Liberia: Who Stole the Money? Nasseman’s Hipco Hit Latest to Speak Truth to Power
Monrovia – When Liberia was engulfed in a mystery surrounding the disappearance of millions of local currencies last year, Augustine Ford aka
Report by Rodney D. Sieh,
The tune asking the burning question is the latest to delve into what happened to billions of dollars in local currency and the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding US$25 million infused as a mop-up exercise to help curb the rising foreign exchange rate.
Cutting off the Truth
“They are stepping on the root because they don’t’ want to tree to bear fruit; they step on the truth, they cut off the truth,” Nasseman says of politicians on his new track.
A report by the international auditing firm, Kroll, commissioned by the U.S. Government – called for ‘further understanding’ of how a mop-up exercise was conducted while reporting a wide-range of discrepancies in the process and made the following recommendation: “Given the many discrepancies noted in the manner in which the mop-up exercise was conducted in relation to the infusion of the US$25 Million into the Liberian economy; and the scope, time and financial resource limitations encountered by the PIT-TC, the investigation recommends that the TEMT and the Central Bank of Liberia put a halt to the exercise, and that a forensic investigation of the entire mop-up exercise be conducted without any delay.”
Kroll added: “Given the many discrepancies observed throughout the investigation in relation to the operations of the Central Bank of Liberia in executing its statutory mandate, there is a need to review the Standard Operational Procedures (SOP), banking supervision and internal controls of the Central Bank of Liberia to curb the possibility of abuse of the money supply of the nation; as well as, enhancing efficiency and productivity. 3.7 To further protect currency banknotes in reserve, the Central Bank of Liberia should consider discontinuing the use of the Vault at the erstwhile National Housing and Saving Bank.”
Separately, the Special Presidential Task Force recommended that given the many discrepancies noted in the manner in which the mop-up exercise was conducted in relation to the infusion of the US$25 Million into the Liberian economy; and the scope, time and financial resource limitations encountered by the PITTC, the TEMT and the Central Bank of Liberia put a halt to the exercise, and that a forensic investigation of the entire mop-up exercise be conducted without any delay.
President George Manneh Weah, on Thursday, March 7, gave the General Auditing Commission (GAC) a two-week mandate to report on the findings of the Presidential Investigative Team’s report, which calls for a ‘forensic investigation’ of the entire US$25 million mop-up exercise carried out by the Central Bank of Liberia, and the report done by Kroll.
As lingering questions hoover over the scandal, Hipco artists like Nasseman, Fo4Doe and others are using their music to add weight to the new political dispensation in Liberia.
Nasseman’s latest, “Who Stole the Money (from the Central Bank)” follows the 2017 Hipco Collaboration banger, Pot-Boiling Remix which featured X-Polay, Romeo Lee, JD Donzo, Luckay Buckay, Takun J, and Bentman Tha Don, which addressed widespread corruption in the former administration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Playing on Papa Coming Home
During her January 2006 inaugural address, Sirleaf lamented: “As you know, in our various communities and towns, our children have a way of greeting their fathers when they come home after a long, tiring day of trying to find the means to feed the family that night and send the children to school the next day. They say, “Papa na come.”
On the Pot-Boiling Remix, singer Romeo Lee sings about the reality of Papa coming home but can’t even afford to buy a spoon in a dog-eat-dog nation where everybody pot boiling except those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Like the Pot-Boiling Remix, Nasseman’s “Who Stole the Money (from the Central Bank) hits to the core, using a figurative question to wonder how leaders past and current have used Liberia as a cash cow to loot the country?
Says the singer: “The chorus is a figurative expression I
use as Liberia. “The country is a Central Bank that any corrupt politician and
money doubler coming to Liberia because they feel they are educated with a
couple of degrees they got their chances from the Diaspora, come into Liberia
and exploit our people. It’s not only this regime, it has been happening since
1847 – we’ve seen Liberia as a corruption and there have been no development in
our country as compared to our next-door neighbors. So, corruption has eaten us
up altogether. So, I was inspired to put this chorus together.”
Drawing his inspiration from the missing container of local currency, the singer, who is also an ambassador for Transparency International, says the chorus has been in the works for some time now. “As the anti-corruption ambassador artist, I like to write songs like this – as you know I wrote a song called Bonkey which won the anti-corruption award.
Nasseman says corruption is a major thorn in our society nowadays. “Instead of things going forward I think they are going backward; prices are going up, there’s fluctuation in the market, we are seeing people losing jobs and the economy is going down – to the extent that three-day calls are about to be abolished.”
Suppressing Free Speech
The Hipco star laments that the continued suppression of freedom of speech – and the police and DEA around supporting drugs and armed robbery in the country today is alarming. “I cannot be the ambassador for Transparency International and looking in my own country and seeing corruption going on in my very eyes and sit supinely – I have to speak toward it.”
The same sentiments expressed by AFo4Doe and Skinny Boy Kpanto in interviews with FPA last October for their hit, “Bring our Containers Back”. “We always let things to pass by, especially money issues in our country can just die and no one can talk about it. This is not the first time that money is not accounted for. However, this time around we won’t only talk about this issue, but it will also be recorded through music since we are musicians. We will talk about it through our songs even if the government doesn’t give account, a record will be there,” he said.
Speaking truth to power is not always easy. Both AFo4Doe and Kpanto received threats after their hit last year. As did the feisty female Hipco star MC Caro, who released a statement after her hit, Bring Our Money Back”. Since the release of” bring our money back”, I’ve received many strange calls from random people threatening to silence me. No more freedom of speech? They can even kill you and go once no eyewitness. What have we gotten ourselves into in this country? The fact remains we are musicians and we should have the freedom to express ourselves the way we want and need to.”
For Nasseman, who is wrapping production of his video for a release son, the threat is inevitable. I won’t be surprised, it has happened in so many countries, where artists were manhandled by government just for speaking out the truth. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise to me but nevertheless, we await any approach.”
Questions Keep Lingering
The musician says they are the voice of the voiceless, the voice of the underprivilege, the voice of the people that want to speak but they don’t have the chance to get their voices out there and should be the ones blowing the whistle on injustices in the society.
Thousands of followers have already downloaded the hit single and more are expected to when the video is unveiled in a few days. “If you listen to the song, we are not indicting no one, but who the cap fit you will wear it. But the song is becoming massive on the streets -from Nimba, Kakata and other areas of the country, gotten thousands of views since it posted last week for I-Tunes Liberia last week,” the artist says. “The song has caught off like a wildfire because It is heard on every street corner and ghetto in fact a police officer told me my pekin, it not easy. You talking it but that is the truth. Talk it.”
As Liberians await the outcome of yet another report, this time from the General Auditing Commission, Nasseman hopes the song will continue to pile the pressure until the truth surfaces. “We need some investigators on board, we need to critically look at the matter, so that the matter can be properly concluded and information disseminated among the common people and they can know how their money has been spent – even the US$25 million that was given to Yanna Boys under the guise of a mop-up exercise, we are yet to hear any information as to what has happened. So, the question still continues, who stole the money?