In spite of the at-long-last recusal of Speaker J. Alex Tyler Sr. as Presiding Officer of the House of Representatives, another discordant fight amongst the Representatives has erupted with the Anti-Tyler Lawmakers demanding to maintain the Joint Chamber as their Sacred Chamber, while the Pro-Tyler Lawmakers are insisting on using the regular House Chamber to conduct the business of the Lower House.
Besides Grand Bassa County District # 3 Representative, Gabriel B. Smith, who is publically opting for the closure of the Joint Chamber, owing to the recusal of Speaker Tyler, the silence of most of the rebel lawmakers indicate their desire to stay in the Joint Chamber.
Rep. Smith told the Daily Observer yesterday in a telephone interview that while he desires they (Anti-Tyler Lawmakers) return the main House Chamber, his personal view can be overridden by the ‘majority.’
Howbeit, the over 22 members of the Pro-Tyler camp are insisting on meeting in the main Chamber, even after the Speaker has recused himself.
Bong County District #6 Representative Adam Bill Corneh, who is said to be on the side of upholding the Constitution and the House’s Rules, urged his colleagues not to continue promoting divisiveness and disorderliness and insisting on their “own ways” without giving credence to the rules of the House.
Rep. Corneh indicated that if the Barchue faction is resolute in remaining in the Joint Chamber for whatever reason, they should come to the House’s Chamber and allow it be duly done through “voting.”
Hijack of Committees?
The Daily Observer has learnt that there is a high probability that the seemingly blatant refusal of the ‘Majority’ to return to the House Chamber is to hijack the roles of Statutory Committees.
Many ‘Anti-Tyler Lawmakers’ believed that the return to the House’s Chamber would compel them to rotate most of their decisions which were unlawfully concluded during their campaign for the recusal of the Speaker.
A lawmaker who spoke anonymously said returning to the Chamber would allow them to be completely subjected to the House’s rules. Another said a return to the Chamber could re-empower Statutory Committees, which the faction is against.
Prior to the Speaker’s recusal, the House’s Committees on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning and Public Accounts decided to resume budget hearings this week, while the Anti-Tyler Lawmakers have requested the discharge of the 2016/2017 Budget from the Committees.
Former co-Chairman of the House’s Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning, Rep. Prince Moye – who also served as the Chairman for the 2016 Convention of the Unity Party – has been appointed to serve as the Chairman of the House’s Budget Committee.
This decision to select a new committee while the duly appointed committee is set to resume the budget hearing could cause a rigmarole in the Lower House.
Recusal Hangs Over Deputy Speaker
The Daily Observer has also learnt that another reason why the ‘Majority’ is refusing to go to the House is fear over the removal of Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue – Chairman of the 2013 Nationwide Oil and Gas Consultation Tour – who has been acutely accused of allegedly misappropriating US$1.2 million.
Rule 10 of the House’s Rules and Procedures on the Succession of the Leadership has compelled the Deputy Speaker to act as Presiding Officer in the absence of the Speaker, J. Alex Tyler, who has recused himself over a criminal indictment.
The House’s Rules also said that in the absence of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, any member who is elected to serve as Presiding Officer, “Such member shall be known as ‘Speaker Pro-Tempore.’”
Sources told the Daily Observer over the weekend that scores of Representatives have also resolved to insist on the recusal of the Deputy Speaker, inasmuch as the Speaker has stepped down for the sanity of the Legislature. These Representatives are insisting on disallowing Deputy
Speaker Hans Barchue from presiding over House’s Plenary because of his alleged misappropriation of US$1.2million, an amount provided by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) in 2013 for a nationwide consultation on Oil and Gas amid the passage of the Oil and Gas Laws.
These lawmakers contend that the “fight of consecrating” the House of Representatives should also compel the Deputy Speaker to step-down, having ‘mismanaged’ US$1.2 million which was intended to be used in the interest of the Liberian people through consultations.
Some sources said NOCAL provided US$1.2 million for the nationwide oil and gas consultation but that the amount was grossly corrupted by Deputy Speaker Barchue.
The sources said the Chairmen on Ways, Means and Finance and Rules, Order and Administration, Reps. Emmanuel Nuquay and Edwin M. Snowe, respectively, on order of the Deputy Speaker, expended the US$300,000 among the Nationwide Tour Committee members, while the remaining US$900,000 was turned over to him (Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue).
Other sources said Reps. Emmanuel Nuquay and Edwin M. Snowe are said to have given the US$300,000 to the Liberian Senate, a rumor which was vehemently rejected.
Another source said the US$300K was divided among senior staff in NOCAL and the House’s Leadership as extra per diem.
Amid these speculations, the Deputy Speaker, more than six months after the end of the 2013 Nationwide Oil and Gas Consultation Tour, provided an incomprehensive financial report of US$900,000. He told journalists that the detailed report would be provided to the House’s Plenary – the august body which empowered him to handle the money.
Deputy Speaker Barchue also refused to submit to an investigation by the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC) when he was called for questioning on the Nationwide Oil and Gas Consultation Tour, arguing that the House’s Plenary mandated him not to subject himself to LACC’s inquiry.
Speaker Tyler was also accused of having links to a US$25,000 financial fraudulent act.
Howbiet, the Daily Observer has learnt that the ‘recusal plot’ against the Deputy Speaker will be an uphill battle as the Deputy Speaker and two others who have been allegedly accused of the US$1.2million corruption allegation are connected to the ‘Majority Bloc’ of the 43 persons that championed the compelling recusal of Speaker Tyler.
Meanwhile, in a mobile phone interview yesterday with three lawmakers, who did not want to be named, they said there are ‘divisions’ within both blocs. In the Anti-Tyler bloc, Montserrado County District # 10 Representative Snowe is arguing against the ousting of the Deputy Speaker,
who is part of the struggle, while other colleagues are agitating that the sanity of the Legislature requires that any members involved should be held accountable.
In the Pro-Tyler bloc, only Montserrado County District #13 Representative Saah Joseph is pushing for ‘calm and unity’ on the forgiveness of the Deputy Speaker.
“We will continue to preserve the prestige and dignity of the House,” the Representative said.
If the Deputy Speaker, who is the Acting Presiding Officer of the House, should recuse himself, it means that any of the remaining 71 members can be elected to serve as the “Speaker Pro-Tempore” until the Speaker (Tyler) is exonerated and resumes his seat or is removed altogether by two-thirds votes (49) and a new Speaker elected in 60 days.