Liberia: Opposition Lawmaker’s Office Burglarized At Capitol Building
MONROVIA –– The office of the Chairman of the former ruling Unity Party (UP) Legislative Caucus, Representative Hanson Kiazolu, has been burglarized by unknown persons at the Capitol Building in Monrovia, creating panic among the victim’s family members and other opposition politicians in Liberia.
Lawmaker Kiazolu is representing the people of district # 17 in Montserrado County on the ticket of the UP. The UP is one of the political parties that make up the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP). The remaining parties include: All Liberian Party (ALP), Liberty Party (LP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC).
The Capitol Building is the official seat of the National Legislature.
The incident reportedly occurred during the early morning hours of Friday, January 14, 2022.
Speaking in an interview with FrontPage Africa over the weekend via telephone, Representative Kiazolu pointed out that he has been subjected to verbal and physical attacks and intimidations since he and few other lawmakers discovered that portions of monies allocated to some government ministries and agencies in the national budget for fiscal year 2020/2021 were not disbursed by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
He made specific reference to an attack on his home sometimes ago by scores of aggrieved young people who besieged his home, demanding explanation on the US$30,000 he received from the government for “legislative engagement” last year.
The money was allocated and given to each member of the 54th National Legislature to undertake “legislative engagements” in their respective districts and counties.
The aggrieved youths locked the entrance of the lawmaker’s home in Brewerville, outside Monrovia and chanted anti-slogans.
Representative Kiazolu pointed out that the latest incident carried out at his office by those he called “political burglars” is not the first time attempts have been made on his office
“Lots of attempts have been made on my office. Every time I am changing or servicing air conditioners. They are deliberately putting iron in my air conditioners to break part of it. I repaired it over four times last year. Recently, they broke the handle of my door lock and spoiled the windows. I changed everything just day before yesterday. This morning I got prepared and pick up to go to my office, they said someone burglarized my office”.
“They scattered everything; the smart television I had on the wall, they took it from there and lay it on the table in my office. I had a printer, photo copier and laptop and they didn’t carry it but they just scattered all of the documents. I believe that they were searching for sensitive document or the analysis I did on the national budget that I had in my office”.
Representative Kiazolu justified that the current increment in the national budget which is currently before the Liberian Senate should not be trusted.
According to him, figures, particularly the monies allocated to the health sector, are unrealistic.
He justified that monies allocated in the national budget for fiscal year 2020/2021 to some government ministries and agencies, including the University of Liberia were never disbursed.
“The past 2020/2021 national budget, lots of ministries and agencies didn’t receive their appropriations in entirety until the budget period elapsed. There was huge amount in millions that were not received-over US$17M. The University of Liberia came and told us that they didn’t receive their full appropriation”.
Representative Kiazolu disclosed that as a result of the situation he and two other lawmakers, including Francis Dopoh and Rustolyn Dennis of River Gee and Montserrado counties respectively, wrote the House Plenary, through Speaker Bhofal Chambers, to request Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah to submit a ‘fiscal deficiency report’ to that august body.
He claimed that the communication which was sent two months prior to the submission of the current draft budget which is before the Liberian Senate has not been put on the House floor for deliberation.
He accused House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers of playing “political party politics” to prevent the appearance of Minister Tweah.
The Secretary of the House of Representatives prepares the agenda for legislative deliberation in consultation with the Speaker. This implies that the Speaker of the House has the sole authority to decide on the deliberation for the day.
Representative Kiazolu added that the submission of report is necessary to adequately informed members of the National Legislature as well as the budget on the surplus of revenue generation claims raised by authorities of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).
“Since we wrote the Speaker, he has not put the report on the floor. He’s dogging it because the report will inform us and the public that even the US$556 million budget that was passed, ministries and agencies didn’t get their full appropriations and LRA telling us that they collected the US$556 million and above that”.
He emphasized that the surpluses claimed by both government were unrealistic because, some government ministries and agencies expressed concerns that they didn’t receive their previous allocations in full.
“Speaker Chambers them only in the governance system to protect their party (CDC) and the government. So, any error we from the opposition see and want it to be placed on the floor, he (Chambers) will not put it on the floor.
Speaker Chambers, an executive committee member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) has been consistently accused by his colleagues of shielding the executive and preventing them from participating during key legislative deliberations.
He has been accused of downplaying the placement of communications proffered by his colleagues against his party officials who are serving in government and failing to recognize opposition lawmakers during key deliberations and the filing of motions on critical national issues.
““From last year up to date, our communication has not come on the floor because it is damaging and we already have the reports from the ministries and agencies that came for the budget hearing. We said the budget should not be passed until the Minister sends in the report”.
Though Representative Kiazolu has the requisite qualifications and experience to sit on the Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, he was not appointed on the committee to represent his county. He holds two Masters in Accounting and others fiscal disciplines, including Advanced Diploma in Financial Management in the Changing World from the University of Liberia and Harvard in the United States.
Despite lacking the required qualifications, CDC’s lawmaker Thomas Fallah of Montserrado was appointed by the Speaker to head the lucrative committee.
Look into it
Representative Kiazolu observed that the draft national budget was hastily passed by the House of Representatives due to the presence of a good number of lawmakers from the ruling party.
“I was during some technical work on the budget in my office when the budget was passed”.
He noted that ahead of the general and presidential elections in 2023, there are unrealistic figures that are visible within the draft financial instrument, and as such, members of the Liberian Senate committee on the budget should do due diligence by scrapping of those figures.
“Most of those unrealistic figures in the draft budget are from the executive. They want to benefit and do lot of campaign activities from the national budget. That’s a key issue that should be looked at”.
Representative Kiazolu pointed out that he and some colleagues from the House have taken steps to ensure that their colleagues from the opposition community within the Senate do not pass the budget leaving those things undone.
“We are calling on our colleagues from the Senate that before they can pass the budget, let Minister Tweah and his colleagues bring in the financial deficiency report because we are having an analysis that is telling us that, for the past two fiscal years, most of the appropriations from line ministries and agencies have not been received in totality, and LRA statement that they collected surplus-we need to know what happened to the balance appropriation”.
Speaking further, Representative Kiazolu stated that the latest burglary on his office is not only “political”, but it is also an attempt to clampdown on critical voices in the Liberian society.
The UP lawmaker claimed that he and his family members are living in fear as a result of the growing wave of verbal and physical assaults and intimidation against him.
“I am calling on the security apparatus that my life and the lives of my family have been threatened at my house and even at the office. My wife just told me this afternoon that she wants to leave the house with the children because this thing is being masterminded by a specialized group of people”.
Representative Kiazolu claimed that family members of opposition politicians would be subjected to attacks and intimidations if there are no means to get at them directly.
“Security at the Capitol Building and even our homes need to be step up. We are telling our international partners that we that are in the opposition, the President and his government want to silent critical voices and go after our families. Our children have nothing to do with party politics or governance”.
“It was not a criminal that broke into my office otherwise; they could have taken the television, printer or the laptop. But they didn’t touch any. My mind is telling me that it was political burglars. It’s dangerous and we cannot continue to live in fear with our families”.
When contacted via telephone, the Spokesperson of the House of Representatives Robert Haynes said he was not aware of the incident.
He promised to verify the information in a bid to respond adequately.
Another follow-up called was made to Director Haynes on whether or not he has verified the report, and the accusations levied against the Speaker by lawmaker Kiazolu.
Director Haynes again promised to call this writer, but up to press time, he has failed to do so.