The Senate Committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence & Veterans Affairs, has reported to Senate plenary that the proposed UNMIL drawdown plan developed by the Government of Liberia and UNMIL covering the three fiscal periods of 2015-2018 will cost US$104,848,878.45, an amount which it concedes the government cannot handle alone.
The report recognizes the need to lobby with immediate effect the country’s international partners for assistance.
In its recommendation contained in the report read yesterday, the 15-member committee, headed by Lofa County Senator Stephen J.H. Zargo, noted that the 2015/2016 budget period is crucial as it is the period prior to UNMIL June 2016 drawdown, and that “the aggregate cost for this period is US$76,188.89.”
“We therefore instruct that the Minister of Justice and chairman of the joint security report to Defense Committee in two weeks, as of today’s date with a realistic and achievable budget for consideration for this budget period, taking into consideration what the Justice Minister considered County/Regional Hot/Trouble spot or high threat zone approach,” the committee said.
The committee further reported that during its engagement with national security institutions, it was discovered that some of them contribute considerably to the national budget while others whose budgetary allotments are far more than others, do not contribute.
A case in point, according to the committee, is the Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization which in 2013-2014 contributed over US$3M to the national budget while the Liberia National Police could not produce any record to suggest that it contributed to the budget under the same period. “Therefore, we recommend that we allot based in part on institution’s contribution to the budget and in part on its strategic contribution.”
During discussions leading to the recommendation, Justice Minister Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, in his capacity as chairman of the joint security, informed the meeting that he had convinced President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to include the UNMIL drawdown plan in the Post Ebola Recovery Plan and called for political will on the part of government for the UNMIL drawdown plan to succeed.
Justice Minister Sannoh during the discussion reportedly clarified that the Government of Liberia’s plan for UNMIL drawdown would remain public.
For his part, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Cllr. H. Varney Sherman, whose committee formed part of the meeting, encouraged the national security authorities to sufficiently publicize their activities, while Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan Kaipay, advised that documents relating to the drawdown be provided to the Defense Committee, totally or in segments, considering their relevance and significance.
In the same vein, Bomi County Senator Morris Saytumah encouraged the security authorities and the Executive Branch of Government to submit their budget in a timely manner in order to give the Legislature ample time to review them for consideration, a view shared by Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel F. Naatehn; while the security advisor to President Sirleaf encouraged continuous engagement with the people and economic empowerment of the youth and former combatants.
Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh underscored the need to allay the fears and negative perceptions of the Liberian people in the face of the UNMIL drawdown saying there was no looming anarchy nor was the Liberian state on the brink of failure resulting from the departure of UNMIL.
The committee’s report is the aftermath of its meeting with Liberia national security actors held April 7, in the Conference Room of the Senate Pro Tempore. In attendance were heads of all national security institutions, including the Liberia National Police, Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, Drugs Enforcement Agency, National Fire Service, Bureau of Correction and Rehabilitation, Armed Forces of Liberia, Ministers of Defense and Justice, and Security Advisor to the President of Liberia, among others.
It may be recalled that last March, Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence informed her colleagues that unless some serious efforts were made to beef up the country’s national security prior to the conclusion of the UNMIL drawdown, the security of the country could be at risk, and therefore, requested an urgent hearing in Executive session.
The Grand Bassa lawmaker said such a meeting would require the participation of the heads of all security agencies, including the Defense Minister, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the Police Director and the Chief of Immigration.
It was based on Senator Lawrence’s concern that her communication was sent to the Committees on Defense, Intelligence and Veterans’ Affairs, and Judiciary, with the option to do further consultations and report to plenary within two weeks.
Meanwhile, the plenary yesterday thanked the committee for its timely intervention and meeting with national security actors, and unanimously voted to adopt the recommendations contained in the report.