Soldiers Threaten to Protest ‘Salary Deductions’

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Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and AFL Chief of Staff Brig/Gen. Daniel Ziankahn.

Credible information reaching the Daily Observer have it  that  some soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) are threatening to stage a peaceful public protest should the Ministry of Defense fail to reimburse what they claim is money “compulsorily” deducted from their salaries.

According to the aggrieved soldiers the Ministry of National Defense (MoD) has been deducting money from the soldiers’ paychecks since the force was restructured in 2006, even up to present. However Defense Minister Samukai has dismissed the claim stating that the deductions began in 2009 and not in 2006 as claimed; and they are paid into a WELFARE FUND created with the intent to cater to the needs of soldiers.

But, according to the soldiers, the deductions were done in keeping with an agreement between the them and the Ministry, of which US$20 monthly was deducted from salaries of  rank and file soldiers, while US$25 and US$30 monthly  were compulsorily deducted from wages of officers,” the soldiers said.

“This  money which has summed up to over hundreds of thousands of dollars  was to be held in savings accounts and be given back to  the soldiers, at the end of the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,” the soldiers indicated.

“Defense Minister Brownie Samukai is about to leave the ministry and there has been no details about paying back to us the compulsory deduction and we don’t even know the whereabouts of the money, since 2006,” the defense source explained.

Other soldiers who spoke with this paper on condition of anonymity  said, the ministry has refused to tell them if they are entitled to the money that was cut from their salaries as compulsory deduction, while others claim that they have not been told that there were accounts opened for them regarding the monthly deduction that were made to their salaries and when will they get the money back.

According to the  soldiers, up to present, at least several thousand United States dollars has been withheld from the wages of the soldiers.

”I don’t even know for a fact that anybody got their money back,” said a soldier, ” If you add the 12 years we’re easily talking about hundreds of thousands of United States dollars.”

But when contacted for comment, AFL Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Daniel Ziahnkahn referred the matter to the Minister of Defense who he said is clothed with the authority to discuss such matters with the press. He however acknowledged that he was aware of such concerns being expressed by soldiers but affirmed that modalities are being worked out to find an amicable solution to the problem.

For his part, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, confirmed that his Ministry has since 2009 established a WELFARE FUND under which deductions are made from the salaries of soldiers based on rank. He clarified that  such deductions are placed into a WELFARE FUND for soldiers and it is intended to cater to the welfare of soldiers who may suffer injury or to the families of soldiers who may die on duty.

He cited the case of a Liberian soldier killed in the line of duty while serving with the United Nations Mission in Mali as well as another soldier who was involved in an accident on the S.D. Cooper Road and sustained injuries that led to the amputation of his leg.

He said in the case of the former, the Ministry of Defense made payments to the family to underwrite burial and other expenses and in the case of the soldier whose leg was amputated, the Ministry is currently sponsoring his studies at the University of Liberia in addition to covering the cost of his medical expenses.

Minister Samukai further said the establishment of the fund was based on the reality that the Government of Liberia does not have money to cater to such welfare needs of soldiers, although their line of work involves exposure to hazardous conditions and risks.

He said payment is intended to cover a 20 year period following which benefits are to be paid to the individual soldiers similar to what is done to civil servants who complete 25 years of service to country.

Currently, according to Minister Samukai, the fund has an accumulated balance of a little over US$700,000 in its account and it is intended to be used for no other purpose than that of catering to soldiers’ welfare.

He said he has provided this information to President Sirleaf and to President- elect George Weah as well in separate briefing sessions. He however said going forward, decisions about what to do with the funds remains the prerogative of the incoming Minister of Defense.

It can be recalled that since the restructuring of the military in 2006, there have been media reports of desertion due to allegations of poor working conditions in the country’s military. Low salaries and poor housing conditions for soldiers and their families are alleged to be push factors behind the attrition rate.

It can also be recalled that during the tenure of former Finance Minster Amara Konneh, several government officials expressed concern that they were being kept in the dark by Minister Konneh because they had no idea what was allocated in their respective budgets, something which they claimed  was impeding progress.

Prominent among those officials expressing such concerns included Defense Minister Samukai, Deputy Civil Service Director-General Puchu Bernard, and former Lofa County Senator Kupee.

Defense Minister Samukai was particularly outspoken on this issue and at a point virtually accused the Finance Ministry of keeping them in the dark and withholding approved budgetary allotments which he said was delaying ongoing renovation work on housing facilities for soldiers.

Whether the MoD’s establishment of the WELFARE FUND for soldiers was indeed driven by such concerns remains unclear. It is however clear that soldiers are not covered under the welfare scheme operated by the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) although the displeased soldiers say they are unaware if they are covered.

When contacted, a NASSCORP official spokesperson David Q. Beekeh confirmed that soldiers are not covered under its insurance and pension program for civil servants and other public service employees.

Authors

16 COMMENTS

  1. It makes no sense; that Soldiers should pay for their own welfare, while serving their Country-Liberia. That should be the sole responsibility of the Government. Soldiers give their lives while in service to their Nation. They ought to be treated far better. Return all MONEY, deducted from the Soldiers’ Salaries. That should be the last executive oder given by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; before she leaves office.

  2. Weah does not need migraine headaches from the military. My suggestion is simple: Do all that’s possible to address the concerns of all military personnel. That’s it!

  3. The salary reduction is necessary, and abides with best practices elsewhere.

    And by no stretch intended to deprive our men and women in AFL of their hard – earned money, rather it adds to the nest egg for each during retirement, dismissal, illness, or for their next of kin during death. MOD should keep on explaining and educating the rank and file for apparently – due to our general trust deficit regarding money – those soldiers threatening strike action don’t believe their bosses. But the deductions are normal procedures in nearly every country including Sierra Leone, where such nest eggs are referred to as Widows and Orphans Funds(WOF).

    Moreover, these reductions go on as long as one is employed; so why would our soldiers think they were going to recoup during a new administration?

    Most importantly, striking, picketing, marching, demonstrating, or any other similar form of concerted action by soldiers is prohibited by the UCMJ. Soldiers file complains or grieviances through the heirarchy of the AFL, they don’t go on strike. Let’s stop encouraging undisciplined, unlawful, and potentially threatening behavior from those entrusted with the sacred task of protecting our homeland.

    • Hey Sylvester, I will agree that deductions for retirement are necessary. However, this case seems unique in a sense. The Defense Minister should not be commenting on this matter, it seem he’s misplacing the facts. His explanation, “that the funds are paid into a WELFARE FUND created with the intent to cater to the needs of soldiers” creates a lot of questions. He should be referring the press to the Army. The army should be a reputable institution with their own HR set up to take care of such matter.

      Now the solders have different understanding of the fund. This is how they understand it. They will get their money back when Ellen leaves office. This is how the writer puts it, “This money which has summed up to over hundreds of thousands of dollars was to be held in savings accounts and be given back to the soldiers, at the end of the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,”

      Was this a mistake, or something of intent? Be watching this with Eagle eyes.

  4. I will not support a mutiny if one is being contemplated by the AFL. Although it hurts, the AFL’s situation can be resolved through negotiations.

    Background:
    Members of the AFL are upset because their paychecks are not at equilibrium, neither are their paychecks getting an increment. Rather, the soldiers’ paychecks are being chopped by the government. The Minister of Defence, Mr. Samurai is involved in negotiations with government officials. There is no indication that that Mr. Samukai’s paycheck has been chopped.

    (No one wants such a thing to happen to his or her paycheck. Even a man of God will not appreciate something like that. But, of course, women of God will let something like that to slide. Right?)

    But, the matter can be resolved. First of all, one particular Ministry should not be singled out for pay cuts. What should have been done from scratch is that the government should have made a public announcement across the board. The announcement should have said some-thing like this:
    “Because of undue hardship ladies and gentlemen, a 10% pay cut will affect all civil servant employees effective January 30, 2018. Please be aware that austerity measures at the present are necessary to avert an economic meltdown. Thanks for your usual cooperation”.

    Sincerely,
    Employee Relations/ Bureau of Budget, RL.
    (Something better can be constructed by me. I am not in a public service announcement mode.)

  5. Nonetheless, Glenn, threats to take any form of concerted action by soldiers is still in violation of AFL’s Uniform Code of Military Justice, (UCMJ). Lest some forget, we have a government in place; the Ministry of State can quickly look into the complaint, and have auditors checking in less than three days. Needless to say, just the other day, we were applauding LP’s Brumskine for following “due process”, let us advise soldiers carrying guns to do the same, that is.

  6. Now a day people are going to court to get back their money entrusted to someone . The amount deducted was never approved by government , nor was the act passed into law . The has the power to force the minister to give back the said amount and provide the list of all those who were affected by such deductions of their pay . Every day some average citizens are taking to court because of some properties entrusted to them . No need to demonstrate, hire someone with legal mind and allow that to be settled in the court . This is act from the minister that threaten the stability of the state should be taken up by the Senators . Give their money back, it was illegally taking outside of the law . The old Tubmam styled of government deducting payroll money can not be brought back, no matter how good the intentions are . These guys will always be doing things that never worked in the past but cause rebellion in society . Pass a law and allow government to match the deductible from every active soldiers pay. That is for every 20 dollars, a three or four percent is matched by government . But it must be law driven . Give their money back, no need to wait for the new government .

  7. What about social security? I was thinking as to whether the military is a part of the civil servants of Liberia. If so, deduction should be for civil service purposes and not for something else. Am so story if this is true.sorry

  8. DANGEROUS DEVELOPMENT
    A nation, with out strong security of it boaders and man power to defend itself from any foreign aggression, is at the mercy of been exploited by outside interest. Ever since the AFL was established in 1956, crafting from the then LFF ( Liberia Frontier Force established in 1908), not much support has been gaven to the men and women who have signed to died for their country.

    By the time the Liberia Frontier Force was established in 1908, countries like North Korea, China, Pakistan , etc….were not nations. Look at where these nations are today in term of military development. Even Bangladesh, the size of Liberia, or Burma (Myanmar)….has powerful military then any other African country, beside Egypt or South Africa, and few others. Liberia security has not been controlled by Liberian themselve in the past. We always relying on America .That’s why we ( Liberian), do not know the importance of being self protected. Our army is the least paid, least equipped. Past regimes have used the army for minnow job like hut tax collection, revenue receipt enforcement, arresting opposition of setting government . This has made the army job switched from defending the nation, to a bunch harrasing men in uniform. The blame , which squrley lied at the door steps of past regimes.

    No nation can made any progress if that nation cannot properly defend itself, it interest, if any at all is controlled by foreign interest. If we cannot properly pay the men and women that are supposed to protect us, our nation intetest and security is up for grab. We had a “standing army”, and ” well trained”, as was talked about by late president , Samuel Doe. The NPFL attacked Butwoe and crossed into Liberia on Dec. 24, 1989 with 168 men. By June 26, 1990, six months later, Camp Schefflin ( Kesselly Camp), 16 miles from Monrovia, laid waste to the NPFL . The ineffectiveness of the army to counter the attack mount by the invading force, was due to what is now plaguing the army. Low moral, low salary, unpaid salary etc..

    If Liberian will leave a better place for their grand and great grand children, our security should not be compromised. Fortune or legacy can only be passed on, if it is well protected.

  9. The issue of soldiers salaries will be adequately handle after the inauguration. After all these are the last reserves for the safety of the Liberian nation. Tell the protesting soldiers to wait until the new Commander in Chief is sitting to review all in camp military affairs. The silent majority says so. The public should know. This is an executive function that warrens the attention of the army in camp. One mistake made in the past was complexities of military and civil issues which came as a result of military government and/or junta with intend to restore the separation of the civil code of justice versus the military code of justice but have not yet sufficed to get the record straight. Now that democracy is restored, no one will be able to touch the Army people money unless themselves. After the inauguration, military staff will look into payments and expenses necessary and not appropriated in the 2018 side of allocations. This is just a simple record problem. Keep a smooth peaceful inauguration providing rations, logistics to be encumbered for inauguration ceremonies under the military budget of 2017-18. No time for trouble making. The silent majority watching them. Do not worry. The Liberian money and resources will be appropriately seen after completion of this inauguration process. Wait for God’s time.
    Gone in silence. Do not reply this box.

  10. If this information is reliable than the ministry should stop that, because the men and women in the army forces of Liberia are individual who are risking their lives for the state mama Liberia, and in short their pay should not be deducted, those are first class citizen of our state. they should have more benefit them any other citizen in our country.

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