Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Representative Thomas Alexander Goshua (District #5, Grand Bassa County) has called on his colleagues at the Liberian Senate to concur with the House of Representatives in passing the amended drugs law.
In an exclusive interview with FrontPage Africa recently, Rep. Goshua said several top members of the Liberian Senate including Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor has given their assurances in supporting the passage of the bill and called on the others to follow suit.
“I am 100 percent optimistic that the Senate will concur. There shouldn’t be any reason why the Senate should not pass this bill,” Rep. Goshua said.
“If anybody stand against this bill, that means you stand against the interest of the country. Every well-meaning citizen have embraced this. The Vice President and six Senators have agreed. We look forward to meeting her for the smooth passage of the bill before the budget is passed.”
The House of Representatives recently passed the amendment to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act of 2014 in its ongoing Special Sitting. The bill seeks to make drug possession and its use non-bailable. The current drug law of 2014 has several loopholes in the fight against drug and substances in Liberia. And this is the defect or statutory infirmity that the amendment seeks to address, said Rep. Goshua.
“As it stands the crime of drug related activities is on misdemeanor within the existing law. People that are accused, some of them don’t even have to appear in court. Their lawyer can go pay their bills. We want now to give the LDEA more teeth to bite and be forceful.”
He continued: “The law, when it is concurred with by the Senate and signed by the President, it will be empowering the LDEA to be more vigorous, while we, at the Legislature are also trying now to give the LDEA more budgetary support because currently, of the total workforce of the LDEA, 60 percent is voluntary.
“So you can’t have people that supposed to be fighting a very lucrative crime and then we are not able to pay them. So, they could be tempted and this thing could just escalate and be worst then what it is. We will lobby with our colleagues, when the budget is being submitted, we get additional budgetary support to the LDEA, in terms of logistics and manpower development and training.”
What’s in the Bill?
The bill seeks to make importation of drugs a non-bailable offense, and a prison term of 20 years. The bill is also recommending a special court for drug related offenses, to speedily try drug cases.
It will be a non-bailable offense for the end users, but they will have the option to go through rehabilitation, training and health attendance, to be rehabilitated and contribute to Liberia’s development. In addition, the law seeks to confiscate properties and money from perpetrators that could be placed into government coffers and used as revenue.
It also seeks to provide centers for rehabilitation throughout the country, and call for the LDEA to be in every county, every region. The law provides that LDEA should be empower financially and logistically to be able to curb the issue of drug crime.
No Respecter of Person
The bill is being passed by the House amid report of widespread involvement of influential people including top public officials in the illegal trade. In early September this year, an official of the LDEA, Col. Martha Massaley, without mentioning name, said a member of the House of Representatives of 54th Legislature was involved in the sale of narcotics. She however, rolled backed her accusation and ‘apologized for lying’ when she appeared before the House for questioning.
Rep. Goshua, speaking to FPA acknowledge that top officials are involved in the sale of drugs. However, he said when passed into the law, the Amended Act will not pick and choose.
“The law is no respecter of persons. Whether you are a top government official or a least person down the line, if you are caught bringing in narcotic substances, in selling and pushing it, causing very serious harm to our future leaders, you will be held culpable and face the full weight of the law.”
He continued: “We are aware that there are top government officials that are doing such. And so this passage at the Lower House should serve as a clarion call, a wakeup call to them. The Days of the free ride are over.’
“Liberia should be preparing our young ones to take over mantle of leadership. When some of us shall have left the scene. We are not going to let our future generations damage as it is now. And so whoever it is, whether you are in government or down the line, you should be aware that the law is being amended and it is targeting you – Importers and sellers.”
On the rehabilitation aspect, he said a bill is being crafted through the sponsorship of Rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (District #4, Montserrado County) to clearly outline institution(s) that will be responsible for rehabilitation purposes. He thanked all of the institutions – both government and civil society for forming a united front in supporting the crafting and subsequent passage of the bill by the House.
He named the West African Drug Policy Network, Global Parliamentarians on Infectious disease, NAYMOTE Partners for Democratic Progress, the Association of Dream Builders, the CSOs and partners, as well as the security sector and other line ministries for their support.