Amid suspicious of Official Bribery
Confirmation hearings for individuals recently nominated by President Weah to serve as Commissioners on the National Elections Commission (NEC) Board of Commissioners which began on Friday have taken new twists and turns which appear to suggest that something sinister is afoot to ensure the confirmation of the cast despite public apprehension and misgivings about the integrity and competence of the nominees.
According to sources, the first development which sent clear signals that some mischief was afoot was the abrupt change by Senate President Pro Tempore, Albert Chie in the composition of the Committee on Autonomous Agencies replacing outspoken opposition figure, Margibi Senator Oscar Cooper with Bong County Senator Henry Yallah, leading advocate for the split-up of Bong County which critics say is intended to enhance his chances for a second shot at the senate but this time from a newly proposed Lower Bong county.
Others newly appointed by President Pro Tempore Albert Chie include Senators Morris Saytumah (Bomi), Francis Paye (Rivercess) and Reverend Tornorlah (Margibi). Senator MiltonTeahjay (Sinoe) heads the Committee. Recent media reports quotes him as saying that Nwabudike’s nationality was not in question and was by implication fit and proper to occupy the post of Chairman of NEC. Teahjay’s statement came in the wake of a flurry of public criticisms about Nwabudike’s character, integrity and nationality. Sources at the Capitol say that he has yet to produce evidence of his naturalization papers to the Senate as specifically requested by Senator Nyomblee Karnga Lawrence (Grand Bassa).
Further, some senators spoken to (names withheld) have accused Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie of manipulating things to ensure the confirmation of nominee, Josephine Kou Gaye who according to the senators is a paramour (girlfriend/lover) of the President Pro Tempore.
According to the aggrieved senators, the purpose and intent of Senator Chie is to help secure his chances at reelection with the presence of his paramour on the NEC. A text message sent by this newspaper on to Senator Chie for comment has since gone unanswered.
However, River Gee Senator, Conmany Wesseh told this newspaper over the weekend that during the hearings on last Friday, he and other Senators had insisted that key stakeholders, political parties and civil society organizations be invited to participate in the exercise by posing questions (thru Senators) to the various nominees since these institutions had not been involved in any prior consultations in keeping with practice but had instead been directly nominated by President Weah.
Moreover, according to informed sources, basic criteria used for confirmation include knowledge (education), training, experience and suitability. In the case of nominee Josephine Kou Gaye, according to sources, she possessed neither the training, experience or suitability although she allegedly claims to possess degrees from the AME and Cuttington Universities.
And judging from the quality of questions posed to the nominee by Senator Saah Joseph who asked if she is a woman in the first instance and whether she can cook “good GB”, it is clear according to political observers, that Senate President Pro Tempore, Senator Chie is going all out to ensue that his girlfriend is confirm because when his reelection comes up, he will have someone in place to make sure he wins” the observers noted.
In the case of the Cllr. Nwabudike, Senator Wesseh stated with emphasis, that while they interpose no objections to Nwabudike’s claim to Liberian nationality, they have asked him nonetheless to produce evidence of his naturalization which he has not done to date. Moreover, according to Senator Wesseh, the main issue of concern has to do with that of character and integrity of the nominee, noting that Nwabudike’s character is seemingly beclouded with a host of concerns concerning his alleged lack of integrity from not only the Nigerian national who has claimed on social media, claims which have since become widespread, that Nwabudike bamboozled him out of his ship and money.
In face of such widely bandied accusations of escroquerie against nominee Nwabudike, the Daily Observer in its effort to dig out the truth about Nwabudike’s character, contacted the leadership of the Nigerian community in Liberia. An official of the organization (name withheld) told the Daily Observer that Nwabudike contested the leadership of the organization but failed to get elected due to allegations of misconduct in the handling of organization funds. His membership in the organization, according to the official, was suspended and remains so today according to the official.
Meanwhile, the Daily Observer has learned that the Friday confirmation hearings were adjourned until Monday, March 30, 2020 with the agreement amongst senators that key stakeholders including political parties and civil society organizations would have by then be informed to participate in the vetting process.
Towards this end, according to Senator Wesseh, a signed statement by over 10 Senators clearly outlining their position was prepared for dissemination to the public. Further, according to the Senator, the communication was entrusted to Senator Varney Sherman for onward dissemination to the public. But when contacted on late Sunday evening by the Daily Observer, Senator Varney Sherman emphatically declared he was not in possession of any such statement.
Senators who reportedly signed the statement are said to have included Senators Oscar Cooper(Margibi), Jonathan Kaipay (Grand Bassa), Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence (Grand Bassa), Darius Dillon (Montserrado), Steve Zargo (Lofa), Daniel Naatehn (Gbarpolu), Armah Jallah (Gbarpolu), Dan Morais (Maryland), Gbleh-bo Brown (Maryland), Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount), Conmany Wesseh (River Gee).
When quizzed about the number of votes required to confirm the nominees, Senator Wesseh replied a simple majority of the entire membership voting is required. He further outlined that however for the conduct of business a presence of 16 Senators is required as quorum and in such a situation a two-thirds majority of the quorum is required to secure approval of the nominee leading to his/her confirmation.
It remains unclear at this stage whether, Senators opposed to the nominations will garner the required votes to reject them or whether those in favor will secure the required votes to have things go their way.
However with reports rife about money, cash inducements (US$15,000 each) allegedly being offered by the executive to secure confirmation of the nominees and given the recent history of bribe inducement to legislators by the Executive sine President Sirleaf, it appears more likely than not, Senator Teahjay’s reconstituted Committee on Autonomous Agencies will vote in favor of confirmation.
However, this does not suggest that confirmation will automatically follow except, of course, a simple majority is obtained in case the entire membership is present or a two-thirds majority vote in case of a quorum of not less than 16 persons senators present at roll call.
Meanwhile, as opposition to Nwabudike’s confirmation as NEC Chairman continues to mount, it appears that another nominee to NEC Floyd Sayor is slowly being inched into the public crosshairs on account of his fraudulent handling of the Voters Registry which was compromised and led to a host of problems that nearly marred the 2017 elections.
He was also accused of fraudulently manipulating vote count during the last District 15 elections. Now Senators are being left to decide whether an individual accused of fraudulent conduct will be confirmed to the post. Public attention, for the time, remains glued to the unfolding confirmation process and hopes that Senators would act in the best interest of the nation remains unclear given the temptations of bribe money allegedly being offered as inducement to senators.