Lawmakers Risk Expulsion for Raising Red Flag on House Leadership
Monrovia – Several lawmakers have been placed under investigation for calling on the leadership of the House of Representatives to probe into a barrage of allegations of malpractices perpetrated by House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and associates.
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]
The lawmakers, Reps. Jay Nagbe Sloh (CDC, Sinoe County Dist. #2), Adolph Lawrence (CDC, Montserrado Dist. #15) and Yekeh Kolubah (Montserrado Dist. #10, NPP) are being investigated by the Committee on Rules, Order
The decision was triggered by a communication from Rep. Munah Pelham-Youngblood (CDC, Montserrado Dist. #9), who is the Chairperson on Executive. Rep. Youngblood craved her colleagues’ indulgence to refer the concerned lawmakers to the Committee on Rules, Order and Administration to provide proof or be punished.
In a scathing attack on Speaker Chambers following the first-day sitting of the Second Session, Rep. Sloh revealed that they have in their possession documents, which show that some lawmakers, with the consent of the Speaker have over the months received and disposed personally “huge quantity” of duty-free gasoline that was intended for the entire body.
Sloh’s allegations were backed by Rep. Yekeh Kolubah, when addressing reporters. Rep. Kolubah displayed documents allegedly signed by Rep. Mariamu Fofana, Chairman of the House Rules, Order and Administration Committee, which showed that she received a consignment of duty-free gasoline on behalf of the House.
But in her communication, Rep. Youngblood noted that the attitudes of her colleagues by constantly appearing on local media labeling allegations that have the proclivity of bringing that august body to public disrepute.
Rep. Youngblood: “With these grave allegations, Honorable Speaker and fellow colleagues, I write to request plenary to take this seriously and refer to those concerned lawmakers to the Rules, Order and Administration Committee to provide proof of their claims and failure on their part, disciplinary actions be taken against them in line with our rules, so as to maintain the sanity and sacredness of this August body.”
Meanwhile, plenary voted in favor of Rep. Youngblood’s request, but following a series of amendment to Rep. Edward Karfia’s motion, it was agreed the Chair of the Rules, Order and Administration Committee, Rep. Mariamu Fofana recuses herself from the investigation since she is also at the center of the saga.
The Committee was also mandated to investigate Rep. Kolubah’s claim that the Speaker is not a Liberian, but a Togolese; while every lawmaker was asked to refrain from commenting on the issues as investigation goes on.
Political Infighting Resurfaces at Lower house
Despite Speaker Chambers’ plead for harmony among the House’s members, claims and counterclaims coupled with acrimonious infighting that marred the first session of the 54th Legislature has resurfaced at the Lower House.
The first day-sitting of the 54th Legislature’s second session was engulfed with drama when a communication by Rep. Lawrence, backed by Rep. Sloh, calling on plenary to suspend every item that has been earmarked for the day and “discuss a number of very pertinent issues that affect the smooth operations of the House that severely impact the delivery of services to our people.”
Their request was squashed by the Speaker on grounds that it was not in line with legislative proceedings and Rep. Lawrence was subsequently expelled from Tuesday’s sitting by the Speaker for disturbing session.
In solidarity with Lawrence, Rep. Sloh walked out of session and moments later, while addressing legislative reporters unleashed a stinking attack on the Speaker and threatened to not sit under the Speaker’s gavel until the allegations of malpractices including diversion of gasoline and budget manipulation are addressed.
He also called on his colleague to speak truth to power, and not always ‘whisper at the back and voice their opinions through gossip, and at the same time labelled the Speaker as unfit and called for his removal.
“We told them in the letter that until we can discuss those issues, some of us will not sit under the Speaker’s gavel. That is poor leadership, the Speaker is very incompetent. He cannot manage 71 people. Is this the man who in case of any eventuality will become President of this country? Only over the dead bodies of some of us. The guy is completely incompetent, and I have no regret saying it,” he vented.
He was supported by Rep Kolubah, who blamed Speaker Chambers for being the architect of the infighting that has engulfed the Lower House since his election as their leader in 2018.
Kolubah, speaking to the press on Wednesday, January 16, displayed documents bearing the signatures of Rep. Mariamu Fofana, Chairperson of the House Rules, Order and Administration Committee, which showed that she received huge quantity of petroleum products (gasoline and diesel) on behalf of the House between July 2018 to December 2018.
Reps. Sloh and Lawrence Call on Leadership for Benefits
In addition to the gasoline’s allegation, Rep Sloh has called on the leadership of the House to ensure that each member of that august receive their just benefit as promised in 2018.
He revealed that the House had an agreement with the Executive Branch to forgo portion of their benefits (legislative project fund) and only be given vehicles due to financial constraints.
Since the passage of the budget, he said they have not been given the vehicles, except Speaker Chambers, who has a fleet of luxurious cars in his motorcade.
He said the decision to deprive them their vehicles is not only posing serious problems to them in visiting their constituents, but it is a complete antithesis of Speaker Chambers’ previous advocacy of just benefits among lawmakers when he was “just a floor member.”
“Since the budget was passed, we have not received any car. But the Speaker has a separate budget and I believe he has bought more than two cars now since he took over. Are we animals and not entitled to cars too? To get to my district, I rent a car for US$250 per day. We are demanding that our cars be delivered to the Capitol Building.”
He furthered that following the passage of the 2018/2019 budget, again Speaker Chambers and his team ‘clandestinely’ altered the budget and apportioned figures to “bogus institutions’ out of conflict of interest.
“How did St. Francis Hospital in Pleebo (the Speaker’s constituent) get more than US$300,000 when J.J. Dorsen Hospital (government’s institution) in Haper did not get that,” he asked rhetorically.
He was referring to a saga in October 2018, when some aggrieved members of the Ways, Means and Finance Committee wrote the Speaker expressing “shock and regret” about alteration of the entire 2018/2019 budget.
A memo obtained by FrontPageAfrica revealed how over a million United States dollars allotted to some public health institutions in the approved draft national budget were diverted to some private healthcare centers and clinics in the printed version of the national budget.
Judging from past experience, some political pundits say if the situation at the Lower House is not amicably resolved in time, it has the proclivity to stall the workings of that body at a time the country is experiencing it worst economic nightmare.