Everyone knows that Tolbert Nyenswah, the former Executive Director of the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), escaped Liberia as the government was launching a probe over his alleged mishandling of public funds. The George Weah administration has announced that Nyenswah is a wanted man.
But why? Why should a fine, highly educated young man like Mr. Nyenswah do such a thing and, in the process, spoil his good name? He most certainly calls himself a Christian. You mean he never read the Book of Proverbs which said, “A good name is rather to be chosen that great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold”?
Or did he ever remember Christ’s critical question: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul (his integrity)?
Well, Mr. Nyenswah made a choice, so he stands to reap the consequences, which lie not simply in the spoiling of his name. The Weah government should engage INTERPOL, the International Police Force, and bring Nyenswah to justice.
Remember, in his nationwide Address on Monday, President Weah appealed to the international community to help Liberia with financial support to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. If Mr. Nyenswah is allowed to walk away free without being held accountable for his stewardship at NPHIL, the International Community (IC) could well tell the Liberian government it does not need IC money, since the government allowed the former NPHIL boss to walk away with all that money and go scot-free. And the IC would be absolutely right.
Indeed, many African governments have over the decades behaved in identical fashion—allowed their officials, not excluding heads of state, to engage in barefaced “embezzlement,” a refined word for stealing, then turn around and go hat in hand to the donors for more aid.
This is one of the many ways African nations have spoilt their names before the International Community and before their own people; and this indeed is the manner in which they have shortchanged their fellow Africans and dragged the continent’s name in the mud.
But the salient question this Editorial raises is, where will the NPHIL find the money to fight coronavirus? Yes, we heard President Weah plead with the International Community for assistance to Liberia in fighting this pandemic (deadly disease, plague). What, however, would be President Weah’s response when the IC asks about the money Nyenswah allegedly got away with? The President should not wait for such a question; he should rather do whatever it takes to have Mr. Nyenswah bring back the money.
We understand that prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, the NPHIL had already requested from the Liberian government US$3 million to prevent an epidemic. Compare that with the US$600 million that the government of Ghana has allotted to fight Coronavirus. We are told that Finance Minister Samuel Tweah has responded with an allotment of US$1.5 million.
We understand that following Liberia’s defeat of Ebola, the government, through the NPHIL, had a balance of US$2 million left; and this money was to be set aside to fund any other major health crisis that may occur in the future. How much of that money did Mr. Nyenswah abscond with? What happened to the rest?
These are questions the Weah administration should be prepared to answer when they are raised by the donors—or anyone else, especially the Liberian people.
We pray that the new NPHIL leadership will learn from the sordid (disreputable, disgusting) past, and do all it can to deal more honestly and credibly with the resources it is given for the present epidemic. We have to be careful and do all we can to avoid the wrath of God in the face of our seemingly continual penchant (desire, weakness) for corruption.