13 February 2014

Liberia: Jones' Presidential Quest in Question - Senate Amends CBL Act

Monrovia — In the wake of mounting speculations regarding the much-touted presidential ambition of Central Bank of Liberia governor Mills Jones, and a nationwide tour which has already taken him to several parts of Liberia, the Liberian on Thursday, moved to amend the act creating the Central bank of Liberia placing some restraints on Jones and other executives of the CBL.

The Senate Plenary voted Thursday to pass into law an amended provision of the March 18,1999 Act authorizing the Establishment of the Central Bank of Liberia.

Amongst the amended provisions, one prohibits the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the Board of Governors from contesting political office(s) while serving in their respective offices and shall not be qualified to contest any elected office within three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure with the CBL.

In other amended provisions, Sub-Section 3 of Part IV. Section 13 of the CBL Act calls for the removal of the board of governors from office upon a bill of impeachment by the House of Representatives, Upon finding by a majority of the Board of Governors and the recommendation of the President, for several reasons which include; Gross Breach of Duty, Misconduct of Office, Conviction of a Felony and Being declared Bankrupt and Violation of paragraph (a) and /or (b) of sub-section 1 of section 13.

In the senate amended provision, the bill gives power to the National Legislature to determine whether or not an impeachable offense has been committed by the Executive Governor or a member of the Board of Governors at the Central Bank of Liberia.

The bill also gives power to the Legislature to take the necessary action such as impeachment in keeping with the relevant provisions of the constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

Part IX Section 44 which prohibits the Central Bank of Liberia from engaging in trade or participating directly or indirectly in the ownership of any financial, Agriculture, Commercial, Industrial, or enterprises was also amended.

The passage of the bill Thursday was a result of a report submitted to plenary by a special committee established by the Plenary of the Liberian Senate chaired by the Ways, Means and Finance committee.

The special committee chaired by Senator Isaac Nyenabo, Chair of the Senate ways, Means and Finance Committee included members from the Judiciary committee, chaired by Senator Fredrick Cherue of River-Gee County.

The committee was mandated by the plenary of the Liberian senate to investigate the CBL on its Micro Credit Loan Scheme plans to print and supply legal tender banknotes by the CBL Governor Jones to ascertain facts of the governor had the power under the Liberian constitution and the CBL act of 1999.

The Nyenabo's committee has been conducting the investigation for over five months before reporting to plenary.

During the presentation of the committee's report to plenary Senator Nyenabo told his colleagues that his committee invited the CBL governor and members of the board of governors to a public hearing in the joint Chambers of the capitol building where Governor Jones told the lawmakers that he was in no wrong to give out Micro loan to "Deserving Liberians".

Senator Nyenabo also told plenary that as part of their investigation the committee also invited financial and legal experts to a public hearing and the committee was informed by some of these experts that the governor was wrong to offer Micro-loans in keeping with the CBL Act.

Amongst others, the committee recommended that Plenary repeal or amend the March 18,199 CBL act to give the legislature the power.

Governor Jones has being in the midst of speculation of harboring the political ambition to contest for the presidency come 2017 and is being accused of using the Country's reserved for CBL Micro-Loan programs to gain support from ordinary Liberians.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Armah Jallah(National Party of Liberia, Gbapolu County) and has now been sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

Jones has emerged as one of the early 2017 presidential election hopefuls although he has not publicly declared his intentions. His quest has been complicated by the poor performance of the Liberian economy, nursing an inflation where the Liberian dollar is trading at US$1 to L$80. The situation was worse during the month of December to the later part of January when the exchange rate stood at US$1 to L$87. The CBL moved recently to reduce the rate to US$1 to L$80.

The governor's micro loan program has been blamed for the inflation as huge sum of Liberian dollars was infused in the economy chasing the available United States dollars. Others have pointed to rising tension between the governor and Finance Minister Amara Konneh as a key reason for the poor performance of the economy.

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