Liberia: Lebanese Businessman Calls on Weah-Led Gov’t to Settle US$100k Debt Incurred During Taylor Era
Monrovia – A Lebanese businessman, Nabil El Itter, owner of Itter Pharmacy, is accusing the government of Liberia of owing it US$100,000 for drugs supplied to the Ministry of Health since 1996.
Report by Edwin G. Genoway, Jr 00231886458910 [email protected]
The businessman claims that during the administrations of Charles Taylor and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf he made several efforts to claim payments but to no avail.
The debt, according to invoices in FPA’s possession, was amassed in 1996 before the administration of Taylor.
According to a communication from the then Minister of Health Vamba Kanneh dated March 15 1996, the pharmacy was requested to supply the ministry with a list of drugs for the “re-activation of our health facilities in the counties; pending the complete processing of a voucher in the amount of US$100,000 prepared by this ministry to the Ministry of Finance in favor of your drug store.”
Another letter from the Ministry of Health instructing Elia Saleeby, the then Minister of Finance during the Taylor regime, to pay the money is also in the possession FPA.
The letter: “I’m pleased to inform you that during the heat of the civil war, there was an urgent need for the essential drugs for the re-activation of the health facilities throughout the country.
“Realizing the survival of our people, we requested the management of M. R. Itter Pharmacy to supply the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare with drugs and medical supplies to enable the ministry carried on its functions.
“In this connection, we are kindly requesting that you make payment on voucher #8-3HW in the amount of US$100,000,00 (one hundred thousand United States Dollars) in favor of M. R Itter Pharmacy of Monrovia.”
Mr. Itter then recalled that when the drugs were supplied, his father was then the manager of the business.
He added that despite several communications to the past administrations between 1998 and 2004, no payments were made in return.
He again begun making requests for payment during the Sirleaf’s administartion to no avial, and later in December 2017 filed an action of debt by attachment before Judge James E. Jones of the debt court against the Ministry of Health.
Now, he is calling on the government of President George Weah to pay him for services his pharmacy rendered to the government over two decades ago.
“You will not believe it, we started engaging government to pay this money during the Taylor’s regime up to former president Sirleaf but there has been no result,” he said.
Mr. Itter’s claim comes less than month after the Weah-led government made payment of a debt of US$182,000.00 the Taylor administration owed Rocktown Tool & Equipment Corporation of New York, USA.
Rocktown was registered in August 1999, at New York’s KINGS County with company number 2406154 and located at the address 576 Third Avenue Brooklyn, New York, 11215.
A FrontPageAfrica investigation uncovered that the company is now unlisted and does not exist, however it was paid its debt.
The Ministry of Finance blatantly argued that the payment was in progress and was never made, although the government had also claimed that it was not a wrong thing to pay all of its debts owed by past regimes since government is continuity.
Itter said he was happy when he heard that the government of President Weah has vowed to pay all old debts that are legitimate.
“Right now, where I am I can’t wait to be paid by this government and I am glad they have taken the initiative to pay old debts,” he said.
He expressed disappointment in past regimes that failed to live up to their responsibilities, adding that it has created serious setback to his business.
“Right now our business is not expanding because we don’t have money and we supply quality drugs to the public, ITTER is one of the pharmacies that supported Ministry of Health with medications during the Liberian civil war, I am not the one saying that but the Minister of Health at the time said it clearly in a letter to the then Ministry of Finance,” he said.
He explained that since government is continuity, he will not give up in asking for the money.
“The Ministry of Health in 1996 is the same Ministry of Health today, and the drugs that we supplied were not drugs used on citizens of different country. They were drugs used on Liberians, so we are not going to stop asking for our money,” he noted.