‘Big Joke’: Nimba Lawmakers Reply Ellen

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Nimba County Legislative Caucus harshly greeted President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s latest statement on the violence in Nimba, describing her comment as a “big joke.”

President Sirleaf on Thursday, July 10, along with the House Speaker and President Pro-Tempore, announced that “Central Government will use Nimba County Social Development Fund to address damages done to properties in the county.”

Said statement from the Executive Mansion provoked anger on Capitol Hill, forcing Nimba Lawmakers for the first time, since taking office in 2012, to expressed shock and serious disappointment in the Chief Executive for her assertions on the incident.

Addressing a news conference at the Capitol Building, the Nimba Caucus firstly condemned the violence; they, however, indicated that President Sirleaf is partly responsible for the violence.

The Caucus among other things, pointed out that Madam Sirleaf did not treat the incident and members of the caucus with “respect.”

Speaking on behalf of the Caucus, District #9 Representative Richard M. Tingban disclosed that they (Legislative Caucus) were disregarded and treated with less interest by Madam Sirleaf during a meeting at the Executive Mansion on Tuesday, July 8.

In that meeting, Tingban said: “The President put up a non-compliance approach and ignored claims that Representative Prince O. S. Tokpah was manhandled by police officers in the county during the incident.

“The President, head of this nation downplayed the concern of our colleague, stating; ‘I heard that some kind of representative was arrested in the process,’” he said.

Tingban termed the President’s assertions as provoking and a posture that has the propensity to undermine the collaboration and coordination between both branches of government.

“Until the Executive can realize that the manhandling of our colleague is of concern that needs to be addressed, we will remain engaged with the Executive until the Police director and officers responsible be brought before Plenary,” Tingban emphasized.

In solidarity with their Nimba colleagues, Montserrado and Bong Counties’ Representatives Acarous M. Gray and George Mulbah termed the President and police actions as “unacceptable.”

Rep. Gray equated the alleged police action to “attempt to topple the Legislature.” Rep. Tokpah was on legislative duty and by impeding it means constitutional violation,” he said.   

Responding to Madam Sirleaf’s statement about using the county’s social development fund, Representative Garrison Yealue, Jr., another lawmaker from Nimba County, blamed President Sirleaf for being insensitive to the plight of the people, adding; “We have been engaging the President on this matter many times but nothing has been done to address it by the executive.”

Yealue: “The President is joking because she has no constitutional power to do such thing. If she does not know, the Social Development Fund is part of the National Budget and the Budget is a law. No one has the authority to singlehandedly expend any money from the budget, that’s a violation of the Public Financial Management Act (PFM) which is a crime.”

For his part, Rep. Samuel G. Kogar asserted that Madam Sirleaf has proven her inability to resolve sensitive situation in the governance of the state.

“If that’s what the President is telling us, Nimba would be prepared to break away from Liberia and stand as a country on its own,” Rep. Kogar added.

In reaction to the lawmakers’ concern, Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Piah intoned that the President statement meant that government will use the Social Development Funds to address damaged government facilities not ArcelorMittal’s. According to him, government does not have the capacity to repair the damaged train.

Meanwhile, the Caucus has resolved to stay away from session until House’s Plenary probe the issue of Rep. Tokpah’s allegation of police brutality.

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