Liberia: Who’s Illegally Swapping Boakai’s Nominees?

President Joseph Nyuma Boakai

There has been an increased frequency of complaints about names clandestinely being swapped from the lists of presidential appointments at the last minute before they are published. This issue had apparently been rather rampant with regard to much lower level presidential appointments, especially those that did not require an extra layer of scrutiny, such as Senate confirmation or board approval. However, it has been more than a month since President Joseph Nyuma Boakai was sworn into office and many are concerned that the desperation for presidential appointments has swelled to a level that makes the process susceptible to bribery and other corrupt dealings. 

Now, even senior-level presidential appointments are being swapped — ever so blatantly — and the culprits appear to be getting away with it.

“There is a snitch and mole in the new President’s office,” a top government source told the Daily Observer. “The difference is that this new [culprit] is not changing wordings of legal documents in the President’s office but is swapping official names of nominees that are given for publication.”

Officials allegedly acting as moles within the Executive Mansion are causing uproar by allegedly swapping names of nominees on official lists sanctioned by the President for release to the public. This clandestine activity has been reported at various ministries, including the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Labor, and Ministry of Health.

EFFL’s Gonquoi Outburst

The leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), Emmanuel Gonquoi, rejected his appointment by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai as Deputy Labor Minister-designate, for planning and manpower, citing manipulation of the appointment process.

Gonquoi told journalists that he could not accept his nomination because the commitment made to him and his institution by President Boakai was not reflected in the public pronouncement made by the Executive Mansion.

He said prior to his appointment on February 20, he had a meeting with President Boakai on Saturday, February 16, 2024, during which they agreed that EFFL’s National Chairman, Steve Saah Kolubah, would be appointed as the Minister of Labor, while Prince Saah Bonnah, Jr., would be appointed as deputy director for administration at the National Housing Authority.

“When the President and I met on Saturday, he confirmed the three appointments to various entities we first talked about, and he also noted that our letters were already signed,” Gonquoi noted.

Gonquoi, however, alleged that certain individuals within the President’s Office had rearranged the roles, placing him in the role of National Chairman and the National Chairman in the role of Vice Chair for Economic Affairs.

“To be honest, they have to exercise caution or else they will turn the Presidency into a source of bewilderment and laughter with their unprofessional behavior,” the EFFL head stated.

The Transport Ministry Swap that Backfired

Also affected by the swapping controversy was the Ministry of Transport, an entity in which Vice President Jeremiah Kpan had a huge interest.

Prior to the VP’s travels to Nigeria and then Morocco, Gonquoi said he had presented a list containing names of his interests that would have been nominated by the President in a few days — a list that top government sources indicated was approved by President Boakai. On the VP’s list, Archibald S. Abban was earmarked to be nominated as Deputy Minister for Land & Rail Transport.

However, in the Feb 13 Executive mansion announcement, Rudolph Gbee Natt was appointed Deputy Minister for Road and Rail, instead of Abban.

“The entire Ministry was shocked because we all were aware that Abban was to occupy the post and the VP has given that assurance,” a top MOT official said. “However, did that change overnight? That is how some of our colleagues started placing calls to VP Koung. He told everyone that we should not worry and that the right thing would be done when he returns.”

“True to his words, upon Koung's return, Abban's name was part of the subsequent list of nominees that came out on February 20,” the source said. “We learned that there is someone at the Executive Mansion who is swapping nominees’ names, and this is bad.”

Though Abban, a former Senior Procurement Specialist and former Director of Procurement, at MOT, was nominated, it was not for the post that was earmarked for him. He was rather nominated as Deputy Minister for Administration (DMA). 

The President is yet to withdraw Natt’s nomination, but Kansualism B. Kansuah was nominated for the same post. 

The Ministry of Health Controversy

The loudest noise over the swapping of nominees ‘names has come from the Ministry of Health (MOH). The Executive Mansion, in its February 20, 2024 pronouncement named former Nimba County Representative, Roger S.W.Y. Domah, as Deputy Minister for Administration (DMA), while Martha Morris, a career health worker and leader in the sector for many years, as Assistant Minister for Administration.

Reports have emerged since those appointments that the names of the nominees were swapped by aides in the Office of the President as Morris was the official nominee sanctioned by the President for the DMA post. Domah was being considered for another post.

Ministry of State sources told the Daily Observer over the weekend that Morris, a staunch UP supporter and someone who stood up to the CDC regime for healthcare workers, name was being held for the DMA post and they did not know how it got turned around.

Though the sources did not accuse any officials of being responsible, supporters of the two nominees have been trading accusations over who might have been responsible for the swap or those who want Domah’s nomination to be rescinded by the President.

In a statement last week, a Domah support group accused Bong County Senator Prince Moye of pressuring President Boakai to withdraw Domah’s nomination.

They said Moye was bent on ensuring that people under his control, or of his interest, occupy key Deputy for Administration positions at several Ministries and Agencies where administrative, financial, and personnel issues are concentrated.

“Moye already has his confidants in deputy for administration positions at several crucial ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Finance, but is still insisting and fighting to plant more of such people at the Ministry of Health,” the group said. “He is also said to be planting his family members at lucrative public corporations in both active duty roles and board positions as part of an apparent effort to widen his influence in critical financial and human resource decision-making processes in the Boakai administration.”

The statement added that many people in the circle of the Unity Party and its alliance see the huge desire of one individual to control a good deal of important personnel and financial decision-making portfolios in government as troubling.

In a response, Moye noted that he has no power to pressure the President into making any decision.

“I think what has happened is, that person was misplaced, and the President is not satisfied and he is determined to bring individuals who did that to book. So the way to confuse the public is to use Moye — that he is pressuring the President. How can I pressure that kind of President with that wealth of experience, very educated, to do something that is not right?” he asked rhetorically.

“So if you were appointed, that was it, but if your appointment was done clandestinely and you are trying to use the compel/compliance attitude on the President, then you must be joking, because it is not President Boakai that I know,” he said.

He said Morris is a well-known Unity Party member, an experienced health worker with over 15 years of leadership in the sector.

“She comes from Bong County, and the President knows her very well and she is not someone that I need to fight for. Do I need to go to President Boakai and tell him ‘here [is] Martha’? He knows what she is capable of doing,” Moye said. “So if something has short-changed within the circle of the President, it should not be attributed to me. They should solve their problems in the Mansion…their frequent problem that is occurring there that all of us know about…let them solve it and leave Prince Moye’s name because Martha is not anybody that I can fight for.”

He added that Martha has fought for herself over the years and has earned the respect of the Unity Party and Liberians as a whole.

“She has earned the respect of the President and she is a stand-alone female fighter in the health sector. She deserves the top position and if anybody did that to her wrong, and the President is trying to reprimand that person by bringing that person to book and exposing her or him,..that person should have him or herself to blame, I’m not in it,” he said.

Moye noted that he can in no way compel the President to change names that have been announced, “But if the President feels that was not the name that was associated with the position, he has the right to correct it and those involved in that [should] face the full weight of his administrative power.”

Meanwhile, some of Morris’ supporters have pointed accusing fingers at Deputy Minister of State for Administration, Cornelia Kruah Togba, for being responsible for the swapping.

After the controversy, reports emerged that she was investigated and was being considered for suspension by the President.

The Executive Mansion, however, rebuffed the report, indicating that Kruah was facing no investigation and that she was not suspended, as was being insinuated in the public. “The Office of the President categorically states that the information is unfounded, false, and misleading and is the work of fake news,” the Executive Mansion statement said. “At no time did the President take such an action. Moreover, all nominations and subsequent appointments are the responsibility and prerogative of the President as guaranteed by Article 54 of the Constitution.”