10 January 2018

Liberia: Nuquay Et Al Vs Ellen - Payback Time?

Photo: FrontPage Africa
Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay

Though the elections are over, the ripple effects it has on the nation are likely to simmer for a while, and maybe spiral out of control, somehow minimally. Aware of the bitterness people harbor after elections for different reasons, President-elect George Weah has been talking and acting reconciliation, setting the stage for national emulation. This could take a while for others to chew, as they might stop at nothing in revenging others' misteps one way and the other. Some Liberians are sensing the current political trend between President Johnson Sirleaf and the National Legislature could be the precursor. With the President banging on lawmakers' doors to pass 13 Bills she profferred, some think it is likely impossible as those who still feel injured by her allegd actions might use it to strike back in a possible payback. The New Republic looks at the prevailing scenarios.

How lawmakers greet and act upon President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's last minute maneuvers to pass 13 distinct pieces of legislations could be overshadowed by spoils of the just-ended elections.

The President is seeking the lawmakers' intervention in the passage of the bills, but whether this is possible under the gavel of Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay, as presiding officer of the House of Representatives evokes public concerns.

Some Liberians think the outgoing Speaker could use his position to stifle the president's agenda as a payback or revenge for her alleged role in denying him (Nuquay) and Vice President Joseph Boakai victory.

He ran alongside VP Boakai on the ticket of the Unity Party but massively lost to CDC's George Weah, accusing the President of having hands in his victory, a claim the president consistently denied through her spokespersons.

Nuquay's quest to recontest his seat in Margibi County District and perhaps retain the Speakership was thwarted by his selection by VP Boakai as running mate in the election UP was confident of winning.

After a very bitter electoral campaign in which she became major focus for alleged 'deceit' against her party, Pres. Sirleaf now looks to the 53rd Legislature which boasts of plenty UP partisans to approve her last legislative agenda.

Senator Varney Sherman, UP Chairman Emeritus, has already expressed reservation over the practicality of passing the 13 bills proffered by the President, according to a local daily Wednesday.

The 53rd legislature is back in Session, having been reconvened by the President, using her constitutional privilege.

Liberians are unhappy that Madam Sirleaf calls for emergency legislative functions with just one and half weeks left to her tenure.

As a preferred choice for madam Sirleaf to succeed then Speaker Alex Tyler in 2016, Speaker Nuquay proved himself worthy of the trust by ensuring the passage of several bills proffered by the Executive.

According to our reporter, the House passed several questionable Bills sent to that august body under the gavel of the outgoing Speaker.

He vowed to work with the Executive Mansion very closely, ensuring that most of the president's programs are fully accomplished.

Possible Bitterness

The elections have come and gone, but the bitterness it generated through different means may hover for a while, it is portended.

The bitterness stemmed, according to some Liberians, from the president's failure to lend support to her party, by extension UP members who ran for re-election and flopped.

Most victimized is said to be the outgoing Speaker who was set to retain his seat but cheated in a political wildfire, for being party of the debunked UP and undressed VP Boakai.

As a result of the alleged machinations against the UP, Nuquay lost the district seat, the speakership and the vice presidency.

Payback time?

With Nuquay still sits on the throne as speaker until January 16, 2018, he has greater role over emergency sitting to ensure the passage of 13 bills.

But our reporter quotes some Liberians as insinuating the passage of the bills could face serious setback as Nuquay and other defeated UP lawmakers might not take it lightly.

"This could be a time for Nuquay and others to prove something to the president for what happened during the elections," remarked Esther Partey, who claims to be a strong UP member.

"The way she treated the VP affected Nuquay and other members of the party who lost their seats. At least, there is a room for them to payback by rejecting all bills."

According to Partey, the outgoing President needed to be taught a lesson that it is wrong to work against others' interest when you will still need them.

The President submitted a 'matrix of 22 bills with a priority of 13 bills' to the Legislature to be considered during the 9-day extension, which is already in effect as of Thursday, January 4, to Saturday, January 13, 2018.

Prominent amongst those Bills are the Dangote Cement Liberia deal in the tune of US$41 million and the extension of the Firestone Agreement.

Besides possible personal feelings that may play out toward her, there are issues still sticky, as expressed by one of her critics, Sen. Sherman (Grand Cape Mount County).

"It is very doubtful, extremely difficult; there is no time, it is impractical, because the President's Bills will not only be the issues, there are issues on elections of the President Pro Tempore, Speaker and Deputy Speaker," Sen. Sherman said.

According to him, there is no amount of 'rubber stamping and 4G speed' that will allow both Houses to pass the 13 Bills.

Time could also serve as overriding factor for negative response to the President's request.

What are Bills?

The 13 bills proffered by the President for passage include Investment Incentive Agreement between Liberia and Dangote Cement-Liberia Limited, An Act Ratifying the Agreement for the Establishment of the African Export Import Bank (AFREMIXBANK), an Act to Amend Title 25, Patriotic and Cultural Observances Law, Chapter 3, Recognition of Distinguished Service, by adding thereto to a New Subsection 64 to be named the Order of the Republic and An Act to name Certain Roads and Bridges in the country.

Others are, a bill to Amend Chapter 22 Subsection 22.76(a) of the Liberian National Police Act, 2015; Land Rights Bill; a Bill to Amend Section 6.1(5) of the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia, Title 4, Liberian Codes of Laws Revised, regarding Permits of Residence; a Bill to Ratify the Investment Incentive Agreement between Liberia and the TIDFORE investment Company and Liberia Steel and Cement Mining (LICEMCO).

The remaining Bills include An Act Repealing the Public Employment Law and Amending the Executive Law to Create a Civil Service Commission; Amendment to the Amended and Restated Concession Agreement between Liberia incorporated; a Bill to Ratify the Concession Agreement between Liberia and the Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI) and the Amendments to the country's Constitution/CRC Propositions and An Act to Amend Title 21 of the Liberian Code of Laws of 1956 to update the Provisions of the Maritime Law and Maritime Regulations to implement the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 and Incorporating other necessary and appropriate Provisions relating to the name change of the Bureau of Maritime Affairs to the Liberia Maritime Authority including edits that were inadvertently overlooked in previous years of the codification of the Maritime Laws and Regulations.

What the Critics Say?

The president's decision to call the Legislature into an emergency session has been criticized.

Her critics say issuing proclamation with almost 12 days in office is unusual.

"This is totally wrong and must not be given credence by the National Legislature," some said, threatening stiff resistance if they act otherwise.

Since 2006, Liberians have witnessed the passage of concession agreements not in their interest.

An international audit of forest sector agreements showed that bulk of them was illegal.

Out of sixty-eight concession agreements passed, only seven are said to be in the interest of the people.

Previous Emergency Sittings

Research shows that 12 legislations including loan agreements were passed between November 8 and December 8, 2016 during emergency siting under the gavel of the outgoing Speaker.

Speaker Nuquay at that time said "this was due to the deplorable state of the country's economy."

He told the nation Executive presented a comprehensive list of legislations which if passed in to law would help better the economy at an appreciable level.

According to him, proper and adequate scrutiny was carried out before the 12 legislations were passed, although some of the bills were had lingered in committees' room for long.

The power to proclaim

Article 32 (b) of the Constitution of Liberia provides that the President shall, on the President's own initiative or upon receipt of a certificate signed by at least one-fourth of the total membership of each House, and by proclamation, extend a Regular Session of the Legislature beyond the date of adjournment or call a Special or Extraordinary Session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concern.

The President's proclamation also acknowledged that there are several unresolved key matters of national interest that require the urgent attention of the 53rd Legislature and is aware of the emergency nature of these matters, which are all geared toward the enhancement of the socioeconomic interests of the state and its people.

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