For a while, it had appeared as though the nation was once again headed down the path of instability and chaos reminiscent of the April 14, 1979 rice riots in which over a hundred persons were shot and killed by state security forces. The consequences of that fateful decision by President Tolbert ordering state security to use force to crush the demonstration reverberated far beyond the shores of Liberia as well as the life of his government whose violent overthrow by the military was only then a year away.
It can be recalled that the hardened stance of then Justice Minister Oliver Bright and others against the demonstration virtually goaded President Tolbert into granting them the leeway to open live fire on demonstrators. The President’s stout refusal to heed the pleading and warnings of veteran social critic and pamphleteer, Albert Porte, to desist from the use of force, led him as well as his government to the virtual brink of disaster, which would come one year later.
The consequences of President Tolbert’s fateful decision were immediate. Within a matter of hours, the city had been laid to waste attended by the deaths of hundreds, leaving a sullen people and a military seemingly poised to step into the fray. Over the weekend, a similar scenario almost played out, however with a difference. And that was the willingness of Justice Minister Musa Dean to order restraint by state security forces completely ignoring hawkish figures led by the likes of Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill, CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu, Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee, amongst others.
That led to the Minister’s decision to allow the intervention of interlocutors led by former Representative Dusty Wolokolie and Human rights lawyer, Counselor Tiawan Gongloe, at whose urging the leadership of the demonstrators met with the Justice Minister, Police Director Patrick Sudue and other officials and representatives of the EU, ECOWAS, AU and the UN in order to hammer out an arrangement that would see a peaceful assembly and march.
This newspaper has since learned from reliable sources that some officials, amongst them Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, had insisted on a violent crackdown by state security. However, reason prevailed as the Justice Minister remained unwavering in his decision to exercise restraint. Had it not been for his foresight and decisive action, the city of Monrovia might have now become swallowed in an orgy of violence which would have been to the sweet taste of those current government officials linked to the virtual theft of the alleged missing billions.
Some are reported to have already bought homes in Monrovia and Accra costing hundreds of thousands of US dollars. This newspaper recalls for instance, the case of Nathaniel McGill who according to media reports had sought a loan from the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment to purchase a US$250,000 home. Though it is not known whether or not LBDI gave McGill the loan, however.
This newspaper is reliably informed that in addition to Government of Liberia financial resources, the Bank of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) also contains the reserve requirement of local commercial banks.
Access to the bank’s vault is done by two separate individuals, each having a separate combination number and both individuals have to work in synch in order to access the vault. One of such individuals is a technician while the other is the Governor of the Bank or his designee. Further according to sources, only the Minister of Finance has the explicit authority to order movement of money from the vault of the Central Bank. Assuming argument that there is no money missing as claimed by Finance Minister Tweh, there must however, be a paper trail showing movement of money into and out of the Bank’s vault.
Former Governor Milton Weeks has stated that he can account for all such movement of money that occurred under his watch. Official records show that some printed banknotes did come into the country in March 2018, two months after President Weah officially assumed office. As would be expected, the current probe should, as a first step, establish how much printed banknotes entered the CBL vault during the tenure of President Sirleaf and how such was infused into the economy through the various commercial banks.
President Sirleaf has repeatedly stated that she left about US$160 million in the Government of Liberia official accounts while, President George Weah has, to the contrary, insisted that he met empty coffers and a broke economy. Although much public suspicion abound about the misuse of the country’s money under President Sirleaf, nevertheless, the demonstrators involved in yesterday’s protest chanted songs saying they had never before witnessed such gross stealing of public resources under President Sirleaf as they now do under President Weah.
To a large extent, this could possibly be the truth and, granted it is, President Weah should realize that he brought this upon himself firstly by refusing to conduct or order an audit of the nation’s finances under his predecessor, his failure and that of his officials to declare their assets in keeping with law, his failure to act on the report of the Special Presidential Committee on the ExxonMobil-NOCAL bribery payouts and the generally cavalier manner in which his officials conduct themselves without reprimand.
As such, reports of the involvement of his officials in illegal and surreptitious ferreting of billions of dollars of Liberian dollar banknotes to their personal accounts cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand as CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu, Minister of State Nathaniel McGill and others are doing or attempting to do.
Casting blame on President Sirleaf for the missing money and blaming ANC political leader Alexander Cummings and others for being sponsors of yesterday’s demonstration is a hopelessly doomed and very frail excuse that cuts no ice. Until George Weah became President of Liberia the likes of Mulbah Morlu who once lied about meeting President Obama and who now drives an US$85,000 SUV, were mired in poverty. Now today, by sudden flight they have acquired wealth which they cannot explain.
The nation is watching and waiting to see how President Weah is going to address this issue. In doing so he should remain mindful that those who once shouted “Hosanna, Hosanna” can also shout “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” as was amply demonstrated during yesterday’s demonstration.
A Word to the Wise is Sufficient!