9 November 2012

Liberia: NOCAL in 'Dirty Tricks' - Claims COCIPNAR Boss, to Discredit Rep. Snowe Et Al - But......

Photo: James M. Garresen, II/Executive Mansion
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on an oil rig.

The National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) is at the center of yet another troubling allegation that it is behind the series of attacks, damnation and disparagement championed by some civil society organizations against Representative Edwin Snowe and Speaker Alex Tyler.

Days after Rep. Snowe divulged unpleasant events involved in by stakeholders in the oil sector, he came under barrage of damnation and criticisms and particularly accused of holding secret meeting with an ex-army general in Burkina Faso with the apparent aim of destabilizing the Ellen-led administration, but all of this is said to be a gimmick masterminded by people in the employ of NOCAL.

A head of a civil society organization who claimed he was contacted to do some of the damage against the lawmakers, said NOCAL through its Vice Chairman for Public Affairs, Isreal Akinsanya as well Public Relations Manager, Jonathan Sogbe was being the scheme, siphoning thousands of dollars in the pockets of civil society actors to blackmail and disparage Snowe and others who are on the back of NOCAL.

Coalition to Combat Impunity and Protect Natural Resources (COCIPNAR) through its Chairman Emmanuel Gonquoi accused the two men of "uselessly spending the country's oil money on surrogate groups for selfish interests that will create a minority rich class and a majority poor class."

At a news conference Tuesday of the week, he claimed also that "The reason for the emerging blackmail by NOCAL executives is to besmear the characters of Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe and speaker Alex Tyler that both are negotiating for war."

Mr. Gonquoi claimed to have seen some of the actions with his naked eyes, and that some civil society actors left the hotel (not named) joyously after allegedly receiving US$20,000 in bribe.

"After a couple of minutes, I saw some civil society actors coming from the hotel room with joy; as I entered and took my seat by Israel Akinsayah who is the Vice President for Public Affairs I saw on his iPod a listing of civil society actors some of whom has just left the hotel room", the COCIPNAR Executive Director said.

In the wake of unfolding developments characterized by claims and counterclaims between some lawmakers and the chair of NOCAL, he said he was convinced that "The oil is truly a family property; this is part one of the revelation" and appealed to members of the National Legislature to hold together and do the Liberian people's work.

Gonquoi indicated that he was lured to receive US$15,000 for a deal that would have committed him to lying on Speaker of the House of Representatives J. Alex Tyler and his colleague Representative Edwin Snowe that both are negotiating for war because the executive refused to give them oil block.

He told a news conference Tuesday that one Mr. Roland Johnson asked him to commit himself to saying that Representative Snowe took US$5 million to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as gift from Gazprom, a Russian oil and gas company for campaign support, stressing "This is just a propaganda material without any bit of truth."

"This is just a propaganda materials and no truth about this information," Mr. Gonquoi quoted the negotiator as saying.

As part of the deal, he quoted the Johnson who is seen as middleman that he would be backed by a paid agent who will post as ex-general from Burkina Faso calling from Ghana on local Liberian radio stations confirming an engagement with members of the House of Legislature.

In a startling revelation, he furthered that earlier on October 30, 2012, he was again called to a meeting scheduled Great Wall Hotel in Sinkor with NOCAL Vice President for Public Affairs Jonathan Sogbie.

"The unity in this propaganda massage was felt when he presented his case to me in the same fashion as Mr. Johnson but with one new offer of contract from NOCAL to my organization", Mr. Gonquoi revealed.

"I do not want a sympathy work from you Gonquoi, we should go all out there for them, we will sustained your debate, give contract to your organization to conduct civil education on the oil sector", the civil society boss quoted Mr. Sogbie as saying.

Mr. Gonquoi alleged that he was promised a package that would make him live as a middle class person, and said the contact promised to get to him the next day with the initial package meant to straighten and lubricate the engagement.

He said he was troubled him when the NOCAL Veep for Public Affairs spoke about a trip to Ghana the next day of which his attention was drawn to a statement made by Mr. Johnson that an ex-general was going to call on radio stations.

Mr. Gonquoi further indicated that since his involvement into active advocacy work and activism six years ago, he has strived to re-define the role of civil rights activist in post conflict, adding "today I share this revelation to give the real image behind the constant attacks on members of the National Legislature on information regarding a meeting that allegedly took place between a Liberian lawmaker and one unknown ex-general within the sub-region."

"There is no civil society organizations in this country any longer; what we have here is a bunch of beggars," the COCIPNAR boss maintained.

Commenting on the alleged plan being harbored by the Executive to remove Speaker Alex Tyler was based on the fact that the Executive Branch currently views the Lower House as a threat to a program he described as "enrich the minority and enslaves the majority through poverty".

He named few institutions that benefited from the deal as Petroleum Watch headed by Ralph Brown, Movement for the Defense of the Downtrodden and many others.

When contacted via mobile phone to comment on the allegation, Downtrodden's Executive Director Alfred D. Togbah, Sr. questioned the legality of the institution Mr. Gonquoi claims to represent.

"Go and ask him for the legal status of the group that he claimed to represent; let him show you the article of incorporation along with registration documents from the Ministries of Information and Finance", Mr. Togbah said, and added that COCIPNAR was not even a civil society as claimed by Mr. Gonquoi.

He said, "I do not know him as an advocate of a civil society organization in this country; that is my official position to that".

Appearing on Truth FM's breakfast show earlier this week, Mr. Togbah disclosed that a member of the House of Representative had gone to Burkina Faso and met with an ex-army general, but did not say what the meeting was about.

He as pressed the name the lawmaker concerned but said he would inform appropriate security agencies when the need arises.

Reacting to the allegation, NOCAL's Vice Chairman for Public Affairs Israel Akinsayah vehemently denied having met with him Gonquoi at anywhere.

"I have not met and discussed with the one you are talking about; I do not know him, he is lying", the NOCAL Vice President for Public Affairs said.

The same was Public Relations Manager Jonathan Sogbe who conceded to meeting with Gonquoi at local entertainment center around the Baptist House in Congo Town denounced the allegation that at no time he ever discussed a deal of such nature with him (COCIPNAR Executive Director) as he claimed.

Saying that the man was talking total nonsense, he contradicted earlier concession that he met him, stressing "I have never met him lest to discuss a deal of such; he is lying."

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