Liberia: Our Country Risks Corruption At Its Nastiest, Early Signs Are Glaring
WHEN GLOBAL Witness released the Catch Me If You Can report in March this year, which detailed how officials of the former government schemed to sell out Oil Block-13 to ExxonMobil, a glowing opportunity for new administration to root out corruption presented itself.
THE REPORT LISTED some high-ranking figures of the previous administration who allegedly received bribes in huge sums to sign-off on the deal to give the Oil Block away. That report was of special public interest, given how the entire nation saw how the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) fall from being the most blossom government entity to one of the most bankrupt
ALL LIBERIANS KNOW that corruption was one of the hallmarks of Sirleaf’s regime. Even Madam Sirleaf acknowledged that but claimed the menace was so monstrous that she couldn’t beat it. Yet, on a general scale, Liberians hold the strong opinion that Sirleaf could not tackle corruption because some of her most trusted officials and relatives were caught in the web. Like in the case of NOCAL, all she could do was say, “I take the blame”. Everyone walked away with impunity.
SO, WHEN LIBERIANS went to the polls to elect a new leader in October and December 2017, a major desire informing their choice of leader was ‘CHANGE’. Change from a regime where a clique of individuals stole national resources only because they had all systems designed to hold them accountable under their feet. Change from a regime where the corrupt few lived lavished life while the 90 percent of the population could not even puzzle out where their next meal would come from. They yearned for a change that would restore hope and restore dignity to being a Liberian.
THE CATCH ME IF YOU CAN report was the first litmus test for the new fight against corruption especially, with names
AT A CABINET RETREAT IN Buchanan, Grand Bassa County in May this year, Pres. Weah made a solemn promise to ensure that former officials of government who are believed to have dubiously sold off Oil Block 13 to ExxonMobil would be prosecuted.
“MY OFFICIALS AND I will review the document and will ensure that anyone found culpable will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of Liberia; this is to send a signal that we are prepared to confront any form of corruption and mismanagement in government,” President Weah assured.
THE INVESTIGATIVE REPORT was quite exhaustive with some stern recommendations. On the overall, the committee recommended restitution, prosecution
NOT LONG AFTER THE release of the report, Pres. Weah appointed Cllr. Charles Gibson to as Chairman of the Board of Directors of NOCAL. This appointment did not only ignore the recommendations of the investigative committee, it also disregarded quest for integrity by appointing an individual, a professional lawyer, who has an established reputation for shortchanging his clients to chair the board of an entity brought down to almost nothing through corruption. That’s where the disappointment began.
TODAY, LIBERIANS live without hope as a result of massive corruption that is well entrenched in all sectors of governance.
IT IS GLARING HOW agitated the masses are having heard of the billions of local currency not properly accounted for. The #BringOurMoneyBack protest was a loud statement by itself. It was an indication to the government that the people could no longer remain hopeless. It was an indication that the people are ready to revolt against corruption. It was an indication that the governors can no longer be the masters of those who handed them power.
JUST BEFORE THE PROTEST, taking control of both the local print and electronic media was the whopping US$16,000 first class ticket purchased by Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah on Emirates. The Deputy Managing Director of the National Port Authority, Celia Cuffy Brown also flew first class with her daughter and niece on the official trip for vacation.
TWEAH HAD NO DEFENSE for his decision to ride first class. All his explanations were found faulty. He even lied on his annual income with the African Development Bank to justify his ability to purchase a first-class ticket and got away with it. He was at least checkmated by the media on his income.
ALL THESE SHOWED the government’s insincerity towards the implementation of pro-poor policies.
THE BATTLE AGAINST corruption was long lost when Pres. Weah refused to declare his assets within the statutory period in blatant disregard to the law. While he was yet to declare his assets, the President, barely four months in office began a construction spree – erecting gigantic structures and rehabilitating existing structures. He demolished his 9th Street property and in no time a new one is standing nearing completion.
WHEN PRESIDENT WEAH finally declared his assets, he had no regard for transparency. It’s been kept away from the public. This defies the essence of asset declaration and unsupportive of the fight against corruption.
HIS MINISTER OF STATE, Nathaniel McGill, followed his footsteps. Within a couple of months in office, McGill purchased a property believed to be worth about US$200,000 when his assets were yet to be declared.
MEANWHILE, NONE OF the promised national projects has gone up to 10 percent.
THE CHAIRMAN OF the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Mulbah Morlu, has never given any explanation for where he gets his wealth that supports his lavished life style. Many believe something is amiss.
TALK OF THE TOWN now in Liberia is the reported L$16 billion and every day comes with a new confusion surrounding the reported missing money. The vital questions remain unanswered. Surprisingly, the more they are asked, the more the government is angered and provides new episodes of conflicting statements. More disappointing is that instead of commending the media for bringing this light, the President rather intimidates the media for reporting on the matter. All these signs glaringly show lack of interest and political will in ending the cancer called corruption in Liberia.