-Transparency Watchdog Global Witness wants Pres. Weah withdraw Nyenkan’s nomination immediately
President George Weah’s controversial appointment at the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) has not only sparked a barrage of criticisms locally but has also received its initial international condemnation with global anti-graft institution, Global Witness (GW) calling for an immediate withdrawal of the nominee.
President Weah, on March 5, announced former Montserrado County Lawmaker Gabriel Nyenkan as the new head of Secretariat, replacing Konah Karmo who was appointed by the Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) of LEITI in 2014, following a competitive recruitment process in which several other individuals and institutions participated.
Following President Weah’s announcement, Mr. Nyekan stormed the offices of the LEITI secretariat with armed Police officers in tow and demanded that its head Konah Karmo leave the building. Karmo is reported to have complied with Nyekan’s orders given at virtual gunpoint.
But Nyekan’s action was greeted with almost instant rebuke by civil society groups who condemned the action. This was followed by condemnation by other watchdog groups including Global Witness (GW) who, in a release issued on Monday, condemned what it termed as the illegal removal of LEITI Head Secretariat, Mr. Karmo—in clear violation of the act that created the anti-graft entity.
“Global Witness strongly condemns the illegal removal of Mr. Karmo, Head of Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI). The firing of Mr. Karmo by President George Weah, who has replaced him with Gabriel Nyenkan, violates Liberian law and severely undermines the independence of Liberia’s critical anti-corruption agency”.
The international watchdog also declared the removal of Mr. Karmo and his replacement by Nyekan as illegal and called for the withdrawal of Nyekan’s appointment. Its extractive industries campaign leader, Simon Clydesdale declared “President Weah must immediately withdraw his appointment of Gabriel Nyenkan, allowing Konah Karmo to resume his duties as LEITI Head of Secretariat.”
Stressing that because the independence of the LEITI is fundamental to its mandate and to the political stability of Liberia, the institution cannot be what he (Clydesdale) termed as the “playground of political appointments”.
Further, according to Global Witness, the Act creating the LEITI which states that only the Multi-stakeholder Steering Group has the authority to appoint or remove the Head of Secretariat, serves as a critical safeguard which maintains the institution’s independence and ensures that it is not subject to foreign interference or dominated by any of its constituent groups.
A March 19 Global Witness press release said “LEITI is an autonomous Liberian agency that ensures transparency in Liberia’s forestry, oil, mining, and agricultural plantation sectors. It has the legal mandate to publish company contracts and the money they pay to the government. LEITI is governed by an independent MSG that is comprised of representatives from the government, companies, and Liberian civil society groups. Together, these representatives can keep one another accountable and ensure LEITI continues to promote and deliver transparency”.
In a related development the Acting Chairman of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), Abraham Darius Dillon, has said it is a shame that such an error would not have been corrected by the President after blatantly violating the law.
“When we spoke against Pres. Weah’s illegal appointment of Gabriel Nyenka as Head of LEITI, loyalist CDCians that never see anything wrong the President does, even if such wrong was inadvertent, told us to “shut up”; insisting the President was “right”. Now, our international partners are speaking and condemning the very appointment. Let us see now if these loyalist CDCians will tell the same to these international partners,” Dillon wrote on his facebook page
In other related developments, President Weah’s appointment of Weah’s action has also been condemned by the Center for Transparency and accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), noting that it is disturbed by the President’s action.
CENTAL is the Liberian affiliate of Transparency International (TI). Its Executive Director, Anderson Miamen said in a press release that the sanctity and credibility of integrity institutions must remain intact.
“The government, especially President Weah, must do nothing to undermine that, whether directly or indirectly,” Miamen said.
He noted that the President overstepped the limits of his authority by ascribing to his office unassigned powers; something which is worrisome and must have no place in the new Liberia.
“The rule of law is a fundamental pillar of our maturing democracy and such arbitrariness has the propensity to reverse gains made in strengthening governance and the rule of law in the country,” he noted.
The LEITI Act of 2009 requires the President to appoint members of the Multi Stakeholders Group (MSG), and “shall designate one of them as the Chairperson and another as the Co-Chairperson”.
“The power to recruit the Head of Secretariat, Deputy and other staff members of the LEITI Secretariat therefore lies with the MSG, which should comprise of members of the legislature, CSOs and the Executive,” according to Section 6.3d of the Act.
Though Section 6.5 of the LEITI Act of 2009 ascribes the appointment of members of the MSG to the President, Section 6.3(d) grants the MSG the “power to recruit and dismiss the Head of Secretariat, Deputy and approve the recruitment of other staff members”.