Liberia Council Of Churches President Calls Speedy Investigation into US$5M and US$300,000 Corruption Saga Involving Top Govt Officials

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MONROVIA – The President of the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC), Bishop Kortu K. Brown, says the nation is heading on a “slippery slope” due to the increase in acts of corruption involving public officials, power theft, continuous attacking and internal wrangling among opposition politicians and reports of ritualistic killings and kidnapping in the post-conflict nation.

Founded in 1982, the LCC is an ecumenical Christian organization that comprises of churches and other religious groups operating in Liberia.

Bishop Brown is also the General Overseer of the New Water in the Desert Assembly in Brewerville, Montserrado County.

He observed that allegations of corruption involving public officials continue to increase on a regular basis in Liberia

Bishop Brown made the call when he delivered his sermon at the climax of a one-week Prayer and Praise Campaign for the Family, Church and Nation on Sunday, at his church edifice on Sunday, September 12. 

He noted that the recent complaint of a South African investor claiming that some officials of government “fought hard to extort US$5million from him must also be addressed by the relevant government agencies especially when the actors are reportedly associated with the Executive Mansion”.

He added that the regular reports of corruption within the National Port Authority (NPA) need to also be addressed especially, citing the recent report of corruption at the Port of Buchanan.

 “Liberia is headed on a slippery slope. It must self-correct or it will suffer decadence and eventually, abandonment. “On the growing wave of reports of corruption within the country, I remind the government that for our development partners to continue to aggressively support our development goals, we must show that we are able to account for our own resources”.

In August, President Weah suspended with immediate effect Madam Makenneh L. Keita, Presidential Special Projects Coordinator for allegedly soliciting Five Million United States dollars(US$5M) from a businessman who was exploring Investment opportunities.

Since Madam Makenneh Keita  was mandated by the Liberian leader to report to the office of the Legal Advisor to the President for investigation, nothing has been heard about the status or outcome of the investigation.

Recently, the management of the National Port Authority (NPA) replaced the Manager of the Port of Buchanan, MacArthur Charles Gull and Statistician Amara Kamara, for allegedly transferring the amount of US$300,000 into a private account. Mr. Gull voluntarily admitted to the commission of the act during an internal investigation conducted by the NPA, but escaped the country overnight.

The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) is said to be investigating the matter, but no update has been given in recent time on the status of the probe.

The LACC) was established by an Act of Legislature on August 28, 2008 with the mandate to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption, as well as educate the public about the ills of corruption and the benefits of its eradication.

It stance and commitment to combat against corruption or investigate the allegation involving Mr. Gull and others has been questioned as a result of the alleged involvement of one of its Commissioners into a shady deal.

Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala, who is a Vice Chairman at the Commission, is also under probe over allegations linking him to a conflict of interest saga at the Freeport of Monrovia.

Sources and documents in possession of FrontPage Africa (FPA) revealed that Cllr. Bai-Gbala, along with the Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Mr. Bill Tweahway, the deputy Comptroller, Christian Brownell and Hamed Sikidi Fofana, the former Executive Director at the Central Bank of Liberia, established a company and allegedly used funds from the port and purchased a loading machine (966 Loader) for their company and awarded the loading contract to themselves. The loader costs US$65,000, FPA’s investigation uncovered.

A source within the Freeport of Monrovia, speaking on condition of anonymity informed FPA: “Bill Tweahway has 60% share in the company, Cllr. Kanio Bai-Gbala was given 10% share, Deputy Comptroller Christian Brownell was given 15% share; while Hamed Sidiki Fofana was given 15% share. So, from the time the company was founded, they had a single machine and each time a vessel is in port, it will be used to do the loading and their invoices will be sent to them.

Mr. Sidiki Fofana, now CEO of Creative Developers Inc., has distanced the company from the corruption saga at the NPA;l stating that his company has over the time, provided legitimate and effective transformational marine services at the Buchanan Port.

Cllr. Bai Gbala said he was not a shareholder of the company; rather, he bought a share on behalf of his younger sister, named Zarylee Gbala upon being invited by his friend, Sidiki Fofana who established the company.

But Bishop Brown stated that government should aggressively fight against corruption if it should win the support of its international partners.

He added that these reports must be treated just like how the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government of President George Manneh Weah is treating other reports released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) on previous government officials.

He emphasized that the landmark alleged corruption allegations at both the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, the NPA and Buchanan Port should not be “buried” like other investigations or reports.

Power theft

Access to stable, affordable electricity in Liberia remains a challenge to vast majority of households and businesses in the country.

Citizens and other foreign nationals are compelled to purchase generators or pay huge sum of monies just to have electricity in their respective companies, homes, or business centers due to either the lack of, or unstable supply of public electricity across the country.

The situation adds additional burdens on less fortunate Liberians and compels them to get engage into power theft. Some citizens blamed the increase in power theft to the failure of authorities of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) to swiftly install or replace their damaged transformers or meters.

But Bishop Brown observed that there exists a criminal cartel that continues to rob citizens, especially ordinary Liberians the opportunity to have access to public electricity.

 “It is a shame that we are not able to address the serious concerns of power theft within the electricity sector and dismantle whatever cartel there is robbing ordinary Liberians of benefitting from the provision of light”.

Ritualistic killings

Speaking further, the Bishop strongly condemned the growing reports of kidnappings and ritualistic killings in the country.

He noted that the religious community and people of Liberia cannot “countenance the shedding of innocent blood”.

“It will be a curse on the nation and the people for the Government to not launch a serious and forceful investigation into these ugly reports of killing of women and other vulnerable persons in our community. The Executive Mansion and the Ministry of Justice must take these reports seriously. We cannot conceal the shedding of innocent blood. God hates it. Proverbs 6 verses 16 to 19 says amongst the seven (7) things that God hates are “hands that shed innocent blood” Liberia must therefore confront the hands that shed innocent blood especially as we march towards the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections”.

In accordance with 2 Corinthians 13:5, Bishop Brown called on government officials to “examine” themselves if they must remain “relevant in the eyes of the Liberian people and a watching world”.

Lofa County Representation

Bishop Brown, however, called on the Government of Liberia to ensure that Lofa County Senator-elect Brownie Samukai takes his seat at the level of the National Legislature.

According to him, Mr. Samukai has “shown commitment to respond to the ruling of the Supreme Court” and as such, he should be certificated and subsequently inducted into office if he (Samukai) satisfies the court in a bid to ensure that the people of Lofa are fully represented at the National Legislature.

“We believe that the lingering question of Lofa County representation must be settled based on the decision of the highest court. Some people have argued that Mr. Samukai should not have been allowed to run for the Senate since he was under criminal inquiry. But he wasn’t stopped. He ran and won the elections. The Supreme Court has not also stopped him. They only laid down prerequisites for him to take his seat in the Senate”.

“If he satisfies the court’s ruling, we think he must be allowed to take his seat. We must honor the court’s decision no matter how disgruntle we are with the process”.

Mr. Samukai was denied from taking his office and requested by the Supreme Court to pay monies intended for soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) that he and others misapplied or risk going to jail for a specific timeframe.

Political Parties Disappointments

Meanwhile, Bishop Brown has expressed concerned over the rigmarole among leaders of opposition political parties that make up the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) in Liberia.

The CPP, which comprises of the former ruling Unity Party (UP), Alternative National Congress (ANC), and the Liberty Party (LP), has been engulfed with internal wrangling ahead of a primary to select a Standard Bearer for the CPP.

The hullabaloo within the CPP is primarily based on whom to head the ticket as concerns and threats loom over possible betrayals and withdrawal from the collaboration.

According to Bishop Brown, the political discourse especially within the opposition camp is becoming more and more “worrisome”.

He indicated that these political parties are demonstrating that they are “not able to handle internal disagreements without resulting to public attacks of their fellow members and leaders”.

“Liberia is in serious trouble if this ugly situation is not seriously addressed. One political party dismisses its sitting chairperson and there is contention that internal procedures are not followed. The CPP is upside down over the process to select a Standard Bearer. It is so sad that the only thing that can hold Liberians together is opposition to other Liberians. They always have to find a human enemy to fight while the country’s real enemies confront us daily in the face”.

Liberia real enemies

Bishop Brown called on Liberians to have in mind that their real enemies are “hunger, poverty, corruption, bad governance, ritualistic killings, and lack of opportunities for young people, reported unavailability and hike in the price of the country’s staple, rice, etc”.

He noted that political parties must wake up and give Liberians hope.

“We strongly condemned all forms of political violence perpetrated in the name of airing grievances. Politicians must stop selfishly using the young folks to achieve their motives of being place in public offices even when they know that they are not able to do better. Not even under such circumstances.” 

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