Charles Sirleaf’s Exclusion: A Welcome Indication

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The Liberian people breathed a sigh of relief at the weekend when they learned that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had indicated that her second son, Charles Sirleaf, 58, an experienced banker and most senior executive at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), will not be a candidate to succeed former CBL Executive Governor J. Mills Jones. Dr. Jones, who had held that post for two successive terms —2006-2016 — retired nearly two weeks ago.

Last Thursday the CBL Board of Governors elected Charles Sirleaf Acting Executive Governor. He is to serve until the President of Liberia appoints a new Executive Governor to succeed Dr. Jones.

In a statement, President Sirleaf let it be known that her son Charles would not be a candidate for the post.

This is a clear indication that she trying to heed the call of the Liberian people to keep her family out of government business—something she seems to be finding difficult to do, given the widespread perception—real or imagined—that her beloved son Robert Sirleaf has his hand in many government endeavors, including that which he once served as chairman, the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). Many believe that he is still calling the shots there, especially since during his chairmanship he packed the company with his own people, many of who are still there in control. Worse yet, the company experienced very serious financial difficulties, to the point of bankruptcy under his watch.

Many in the public viewed Charles Sirleaf’s election as Acting CBL Governor with trepidation (fear, nervousness), given the fact that the CBL is one of the few institutions left in the country liquid in cash. And given what happened at NOCAL under Robert’s watch, is it possible that – though the younger brother – Robert could spread his tentacles to CBL, too, with the perception that there are not many in the family, not least of them his mother, who are able to resolutely stand up to him?

The CBL under Dr. J. Mills Jones was not run by whims and caprices, but by strict and well established rules, procedures and standards. There is the Board of Governors comprising serious people, including Governor Charles Sirleaf, all of whom are banking and financial experts. They know they have their hard earned reputations to protect and they also fully understand the onerous duties and responsibilities facing them in this the country’s preeminent financial institution, whose sacred duty it is to manage carefully, effectively and efficiently the national economy.

These CBL Governors will, therefore, be extremely watchful of the money which, under their former leader, Dr. Jones’ watch, grew extraordinarily from US$5 million in 2006 to US$550 million to date.

Under the CBL Act, it is the President of Liberia that bears the responsibility to appoint a CBL Executive Governor. And though her son Charles, by dint of his training and experience, is qualified for the post, she knows that it would be a colossal faux pas (blunder) to give him the nod.

It must also be said that it is a fact that President Sirleaf had nothing to do the Board’s choice of Charles to be Acting Governor. The Board simply followed the rules, which said that the most senior Deputy Governor should be chosen to act in the absence of the Executive Governor.

There are those who argue that the President should have called the Governors and advised them not to appoint her son as Acting Governor. But we are not sure she could have done that without contravening (violating) the CBL Act. In the premises, therefore, she simply sat and let the Board do what it had to do.

We think President Sirleaf has acted most prudently (shrewdly) in declaring that her son will not be a candidate for Executive Governor. There are already on the Board of Governors financial professionals who are eminently qualified for the post. There are also several economic and financial professionals in the private sector fit for the job. She has a wide range to choose from.

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