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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Liberia: Witch Hunt at LTA? Fate of Staff Wrongfully Dismissed for Being UP Partisan in Limbo

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A staff of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), has alarmed that he was wrongfully dismissed by the management of the LTA for refusing to support the former ruling party – Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) during the 2023 presidential elections.

Nicholas A. Dennis, who was hired by the LTA as Information Officer, claims his services was terminated based on the direct instructions of the Chairperson of LTA, Edwina Crump Zackpah who accused him of being a partisan of the Unity Party. His dismissal took place after the first round of the 2023 Presidential Elections when the CDC sought support for its re-election.

Dennis was recruited in late May 2023 after exhausting all human resource procedures at the LTA. He served his three-month probation period from June to August.

According to him, Madam Zackpah became uncomfortable with him staying at the LTA based on his refusal to support the CDC.

Dennis was accused of not supporting the CDC after he refused to attend political rallies on the ordered of Madam Zackpah.

He was then dismissed on October 16, 2023, by Chair Zackpah for what she termed as “unsatisfactory performance” on the job – a claim that Dennis refutes, asserting that his track record and performance on the job were exemplary.


“My dismissal is a witch-hunt and was characterized by conflict of interest due to the fact that my performance was appraised by a single person (appraiser) who served as the Rater and Reviewer of my performance at the same time,” Dennis said.

Mr. Dennis claims that Madam Zackpah “planted people on him” to monitor his movements and activities on Facebook and other social media accounts in order to find anything relating to his support for Unity Party that could be used as a basis to dismiss him.

“I was cautioned by folks who she instructed to constantly monitor my activities and to find anything that she could use to have me dismissed. Because that didn’t work, Madam Zackpah with the help of her confidant, Kpanah V. Sao, an employee of LTA, conspired and accused me of soliciting funds on behalf of Unity Party. They claimed that they had video to such effect. In fact, a day to my dismissal, I was called by an anonymous individual who told me that Chair Zackpah had confided in them that she was going to have me fired the next day, (October 16,2023) because I am a Unity Party Partisan. I can prove it,” Dennis said.

Dennis claims he was wrongfully targeted because he had always refused to wear a CDC beret and a t-shirt during rallies that he and other employees of LTA were forced to attend on strict instruction of Chair Zackpah, who is now repositioning herself with the Unity Party since the inception of the new administration.

LTA Chairperson Zackpah also blacklisted staffers who refused to support the former ruling party (CDC) in the 2023 presidential elections.

Dennis is a very experienced media practitioner with over 20 years of experience. Prior to taking the job at LTA, he served as manager for the Voice of Firestone — a radio station owned by the Firestone rubber company in Margibi County

Dennis has since sought legal redress of the matter, prompting his lawyers to hold several conferences with the management of LTA.

Although the management of LTA represented by its legal team has committed in principle with the former staff’s legal counsel in amicably settling the issue without further legal action, LTA has not made good its promise.

According to an official communication sent to the management of LTA on October 24, 2023, by Mr. Dennis’ lawyers, the LTA violated Section 13.1 (C) of the Decent Work Act.

The letter reads: “We are the legal counsel for Mr. Nicholas A. Dennis (“Client”), who has informed us that he was employed by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (“LTA”) effective June 1, 2023, and placed on probation for a period of three (3) months which ended on August 31, 2023. Thereafter, his employment was retained up to and including October 16, 2023 when he received a letter of termination indicating that his performance evaluation during the probation period shows that his performance did not meet LTA’s expectations.

Section 13.1(c) of the Decent Work Act, 2015 (the “DWA”) provides that it shall not be more than three months. Therefore, the evaluation of our client’s performance after the expiration of the probationary period and the asserted basis for the termination of his employment is, in our view, is deemed unlawful and an act of wrongful dismissal or unfair labor practice under Liberian Law”.

According to sources, in October 2023, there were two other dismissals by the LTA for trivial reasons.

These dismissals have raised serious concerns regarding job security among employees at the entity.

There are also concerns that Madam Zackpah had earlier blacklisted 19 other employees for their refusal to support the CDC during the 2023 elections had they won.

 

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