Liberia: Lawmakers Want Central Bank to Explain Sudden Appearance of New Liberian Dollar Banknotes in Banks

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Monrovia – Two members of the Independent Legislative Caucus, Reps. Thomas Gushua II and Larry Younquoi are craving the plenary of the House to invite authorities of the Central Bank of Liberia to explain the source of U.S. and Liberian currencies it infused in the economy recently.

In a communication to the plenary through House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, the lawmakers said contrary to government’s pronouncement of the scarcity of Liberian dollars banknotes on the market, they have observed over the last two days that commercial banks have begun giving new banknotes to depositors.  

The unusual flow of new Liberian banknotes, the lawmakers said is happening at a time when there is speculation about the illegal printing of additional money awaiting legislative approval for infusion into the market.

Controversies over the alleged introduction of new banknotes on the Liberian market is overshadowing the ongoing special sessions of the House of Representatives.

The latest debate is the infusion of additional new pieces of L$500 banknotes at commercial banks that is allegedly being served to only lawmakers, something the lawmakers said is unusual and needs investigation.

“The unusual flow of new Liberian dollars banknotes on the market amidst government’ pronouncement of scarcity, which has caused inconveniences for depositors which literarily made it possible for them to withdraw monies from their saving accounts from commercial banks has been seen with keen interest. Contrary, to said scarcity of Liberian dollars banknotes, we have observed over the last two days that commercial banks have begun new banknotes to depositors,” the lawmakers wrote their colleagues. 

What seems to be of grave concern, they added is the five-hundred notes being given to lawmakers during withdrawals as other depositors continue to receive mutilated money. 

This current trend of event, according to them, places a dark cloud over their integrity, especially in the midst of Executive’s request for printing of new banknotes and the speculation that the Legislators have given approval to the CBL for a new printing.

Meanwhile, the communication sparked a huge debate on the floor and was deferred to Friday’s sitting by plenary. 

Some of the lawmakers had earlier called for the communication to be sent to the relevant committees for further investigation, while others called for the appearance and testimonies of the CBL authorities to be held in open session. 

Prior to plenary’s decision, Rep. Dixon W. Seboe, Chairman for Banking and Currency suggested that the CBL officials be queried in open session.  

However, the debate took a twisted angle when several lawmakers including Rep. Dixon Seboe, House Chairman on Banking and Currency alleged that Rep. Goshua, prior to his joint communication, had accused top government officials including some members of the House of being in the habit importing counterfeit Liberian banknotes into the country.

Rep. Seboe claimed he has a recording of Rep. Goshua’s press conference and urged his colleagues to investigate the ‘grave’ by one of their colleagues to ascertain the truth.

Immediately, Speaker Chambers ordered the recording to be played in open plenary, but this annoyed several lawmakers including Reps. Larry Younquoi and Yekeh Kolubah on ground that the communication was not centered on the recording. 

This led to a commotion on the floor and Speaking Chambers called for the adjournment of session for lawmakers to attend the state funeral of the late Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine.

Addressing journalist at after session, Rep. Younquoi maintained that the CBL authorities should appear to clear the doubts of the lawmakers and Liberians.

Speaking on the alleged approval by the House, Rep. Younquoi stated that the resolution has met the required two-third majority but outlined series of provisions that need to be met before the approval.

Some of them include the appointment of a new CBL’s Executive Governor and full implementation of the Kroll’s report, among others.

“The unusual flow of new Liberian dollars banknotes on the market amidst government’ pronouncement of scarcity, which has caused inconveniences for depositors which literarily made it possible for them to withdraw monies from heir saving accounts from commercial banks has been seen with keen interest. Contrary, to said scarcity of Liberian dollars banknotes, we have observed over the last two days that commercial banks have begun new banknotes to depositors,” the lawmakers wrote their colleagues.”

President Weah Extends Legislative Session

Meanwhile, in the midst of the ongoing new money saga at the House of Representatives, President George Manneh Weah has extended the Special Sitting of the 54th Legislature in keeping with Article 32(b) of the Liberian Constitution.

The President, in a Proclamation, extended the Special Session by one week, commencing Wednesday, December 11 to December 18.

 The extension comes days after the Executive Mansion disclosed that the House of Representatives has passed the resolution for the printing of new banknotes totaling L$30 billion.

It is not yet established whether the additional one-week request by President Weah is intended to provide room for the completion of the National Legislature’s approval to print the new Liberian Dollars currency.

On Tuesday, Presidential Press Secretary Isaac Solo Kelgbeh stated that government’s move to print a new currency is depended upon the Liberian Senate concurrence with the House of Representatives.

He said the Lower House has already signed a resolution in closed session to print L$30 billion new money.   

“The Lower House has passed the printing of new banknotes and made some recommendations for L$30 Billion to be printed. These are some of the recommendations that came from the National Economic Dialogue.” Kelgbeh asserted.

The Director of Press at the Lower House, Isaac Redd has also acknowledged that the resolution authorizing the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to print new banknotes to replace the old one has been approved by the House.

The President’s proclamation now affords the 54th Legislature the opportunity to further discuss and act upon matters of urgent national importance, chief among them include the approval for printing of a ‘family’ of new banknotes by the Legislature and confirmation of the Executive Governor designate of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

The Executive Mansion said President Weah’s decision is in line with Article 32(b) of the Liberian Constitution.

Article 32(b) of the Liberian Constitution states that the President shall, on his own initiative or upon receipt of a certificate signed by at least one fourth of the total membership of each House, and by Proclamation, extend Regular Session of the Legislature beyond the date for adjournment or call a special or extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concerns. 

Additionally, Article 32(b) of the Liberian Constitution requires members of the Legislature to request for extension of regular and special sitting if the need arises.

Members of the Legislature had earlier convened for one working week (December 3, 2019 – December 10, 2019) at the request of the President. 

The Executive Mansion further stated that the 54th Legislature, in keeping with the Constitution of Liberia, at the end of the one week, signed a certificate and requested for an extension of one working week, from December 11 to December 18, 2019.

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