Supreme Court Lifts Prohibition On EPA By: Yassah J. Wright

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The full bench of the Supreme Court of Liberia has quashed, dismissed and denied Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh petition for the writ of Prohibition filed against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Reading the judgment, Wednesday, April 24, 2024 in the Supreme Court Chamber, senior Associate Justice Jamesette Howard Wolokolie  termed the appointment of Prof. Tarpeh by President George M. Weah without the approval of the Policy Council as an action which erase the legally required process procedure of being an Executive Director. “By law, Wilson Trapeh is not the head of EPA” Associate Justice Wolokillie said. “From the records of the file, especially regarding tenure appointment as Executive Director of the EPA, From this proceeding, its can only be said that the legally required process was not as observed. The writ of prohibition will not be granted by this court where the respondent Executive Branch of government did not proceed wrongly in the President of the Republic of Liberia, Joseph N. Boakai appointment of Dr. Emmanuel King Urey Yarkpawolo as interim Executive Director of the EPA where the policy council has not being form. In view of the foregoing, the Alternative Writ issued by the Justice in Chamber is hereby quashed and the prohibition prayed for is denied,’’ she ordered the clerk of the court to inform the party. Justice Wolokolie said  the Act creating the EPA clearly states that the President selects his Executive Director from the list of three names submitted by the Policy Council, and in such case, the Executive Director must has a tenure for seven years whener the formation of the Council is pending, the President appoints an interim Executive Director. Based upon that, she further stated that Tarpeh did not show or bring any document to the court to justify that he was selected or appointed from the list of three names recommended by the Policy Council.

And as if this was not issue to consider, she noted that the petitioner made no mention of his selection process or if he went through the legal required process under the EPA Act or present an argument of such.  ‘’ We can’t give a different or further interpretation to this provision of the Act. It’s worth mentioning that also in reference to section 16.1 of the EPA Act which section grants the president the power to appoint an interim Executive Director in the absence of the Policy Council, President Weah as per the letter exhibited by the petitioner did proceed unlawfully but here appointed the petitioner as Executive Director instead of interim Executive Director,’’ she noted. She also said since the appointment of the petitioner, change and erase the legally required process procedure, the letter appointing him should have carried interim Executive Director. As authorized by the ACT, Justice Wolokolie said President Weah appointment letter to the petitioner bearing EPA Executive Director made him (Tarpeh) to believe truly that he holds a tenure position. ‘’ We therefore hold that given the fact and circumstance, the appointment of the petitioner was incapacitated of an interim Executive Director, hence, his tenure is not applicable. This court has found in several opinions that where the provision of the status are clear, said needs no further interpretation,” she concluded. It can be re-called that on March 17, 2024, the Justice in chamber, YussifD.Kaba has halted all functions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pending final decision concerning Wilson Tarpeh’s petition.  Chamber Justice Kaba had a conference with Tarpeh and Emmanuel Urey-Yarkpawolo, Acting Executive Director of the EPA concerning Tarpeh writ of prohibition.  The halting of the functioning of the EPA is based on a Writ of Prohibition against the Government of Liberia and Yarkpawolo, Acting Executive Director of the EPA which was filed with the justice in chamber by its ex-acting Executive Director, Tarpeh.  Tarpeh writ of prohibition has halted all functions of the EPA boss pending a return to the Honorable Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Kaba. In his petition, which is in the possession of this paper, Tarpeh argued that he has 43 months remaining and therefore, should be paid for it.  According to him, his argument is based on a commissioning certificate that has the same date of October 2, 2020 as his appointment letter date. In quoting Part III Section 16 of the EPA Act in count 4 of his petition,Tarpeh wrote “That the Act creating the EPA states in clear and unequivocal terms under section 16 : 1) There shall be an Executive Director who is a person with wide environmental knowledge and recognized comment to sustainable management of the environment, appointed by the President from a list of three names recommended by the Council, except that the President may appoint an interim Executive Director pending the formation of the Council; 2) The Executive Director shall serve for a period of 7 years and shall be eligible for reappointment, except that there shall be appointed an interim Executive Director The legal minds say such speedy appointment, Senate confirmation and commissioning has never happened in Liberian history. Legal minds are also wondering how was it possible for him to go through Senate confirmation if the Act creating the EPA does not call for Senate confirmation of the Executive Director of the EPA but through recruitment by the Policy Council.  This paper has gathered that Tarpeh was never appointed from a list of 3 persons submitted by the Policy Council as mandated by the law creating the EPA. The Weah administration did not constitute the National Environmental Policy Council, that is responsible for recruiting the Executive Director.  Tarpeh admitted during his taking over ceremony at the EPA that he has finance background and does not have environmental background as mandated by the EPA law. This may have prevented him from encouraging the formation of the Policy Council, knowing fully that he was not qualified and was unlikely to pass the environmental backgrounds scrutinizing check of the Policy Council.   Section 9 of the Executive Order 123 by President Weah clearly states that “Non-tenured Presidential appointees shall be presumed to have resigned as of the date of inauguration. Accordingly, the most Senior Civil Servant at all ministries, agencies and commissions and state-owned enterprises, shall act as Office-in-Charge pending the appointment of their successors.” This was why on January 23rd, the day after the inauguration, Mr. Benjamin Karmoh, supported by EPA workers attempted to prevent Tarpeh from serving as Executive Director.  The EPA workers also wrote President Boakai (copy in the possession of this paper), asking him to appoint a new Acting Executive Director pending the formation of the Policy Council.   If Tarpeh did not meet the criteria to be appointed as Executive Director with the 7-year tenure as mandated by law, why is he claiming tenure and demanding 43 months’ pay? Inside sources say, Tarpeh is using his connections within the government to try to get underserved compensation.  On February 15, 2024, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai appointed Yarkpawolo as Acting Director of the EPA in fulfillment of Section 16 of the EPA Act since Policy Council has not been formed yet.  And On February 19, 2024 Wilson formally turned over the EPA with a turnover notes to Yarkpawo.

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