?
The Act, which was submitted by the Executive to the National Legislature in 2009, states that all officials appointed by the President shall not engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices, use government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities, among others.
According to the Association of ombudsman (www.ombudsmanassociation.org) the role of an Ombudsman is as follow:
The role of an ombudsman
The institution of the ombudsman, first created in Sweden more than 200 years ago, is designed to provide protection for the individual where there is a substantial imbalance of power.
Initially, this imbalance was between the citizen and the state but as the institution has developed, it has embraced other sectors. Ombudsmen now exist, not just in the public sector, but also covering the private and independent sectors.
As well as considering complaints about public services, Ombudsman Association member schemes consider disputes between consumers and companies or between universities and students, for example.
However, in the private sector, coverage is fragmented and sparse with, in a very few cases, some duplication (where the ‘industry member’ can choose which scheme to belong to). None of this is ideal, but will require legislation to improve the situation as few sectors now readily establish schemes voluntarily.
What ombudsmen do
- Ombudsmen offer their services free of charge, and are thus accessible to individuals who could not afford to pursue their complaints through the courts.
- They are committed to achieving redress for the individual, but also, where they identify systemic failings, to seek changes in the work of the bodies in their jurisdiction, both individually and collectively.
- They can generally undertake a single investigation into multiple complaints about the same topic, thus avoiding duplication and excessive cost.
- They are neutral arbiters and not advocates nor “consumer champions”.
- They normally ask the body concerned and the complainant to try to resolve complaints before commencing an investigation.
- They usually seek to resolve disputes without resort to formal investigations where this is possible and desirable.
- Where they identify injustice, they seek to put this right.
In the private sector, ombudsmen usually have the power to make recommendations which are binding on the bodies in their jurisdiction unless successfully challenged through the courts. The cost of their services is normally met by a charge to the bodies in their jurisdiction. Most are established by, or as a result of, statute, and the relevant industry or sector is obliged to participate in the scheme.
Such person is also, a public advocate who is an official, usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but with a significant degree of independence. Such person is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights.
In some countries an Inspector General, Citizen Advocate or other official may have duties similar to those of a national ombudsman, and may also be appointed by a legislature. Below the national level an ombudsman may be appointed by a state, local or municipal government. Unofficial ombudsmen may be appointed by, or even work for, a corporation such as a utility supplier, newspaper, NGO, or professional regulatory body.
At the national level, most ombudsmen have a wide mandate to deal with the entire public sector, and sometimes also elements of the private sector (for example, contracted service providers).
In some cases, there is a more restricted mandate, for example with particular sectors of society. More recent developments have included the creation of specialized Children’s Ombudsman and Information Commissioner Agencies.
In some jurisdictions an ombudsman charged with handling concerns about national government is more formally referred to as the “Parliamentary Commissioner” (e.g. the United Kingdom Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, and the Western Australian state Ombudsman).
In many countries where the ombudsman’s responsibility includes protecting human rights, the ombudsman is recognized as the national human rights institution. The post of ombudsman had by the end of the 20th century been instituted by most governments and by some intergovernmental organizations such as the European Union.
By Reuben Sei Waylaun