-Warns of Looming Security Threat
The Senate Committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs, in a report to the plenary yesterday, recommended that the Senate writes the President of Liberia, Civil Service Agency and the Ministry of Finance to halt all retirement processes within the security sector until recent mobilization for settlement of severance benefits, training and logistics are addressed by the government. The committee’s report followed a communication from Lofa County Senator, Stephen Zargo, informing his colleagues of unusual retirement and pensioning process being carried out within the Liberia National Police, Liberia Immigration Services and the National Security Agency.
Senator Zargo’s communication raised an alarm that some of the individuals replacing the retirees have neither gone through vetting nor properly trained to deserve recruitment. The chairman of the Senate Committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs, Senator Prince Y. Johnson, said the recent retirement of officers from the National Police and Liberia Immigration Services without replacements has put the security completely under-strength, which he warned is a security threat to the nation.
“We don’t have enough immigration to patrol the borders, not enough police to cover the country; in case of emergency, we hardly find the police. So if we intend to retire people as a government, then it is necessary that we recruit to replace those people,” said Senator Johnson.
The Nimba County Senator disclosed that both the Inspector General of Police and Immigration Commissioner have declared no knowledge of the ongoing retirement process; “so, who is giving the order to them to retire the people?”
Like the chairman, co-chair Senator Stephen Zargo emphasized that the retirement of security personnel without replacement creates national security concerns and a looming threat. Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, making an input during the debate, described as scary when heads of security agencies say that they don’t know how people are retired and that retirements are done by the Ministry of Finance and the Civil Service Agency with no reference, no consultation and no idea from the heads of the two security agencies, is troubling, especially under the current regime.
“It is my view that the Liberian Senate has allowed herself to this point where, even the security committee of the Liberian Senate don’t get briefing; if we were getting regular security briefings in keeping with protocol, so we know what’s happening in the country security wise, so it can inform what kind of action and intervention we can make here from the Liberian Senate, probably we wouldn’t reach here,” warning that, “If we are not careful, this is time bomb and land mine we are playing with in the security of this country.”
Senator Dillon continued: “If we do not put our feet down as a Senate and a committee responsible to ensure the security of the state, and let the Finance Minister and Civil Service Agency do what they want, we are inviting another harmonization with no explanation, we approve it while we have the staff issue on our hands; so it is my considered opinion that this matter is grave, so much so that even if we take the entire day, one week to ensure that we put this matter to rest on a way that proper steps are taken to invite the Finance Minister and Civil Service Agency Director,” said Senator Dillon.
Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown, for his part, asserted that the issue before them as national leaders, “if we do not take the appropriate action and review call for a thorough reiew of the whole pension and retirement scheme, we may cause a paralysis in the running of this state.”
Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel Naathan, among other things agreed with the Senate Committee’s recommendation and emphasized the call for the reinstatement of those already retired and pension, while training programs go on for their replacements. Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay, argued that preferences are given to political cronies of the government who have had no security training for the replacement of individuals retired and pensioned.
“We in this Senate are also responsible for the mess that is taking place in this country, no way that we can expunge ourselves; now after all the grandstanding here today, you will not hear anything in term of security, we will go to sleep.”
Senator Teahjay warned and reminded his colleagues that everyone in the country is getting tired, describing the situation as a national predicament and saying that even the Legislature is paralyzed.
“In my mind, almost everything in this country is paralyzing; is the educational sector working? Obviously not; is the health sector working? certainly not…roads are completely unplayable; so what is working in this country, because nobody can give an account of what’s working in this country.”
Speaking off the cuff, Senator Teahjay opined that: “When (they) saw that Brownie Samukai was going to win the Senatorial Election seat for Lofa County at the National Elections Commission and be seated, they brought him down guilty by a verdict of the Supreme Court; these are things that are not happening in isolation; they are all politically driven.”
Senator Teahjay intimated that the institutions that should be supporting this administration are all incompetent; “They are not delivering services; each head of agency is depending on relationship with the President.”
Bong County Senator, Dr. Henrique Tokpa, suggested that the Senate asks the President to issue an Executive Order, putting halt to the retirement process until a study can be done and a report made to plenary to suggest to the President the recommendation as to how to proceed. A motion is meanwhile, requesting the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to provide the Senate a statistic as to how the retirement process is going on, with specific reference to which agency, how many people and what is the financial implications to the government and when they want to implement the plan, so that the Senate can be in the position to provide any kind of budgetary allocation or influence their decision.