Liberia: Who’s Telling the Truth? President Weah’s Press Secretary Backpedals On 9th St. Property
MONROVIA – Deputy Presidential Press Secretary Smith Toby was so firm on his stance on Monday when he said President George Weah’s controversial 9th Street property is now owned by his son, Timothy Weah, since it was demolished in early 2018.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
To further back his claim, he said, “I think to convince you further, we’ll get the transfer documents transferring that property that was demolished – remember that building was demolished and remolded by the current head of the property, so we need now to give you further clarity on it by giving you those transfer documents because that property is no longer in the name of the President.”
But the Deputy Press Secretary in less than 24 hours was forced to withdraw his statement on the property, saying “It was not the factual information”.
He said, “If our information weren’t correct around that particular claim, now he’s [Pres. Weah] come back to tell us the information you put out isn’t correct, you need to correct the information and let the people know that, it’s my property, it has no attachment with my son.”
Toby further stressed: “I’m doing an erratum that the previous information on that property wasn’t the factual information; the fact of the matter currently confirmed by the President is that property belongs to him and not his son.”
It remains unclear what prompted the rather embarrassing clarification.
However, talk show host Henry Costa disclosed that Timothy Weah, a U.S. citizen and the First Lady demanded the retraction of Toby’s previous statement.
Article 22 of the Constitution of Liberia forbids non-Liberians from acquiring real properties. It states: “Every person shall have the right to own property alone as well as in association with others; provided that only Liberian citizens shall have the right to own real property within the
Timothy Tarpeh Weah is an American professional soccer player who plays as a forward for French Ligue 1 club Lille and the United States national team.
Toby in his previous statement concerning the ownership of the property said the new gigantic property was a project supervised by the First Lady on behalf of her son. He said all the materials used on the property were shipped into Liberia via the Freeport of Monrovia. He said, Timothy is the sole financier of the 9th Street property “that was once owned by the President.” “It’s being revamped and of course it’s being built under the ownership of Mr. Timothy Weah,” he had earlier said.
“I think to convince you further, we’ll get the transfer documents transferring that property that was demolished – remember that building was demolished and remoulded by the current head of the property, so we need now to give you further clarity on it by giving you those transfer documents because that property is no longer in the name of the President.”– Smith Toby, Deputy Presidential Press Secretary
The 9th Street sea view residence was a US$150,000 property demolished by the President Weah in early 2018 immediately upon taking Oath of Office. A new structure immediately began to spring up at the time the President had claimed that he had taken over a broken economy.
While the 9th Street property was being remodeled, the President was simultaneously rehabilitating his private relaxation Jamaica Resort and began the construction of a 47-unit multi-million-dollar complex along the Robertsfield highway.
The President was highly criticized by the public and members of the opposition bloc for being insensitive to the economic hardships being experienced by Liberians at a time when the economy was muddy.
A major concern amongst those questioning Weah’s move was why he did not carry out such development of his personal properties prior to becoming President. Others wondered why such project was so much a priority for the President.
There were also concerns about President Weah’s refusal to declare his assets but at the same time acquiring more assets just few months into his presidency.
Coming to the President’s defense at the time, Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah remarked “He was born to make history. He made history in football, he’ll make history in politics; you’re wasting your time. Some people are born and you can’t fight it. What ‘God’ has chosen, man can never fight. There is a reason why ‘God’ took him from Gibralta to become the President today. So, whether you write fake news on FrontPageAfrica, you go on some kind of show and lie about a man who earned money – US$80 million and more – the man whose son is a millionaire, the man who made a lot of money, to say he ain’t got money to build his own house because he’s President, that’s a black wicked evil lie.”
Min. Tweah’s defense did not corroborate with Pres. Weah’s 2014 asset declaration forms which he filed with the National Elections Commission (NEC).
“I’m doing an erratum that the previous information on that property wasn’t the factual information; the fact of the matter currently confirmed by the President is that property belongs to him and not his son.”– Smith Toby, Deputy Presidential Press Secretary
In the declaration to the National Elections Commission (NEC) Weah disclosed that he had four properties, two in Florida, USA, one on 9th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia and another in Rehab Community in Paynesville.
The 9th Street property, according to that declaration was worth US$150,000, the Rehab structure was valued US$100,000. The Miami, Florida property – US$1.4 million while the other property in Florida was put at US$900,000.00.
He further declared at the time that he earned US$200,000 over a period of 12 months (July, 2013 to June 2014) from his real estate in the United States.
The only savings mentioned in that declaration was US$50,000 in Chase Bank in the U.S.
Refused to Declare Latest Assets
President Weah in defiance of the National Code of Conduct declared his assets six months into his presidency.
He paid deaf ears to numerous calls from citizens, the opposition bloc and civil society actors to publish his assets in the spirit of transparency and accountability.
He said he cannot publish his assets because it is his privacy. According to him, there is no law that requests that assets should be published after declared to the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
“I have kids and families to protect. So, I gave them access to all my banks, so they have to protect me. Information about my assets cannot be made public. For those government officials who have not yet declared their assets, I have told them to do so because they have to abide by the law,” he told the BBC in February 2019.