The President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe has delivered his farewell speech at the 2021 Convention of the Bar in the City of Ganta, Nimba County where dozens of lawyers are in full attendance. He used the occasion to call On LNBA Incoming Leadership to Be Self-reliant.
Below is the full speech of the Bar President
Your Honor Francis Saye Korkpor, Sr, Chief Justice, Supreme Court, Republic of Liberia
Your Honors, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court
Former Chief Justices and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia
Honorable Minister of Justice and Dean of the Supreme Court Bar
The Doyen and members of the Diplomatic and consular corps
Former Ministers of Government and former solicitor generals as well as prosecutors
Your Lordship, Mayor of Gumpa City, Liberia’s most functioning City
Chiefs and Elders of Nimba County
Other Officials of Government
The Vice President and other officials as well as members of the LNBA
The President and members of the National Association of Trial Judges of Liberia
The President and members of the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia, (AFELL)
The President and members of the National Prosecutors Association of Liberia
The President and members of the Public Defenders Association of Liberia
The President and members of Law Students Association of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law
Representatives of Civil Society Organization, including the marketing Association, the Drivers Union and the Motorcyclist Union, amongst others
Members of the fourth Estate
Other distinguished ladies and gentlemen
Today marks my last opening address at the Annual Convention of the Liberian National Bar Association. But before going any further, I want you to join me to stand up for a moment to pay tribute to the following members of the LNBA who died during the year under review, mostly due to COVID19:
NAME OF DECEASED
|NAME OF DECEASED||GENDER||DATES|
|Cllr. Farmere G. Stubblefield||Male||January 30, 2021|
|Atty. Robert E. Cooper||male||March 13, 2021|
|His Hon. Cllr. Richard K. Flomo, Sr.||Male||April 3, 2021|
|Cllr. Benjamin Mulbah Togba||Male||May 15, 2021|
|Her Hon.Judge Emma Shannon Walser||Female||May 28, 2021|
|His Hon.Magistrate Joseph R. Watson Jr.||Male||May, 2021|
|Atty. Morris A. Kaba||Male||June 16, 2021|
|Cllr. Samuel G. T. Kpa-Sarto||Male||June 17, 2021|
|Atty. Joseph N. Cornormia, Sr.||Male||June 21, 2021|
|Cllr. Robert N. Gbarbea||male||June 21, 2021|
|His Hon. Judge George C. Katakpah||Male||June 22, 2021|
|Cllr. Amos Y. Bartu, Sr.||Male||June 25,2021|
|Atty. James S. Bomossee||Male||June, 2021|
|Cllr. Eddington Ahmandou Varmah||Male||July 6th, 2021|
|Atty. Mardea Elaine Martin-Wiles||Female||July 21, 2021|
|Cllr. Boakai P. Harris||Male||Sept. 11, 2021|
|Cllr. Samuel K. Jacob||Male||Sept. 22nd, 2021|
|Judge. J. Vinton Holder||Male||Oct, 2021|
Amen. Thank you and you may be seated.
As the saying goes in Liberia, every good thing must come to an end. In a democracy this end is not left to anyone’s discretion. Democracy promotes regular elections and a definite term of office.
According to the Constitution of the Liberian National Bar Association, a president of the LNBA can only serve on term of office lasting three years. One of the duties of the President of the LNBA is to open the annual convention of the Liberian National Bar Association. I have done so for the past two years. This convention marks my last time opening the annual convention of the LNBA. Before opening Convention 2021, I want to briefly tell this audience the huge support and cooperation that I have received from every member of the LNBA, including those serving in the executive, and the Judiciary, from the Chief Justice and justices of the Supreme Court down to the magistrates.
The strong support of the Judiciary for the license mandate of the LNBA has greatly helped my administration in getting rid of quacks, who without any form of legal education, were engaged in the illegal practice of law by paying professional license fee at the Liberian Revenue Authority (LRA) performing legal services for gullible Liberians in need of legal services. These charlatans who have been parading the corridors of the Temple of Justice, disappeared when we made it mandatory for every lawyer to carry an LNBA issued license.
This progress in getting rid of these fake lawyers would not have been made if judges and magistrates by sustaining objections made by licensed lawyers against the appearance in court of such pretenders. By not allowing unlicensed lawyers to practice law or dismissing cases filed by them the judiciary has greatly strengthened the standard of law practice in Liberia. By cooperating with our leadership in enforcing the license mandate, the number of lawyers paying dues and attending LNBA activities has greatly increased. Last year, with the cooperation between the bench and bar on the license, Convention 2020 recorded the attendance of 412 lawyers, an unprecedented number of attendees for a non-election convention in the history of the LNBA. That record was beaten this year, because Convention 2021 has, thus far, recorded 585 lawyers and law school students, the highest number of attendees at any bar convention in the history of the LNBA. Our leadership stands in an unending debt to the Korkpor Bench for this progress made by the LNBA.
In the case of the Executive Branch of Government, I cannot forget the fact that the Vice President of Liberia represented the President of Liberia at the opening of the 2019 Convention of the African Bar Association and the fact that the President hosted a dinner in honor of all attendees at the convention. Also, the Executive Branch continues to allow us to use the home of the Late President Joseph Jenkins Roberts as our national headquarters, instead of it being used as a tourist facility. With the current level of cooperation between the Bench and Bar, I can safely say that in a few years, the LNBA will soon move to its own headquarters, a beautiful three story building now under construction.
Over the last three years the leadership of the LNBA has made ground-breaking achievements. Just to name a few, my administration, assisted by the USAID, through its Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption Program (LPAC) (LPAC) the LNBA held a validation workshop on its strategic plan and manpower policy, implemented a vigorous Continuing Legal Education Program, introduced licensing of lawyers by the LNBA, instead of a good standing certificate, improved financial accounting by re-organizing the accounting system based on the advice of LPAC, implemented a justice first project, an undertaking that created awareness on access to justice in several places in Liberia, with the assistance of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; drafted a bill for the establishment of war and economic crimes court in Liberia, continued the Legal Aid Program without any financial support from any source; introduced a newsletter of the LNBA, commenced raising of the walls of the LNBA three story headquarters building on the Robertsfield highway and for the first time, and hosted Convention 2021 of the African Bar Association, the only international event ever hosted by the Liberian National Bar Association, which convention was rated the best ever by Barrister Hannibal Nwaifo, President of the African Bar Association, who told me a few days ago in Lome Togo that the Niamey, Niger Convention this year did not come anywhere close to the Monrovia Convention. Additionally, my administration improved the attendance record of the members of the bar at the assembly, law day program and the annual convention as shown here today. Last year a total of 412 members of the LNBA attended the convention, the highest ever for a non-election convention. This year, the record that I got this morning is that the number of lawyers registered for this convention is 585 lawyers, as stated earlier.
Today I can say without any fear of contradiction that the LNBA is now well-known all over Liberia from Cape Mount to Cape Palmas and from Mount Nimba to the Putu Mountains. The LNBA has been a credible voice of the lawyers of this country on all legal issues. The LNBA is no more a begging organization. Under my administration the LNBA became self-reliant in carrying out its activities and implementing its projects. It is important to note that for the first time, the LNBA hired an external auditing firm, Mombo and Co. following competitive bidding to audit my administration. I have directed the Executive Director of the LNBA to release the report to members of the LNBA on line in the shortest possible. These are, to borrow the words of the Late LNBA President TC Gould, non-debatable facts.
This record was made first on the basis of leadership by example, not by just talking. Here is what I mean. On my first trip to the Nigeria as President of the LNBA to attend a meeting of the Governing Council of the African Bar Association, I was given US$1000 by the LNBA for any unexpected expenditure. During the trip I used only US$183 because my hotel and other expenses were covered by the African Bar Association, except for my trip from Abuja to Lagos and hotel bill for the one night I spent in Lagos before my departure for Liberia. I returned to the LNBA US$817. Last week, I retuned US$480 to the LNBA from my trip to the Gambia from the US$500, having used $20 as security fee at the Banjul Airport on departure, and yesterday, I retuned the entire US$1000 that I received from the LNBA last week for my trip to Lome, Togo at the invitation of the Economic Community Court of Justice because all of my bills were paid by the court. Change by any leader is only effective when he does what he says. Mahatma Gandhi put it succinctly when he said, “Be the Change you want to see in the world”.
I have done my part it is now time to leave. But I appeal to all members of the LNBA not to let this record end with my administration. This is a record that all lawyers must be proud of and not only continue to maintain, but must support all subsequent administrations of the LNBA to improve upon.
I want to say for the record that this improvement in the record of the LNBA was not done singularly by me. In appreciation of the work done by some members of the LNBA during my administration, I will be certificating those who went the extra-mile in their support of my administration. I will now certificate the following persons as their names are called:
- Sylvester D. Renee, my very cooperative Vice President
- Bobby F. W. Livingstone, my very productive Secretary General
- B. Rachell Yabah-Doubah, my very effective Treasurer
- Cllr. Cyril Jones, Chairman of the Licensing Committee of the LNBA and Chairman of the LNBA Election Committee
- Cllr. Jura A. Lynch, a lawyer always ready and willing to serve
- Cllr. Joyce Reeves Woods, a lawyer who has raised the profile of the LNBA’s Legal Aid Program
- Cllr. Jallah Barbu, the Chairman of the Adhoc drafting Committee of the bill on the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court, already submitted to the National Legislature. Let me say that over heavily relied on in drafting the Gambia statute for the establishing a special chambers for the prosecution of former President Yaya Jammeh of the Gambia and others who committed crimes during his regime.
- Cllr. M. Wilkins Wright for effectively running CLE program of the LNBA
- Cllr. Abraham Sillah for his commitment in running the CLE program of the LNBA
- Cllr. Bornoh Varmah for his effectiveness and dedication as co-chairman of the Headquarters Construction project
- Cllr. Frances Johnson Morris for effectively chairing the Judicial Committee of the LNBA. It was open the recommendation of that Committee that Judge Kollee of the National Labor Court was appointed
- Cllr. Barthoh Varmah for her effective role as co-chairperson of the Social Committee
- Cllr. Frederick Gbemie, always ready and willing to serve
- Cllr. Jimmie Bombo, always ready and willing to serve
- Cllr. Bushiben Keita for vetting and selecting an insurance for the Insurance program of the LNBA
- Atty. Alice K. Sirleaf, for being so hardworking and dedicated as chairperson of the Social Committee of the LNBA
- Atty. Mohammed Sheriff for always being ready and willing to serve the LNBA. He served as chairman of the Adhoc Committee on Covid 19, member of the licensing Committee and is at the LNBA headquarters almost daily
- Atty. Kukuyon Wleh The, always ready and willing to serve
- Atty. T. Emmanuel Tomah, served as secretary on the resolution committee of the LNBA Assembly 2019 that authorized the LNBA to support the establishment of the war and economic crimes court and been very effective on the licensing Committee
- I now come to the staff, Edward Bonwinkor, Executive Director, Mrs. Josephine Boakai Sumo, Administrative Finance Officer, Dennis P. Dennis, Assistant Finance Officer and Venus Kanmoh, Secretary, Washington.
Ladies and gentlemen, at this convention we will hold continuing legal education sessions for lawyers and hold discussions on pertinent issues affecting the practice of law and access to justice in Liberia. We have a collective moral and professional duty, as lawyers to improve the practice of law in Liberia and in doing so help to improve the performance of the judiciary. All lawyers both on the bench and bar should do everything they can for the improvement of the Liberian Judiciary. The peace and stability of Liberia and the economic growth and development of Liberia depend on an independent and well-functioning judiciary.
With these few words, I hereby declare convention 2021 opened.
I thank you.