President George M. Weah may be walking back on his solemn promise to protect his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and shield her from probity and accountability for her 12 years stewardship of the nation.
As public concerns mount about what is seen as runaway corruption in this government and against persistent calls for accountability for the missing L$16 billion and the US$25 million expended on the mopping-up exercise, which was reportedly heavily marred by fraud, the Government of Liberia (GoL) has responded in an apparent attempt to douse the fever pitch of public angst.
As it appears, President George Weah may be walking back on his solemn promise to protect his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and shield her from probity and accountability for her 12 years stewardship of the nation. This was demonstrated by the arrest and jailing of her son and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) on charges of fraud and corruption.
In an interview on Al Jazeera television, former President Sirleaf angrily charged that her son was illegally charged by the Weah government, a position she still maintains.
In a previous interview with eNCA, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, she stormed out of the interview when pressed with charges of corruption against another son, Robert Sirleaf, under whose watch the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) went bust with US$50 million remaining unaccounted for.
When quizzed by journalists, she responded saying she took responsibility although she did not refund the stolen money.
This newspaper recalls the avalanche of reports that poured into its offices accusing the former President of providing substantial material and financial support to the presidential bid of then Senator George Weah during the 2017 elections, which saw his rise to power.
But the honeymoon enjoyed by the pair would soon come to head as President Weah's financial managers, hemmed by charges of rampant corruption, have turned the tables instead on the former President and her corps of officials, and have now set up what is officially called the Assets Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRReT).
Led by Cllr. Syrenius Cephus, the AIRReT has invited former officials of the past government to appear before it, beginning July 22, 2019, to provide clarifications on multiple questions arising out of General Audit Commission (GAC) audit and Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC) investigative reports.
Critics have, however, slammed the move, describing it as an attempt by President Weah to use the former officials as convenient scapegoats to deflect or distract public attention from the indiscretions of the current crop of government officials, who have and continue to face harsh public criticism for being responsible for the current economic down slide.
To what extent these measures will apply remains to be seen against expressed public concerns about past officials including former Speaker Alex Tyler, incumbent Senator Varney Sherman, and others perceived and acclaimed as avowed supporters of this government, who are apparently being let off the hook.
A lawyer, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told the Daily Observer that the exercise is selective and appears indistinguishable from a 'witch hunt' because, according to him, the dragnet which should be out for all corrupt officials, past and present, is being adjusted to include only certain officials of the past government, but notably excluding President Sirleaf herself.
Whatever the case, according to the lawyer, the public should be prepared for what could be unexpected twists and turns in this case that may see President Sirleaf digging deep into her arsenal for a response to this development that may not only salvage her battered image, but may succeed in casting doubt and aspersion on President Weah's true motives for proffering charges against her former officials, including her son now facing court trial on charges of fraud and economic sabotage.
Below is the statement the Asset Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRReT released on Thursday, July 18, 2019 by Lafayette O. Gould and, spokesperson and Approved by Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson, Chairman, Special Independent Counsel.
A Partial official list of "Persons and Institutions of Interest" who have been invited by the AIRReT to appear before it starting from July 22, 2019 to provide clarifications on multiple questions arising out of GAC audit and LACC investigative reports:
Milton & Richards
ECOBANK Liberia Limited
Managing Director of ECOBABK
Lori Shannon/ Karen Richards Barnes
Joseph F. Johnson
Hon. Brownie J. Samukai, Jr.
J. Nyumah Dorkor
Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh
Hon. Samuel Wlue
Dr. Walter T. Gwanigale
Matthew T. K. Flomo
John M. Langa
Toagoe T. Karzon
Dr. Bernice Dahn
Hon. Edward Tolbert
Amara Konneh--former Minister of Finance and Development Planning
Binyah Kessely--former Commissioner-General, Liberia Maritime Authority
Jenkins O. Atuanya
Sumo G. Kupee
Jackson F. Doe
Edwin W. Sarvice
Elizabeth M. Tubman
Philip S. Sassie
Oblayon B. Nyemah
Luna M. Harmon
Sylvester N. Sieh
Boiyan K. Kpakolo
Cllr. Stanley Kpakillen
Alexander S. Kromah
Note: The Chairman and Special Independent Counsel (SIC), Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson, would like to stress that the failure to honor this invitation and seek alternative arrangement for a possible deferred date for the conference at the time of his choosing would be construed and considered as a defiance, and an attempt to undermine the restitution and recovery process, and therefore, a ground to revert to the most appropriate legal recourse to compel compliance.
Cllr. Lafayette B. Gould Sr.,
Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson
Chairman/Special Independent Counsel/AIRRET/MoJ/R.L.