-Rufus Neufville alleges
While it has come to public attention that the Council of Patriots (CoP) has conceded to postpone the much-publicized December 30th protest due to interventions by the international community, Rufus Neufville, a defected member of the CoP and now chairman of the “Independent Council of Patriots (ICoP),” has accused the government of dishing out US$200,000 to Henry Costa and his colleagues in the leadership of the CoP.
Mr. Neufville, who was a founding member of the CoP and who, after the June 7th protest in Monrovia, formed the Independent Council of Patriots (ICOP) on allegations that Costa and his colleagues also received bribes, said he was reliably informed by CoP insiders that representatives of the Liberian government on Sunday (December 29) met with leaders of the COP and dished out to them US$200,000.
“I am a founding member of CoP and up to this date, I still have militants in whom I confide and they, too, do with me likewise. I am informed by my very trusted friends that Costa, Mo Ali, Senator Darius Dillon, and Rep. Yekeh Kolubah received US$200,000,” he alleged.
The CoP have been staunch critics of the George Weah Administration, accusing the government of rampant corruption, disregard for the rule of law, and amassing personal wealth to the detriment of the state.
According to Neufville, Wilmot Paye, chairman of the former ruling Unity Party (UP), was allegedly approached with the bribe but he (Paye) declined to accept it.
“I have seen another patriot. Wilmot refused the bribe. He is a true patriot,” Neufville said.
Meanwhile, when contacted, Wilmot Paye said at no point in time did he talk with Rufus Neufville about anything, lest one would talk about the collection of a bribe or not.
“The statement from Rufus Neufville that I spoke with him, saying that I was approached to collect a bribe of whatever amount is not true. In fact, I don’t have Rufus’s number in my phone and I cannot remember when last we ever heard from each other,” Paye said, debunking Neufville’s allegation.
Calls made to Representative Yekeh Kolubah and Senator Dillon on the allegation did not yield response as their phones rang endlessly.
Paye condemned Neufville’s assertion about his colleagues collecting a bribe from government and termed it as a complete ‘falsehood.’
Neufville’s allegation delivered through a press conference yesterday in Monrovia, further noted that Henry Costa and his colleagues have demanded US$400,000 government but the government could only make available the US$200,000 in order to prevent yesterday’s assembly of tens of thousands of people with a commitment to pay the balance at a later date.
“These guys are doing business. They are not patriots but bunch of corrupt individuals. We will not sit and watch this go unnoticed or uninvestigated. Government must investigate this. If it is established that President Weah is a part of the arrangement that made available that money, we will push for his impeachment and removal from office,” he said.
According to Neufville, whenever Costa is on vacation from the United States he uses the ignorant minds to raise tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars for his personal benefit.
“We are not weak. We did not stay away from the streets because of fear but we are law-abiding citizens. This is the only reason, but by government bribing these guys, we will not take it lightly. We will take to the streets and will not relent to push this government to do what it has to do for the country,” he said.
He said he sees no reason why the government is afraid of Costa and his followers’ plan to protest since it is already clear that they (CoP) no longer have the number of people to make a case.
“The proposed protest today (December 30) did not hold, not because of the advice from the international community, but because of lack of confidence in the COP and the US$200,000 dished out to the leadership. These two are the main reasons. Nothing else,” he said.
This reporter could not get an official response from the Council of Patriots, although phone calls made went unanswered.
However, the government, through the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), released a press statement condemning Neufville’s allegation and terming it as ‘untrue.’
“The Government of Liberia takes very seriously the allegation that it engaged in acts of bribery in order to quell the agitation by leaders of the Council of Patriots,” the release said.
“The government views the claim which was made by Rufus Neufville, the chairman of the Independent Council of Patriots group, as grave and troubling. The government has therefore ordered a speedy investigation into the allegation,” the press statement, signed by the Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, said.
He added: “The administration of President George M. Weah has repeatedly made known its zero tolerance for corruption and therefore does not condone unsubstantiated pronouncements which impugn the image of the government or any of its officials.”
He said further: “However if these statements bear any iota of truth, the public can be assured that the culprits will face the full weight of the law in an expeditious manner.”
Minister Nagbe said the government’s engagements with leaders of the COP, with the full participation of the international community and the Council of Churches, have been transparent and in good faith.
“The government, therefore, wishes to reassure the public of its full adherence to all the tenets of democracy, while also being cognizant of even greater responsibility to maintain the peace and public order,” he said.