21 September 2018

Liberia: It Is Now High Time President Weah Break His Silence

Photo: Le Pays
President George Weah is reported to have asked the FBI in the U.S. to investigate claims of missing banknotes.

As the current imbroglio unravels amidst a plethora of denials and contradicting accounts of what actually happened to the disappeared billions, statements by Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and former Comptroller-General Hassan Kiazolu, now a legislator, have dismissed claims by Information Minister, Eugene Nagbe, that the money went missing after it was brought into the country in 2017.

Minister Nagbe declared, "We can confirm that the money was brought through the Freeport of Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport, and for now we can confirm that the amount was L$16 billion."

"An estimate of a little over US$60 million, as far as we are concerned from ongoing investigation as of today, came in the two ports of entry."

But Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, dismissing the Information Minister's claims, told the public on a local radio, to pay no heed to the Information Minister's account on the missing billions, adding that the money had since been infused into the economy. He drew support from the former Comptroller-General of the Republic of Liberia, Hassan Kiazolu, now an elected member of the House of Representatives.

But the current Comptroller-General of the Republic of Liberia, Janga Kowo, shrugging off Tweah's assertions that the money had been infused into the economy, told the public, on a local radio, that money coming into the country is handled by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), where it is taken into custody after clearance from a port of entry. Any further movement of that money from the CBL has to be authorized and its movement recorded.

In other words, there has to be a paper trail; so far, aside from documents showing the movement of the money from ports of entry, there is no evidence or paper trail showing that the money was moved from the Central Bank into Government of Liberia's accounts at the various commercial banks. Now the public is finding it difficult to ascertain who is actually telling the truth, giving the whole imbroglio a semblance of something contrived by this government to hide the truth from the public.

And given this state of uncertainty, characterized by conflicting accounts by government officials, the public now appears to be feeding on a very active rumor mill that is peddling a lot of unconfirmed reports, especially on the social media platform, Facebook. These are some of the reasons why the public, judging from comments on social media, now appears troubled by what they have described as conspicuous silence on the part of National Skipper George Manneh Weah.

In troubling situations like these, the people usually tend to look up to national leadership, to provide a sense of direction or to do something to allay whatever fears of impending doom they may harbor. In 1994, when former Armed forces of Liberia General Charles Julu and a little band of men seized the Executive Mansion, Monrovia residents were left in a state of panic and uncertainty after the chairman of the 5-man Council of State, David Kpomakpor, failed to address the nation.

Eventually, he did but not until troops of the West African Peace Keeping Force, ECOMOG, had shut down Julu's operations and forcefully evicted him and his band of followers from the Executive Mansion. Only then was a sheepish sounding voice attributed to Kpomakpor was heard on ELBC radio, thanking the Peace Keepers for their prompt intervention. But this was, by then, of little input as people were already going about their normal business.

Similar parallels can be drawn today to the current imbroglio surrounding the missing billions of Liberian dollar banknotes. This rather sleazy affair has kept the attention of the nation riveted to unfolding developments, as sparks continue to fly, with freely flowing accusations and counter accusations from current and past officials including Nobel Laureate and former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Through it all, President Weah has so far maintained a stony silence on the affair, as compelling as the situation is. Former President Sirleaf has meanwhile launched an attack on her successor, charging him for what she claims is a wicked attempt to besmear and impugn her character. It can be recalled that President Weah, in his inaugural address, told the nation that he had inherited a broke nation with empty coffers. But the former President retorted quickly, with claims that she had indeed left 160 million US dollars in the state's coffers.

Strangely, neither President Weah nor any of his top officials responded in kind to her claims, either denying or confirming her assertions. Similarly too, in this situation, President Weah has maintained his silence while his officials continue to trade spats to the bewilderment of the public. Just who to believe, is the question foremost on the mind of the public, while on the other side is a former President, whose reign was characterized by "rampant" corruption, with millions disappearing from the national coffers with impunity.

And then there is a new government whose officials appear to be gravely infected by the corruption virus. For example, since President Weah took office, he has embarked on a slew of construction projects which include the destruction in April of his 9th Street home, with its reconstruction currently ongoing. Another multi complex project is ongoing in the vicinity of the Baptist Seminary, while the Jamaica Resort has been completed and is operating.

Some of President Weah's close officials, including Nathaniel McGill, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Bhofal Chambers, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Jefferson Koijee, Monrovia City Mayor, are all reported to have bought houses costing hundreds of thousands of United States dollars. A key question is, from where was the money generated to facilitate all these projects in a broke economy?

These and more are all reasons just why President Weah should unseal his lips and tell the Liberian people the truth about this entire affair. If need be, heads must roll in order to clean up the mess and restore sanity to the nation's finances and, most importantly, restore the trust and confidence of the people which appear to be fast eroding. It is now high time President Weah break his silence.

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