Does The President of Liberia Have a Right to appoint Mayors of Cities Within the Republic?
By Hon. P. Koryeyon Deah, Sr.
Above is the question propounded by many of our fellow Liberians and friends of Liberia. The question has grown out of the action taken recently by the President of Liberia, Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in which she appointed the Mayor of the city of Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.
The President's action has generated a constitutional issue which, to the best of our knowledge, is currently pending for hearing by the Supreme Court of Liberia. We have deemed it appropriate, nevertheless, to offer some answer to the people's question, and thereby to add our view to those of our fellow countrymen, in which the con¬stitutionality of said action is being challenged,.
To do so, we shall have firstly to consider under our sy¬stem of government, the following sources of presidential powers and rights:
(a) CONSTITUTION - The constitution expressly delegates specific powers and rights to the president of the Republic, which rights and powers are exercised ex¬clusively by the president or his/her designee, to effectually, successfully administer the state of the Republic,,
(b) STATUTE - The statute, pursuant to the provisions of the constitution, authorizes and empowers the president of the Republic from time to time, to perform or execute any duty, the performance or execution of which is in the best interest of the Republic.
Accordingly, the right of the president to appoint offi¬cials of counties and of other political sub-divisions is provided for under Chapter VI, Article 54(d) of the constitution here, though, specifically mentioned are the superintendents of counties.
Regarding local government elective officials, Article 56(b) of the constitution provides for the elections of paramount, clan, and town chiefs. But it is interesting to note, that neither here nor elsewhere of the consti¬tution is any provision expressly made for the mayors of cities. And, wherefore, it is deductively assumptive, that since cities are established within the counties, and because officials of counties are appointed by the president, the mayors, too, are presidential appointees.
Nonetheless, in order to get out of the above rather fair assumption, one needs to understand that a city and a county are two different political entities, created by two different enactments. Article 35 of the constitution precludes any statute from embracing more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title. Thus, whereas an act creating a county provides for the appointments of the officials of same, that which establishing a city within a county provides for the elections of the mayors and members of the council of said city. The city mayor, therefore, is an elec¬tive municipal official of the county.
As to the question of the validity of enactments done under the authority of the abrogated constitution, Ar¬ticle 95(a) of the constitution states among other things, that any such enactment or rule of law which existed prior to and at the time of coming into force of the current constitution shall, except otherwise contradictory with any provision of the constitution in force, remain enforceable. It is of no flaw of doubt, therefore, that any statute creating any political sub¬division of the Republic before and at the time when the current constitution has come into force, continues to be valid and pleadable, in so far as it does not con¬tradict any provision of the constitution in force.,
Now, in view of the foregoing, our answer to the propoun¬ded question is NO. The right of the president of Liberia to appoint does not extend to the mayors of cities. The executive appointment of a mayor of a city violates the statute creating said city, and same is constitutionally erroneous. Notwithstanding all good intents and purposes of the president's action, it is our unflinching view that said action represents an expediency, which cannot and should not be allowed to prevail over a rule of law.
Further, where circumstances cannot permit the conduct of municipal elections, given the prevailing economic dif¬ficulties that the nation faces, then in that case, in our judgment, it should be the right of the executive branch of government to seek legislative enactments amending the relevant statutes, thereby rendering constitutional any subsequent executive action