The UK-based environmental and transparency watchdog, Global Witness (GW), has caused quite a stir (commotion, uproar) in Liberia with its sweeping allegations of corruption and bribery against several top officials of the Liberian government.
So stirring have been the allegations that they have, for the first time in recent memory, succeeded in dragging into court top officials of the first branch of government, the Legislature. These include the very leader of the Legislature, Alex Tyler, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Senator Varney Sherman, Chair of the Senate Judicial Committee. Counselor Sherman, who topped his class at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, is also a product of Harvard Law School, and Liberia’s most prominent and most successful lawyer.
Both he and Speaker Tyler have been indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County on charges of “bribery, criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage, criminal solicitation and criminal facilitation.”
Other officials indicted are Public Procurement Concessions Commission (PPCC) Chair, Willie Belleh, former Lands, Mines and Energy Deputy Minister E.C.B. Jones and Christopher Onanuga.
GW has succeeded in rekindling the anger of the Liberian people against their government and public officials whom they (the Liberian masses) perceive as being determined, by their persistent corruption, greed and selfishness, to perpetuate poverty in the land. It is a land in which the rich have always continued to get richer and the poor, poorer.
Who, for example, truly benefitted from the Liberia Mining Company (LMC) iron ore concession (1946) in then Bomi Territory, now County? President W.V.S. Tubman, of course, the personal friend of LMC owner Lansdell K. Christie, and a few of Tubman’s cronies.
When LMC departed in the 1980s, all the Bomi people got were a hole in the ground, a ghost town for their capital, Tubmanburg, and abject poverty. The company did not encourage or empower a single Bomi citizen, man or woman, in business.
Who benefitted from the LAMCO iron ore concession, owned by American, Swedish and Canadian investors? They, the investors, who made off with billions of United States dollars, and a few Liberian officials, who ALWAYS preferred the board meetings to be held in
New York or some other American or European city, where the Liberian board members would collect their handsome per diem and board fees and go shopping. And what did LAMCO leave behind when it departed in the late 1980s? The impoverished Nimba people; a shanty town, Sanniquellie, as their capital, without running water or light; and absolutely nothing to show that they had once hosted one of the biggest companies operating in Africa.
And when, once again, the GOL saw the opportunity to exploit a new natural resource—petroleum—GOL again embarked upon a policy of wicked and unconscionable exclusivity (elitism, snobbery, exclusiveness). It was a policy that ensured that the rich continued to get richer and the poor, nothing!
Who, for example, became the shareholders in the oil blocks secretly sold in London by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL)? Among these exclusive privileged was a young man already rich from inheritances from his father and grandfather.
Then NOCAL’s missing millions, which disappeared under the watch of its former Chairman, Robert Sirleaf, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s son. The President has told the Liberian people that she takes “full responsibility” for the NOCAL money.
However, as we pursue the alleged Global Witness culprits—Varney Sherman, Speaker Tyler, etc., we cannot afford to be so hypocritical as to be gravely concerned about US$950,000 in bribes from UK-based Sable Mining, and at the same time ignore those who made away with tens of millions of US dollars from NOCAL.
But while we are in the midst of the case involving the bribery scandal, we call on the court prosecuting the alleged culprits to mandate Global Witness to come and present to the court ALL the evidence in the scandal—who all received the money, when, how much was paid to whom.
And, of course, GW must also come and tell the court who Big Boy # 1 and Big Boy # 2 are, and what was their role and their take in the bribery scheme.
We cannot afford to be seen vigorously pursuing the chickens while the cows go scot-free. That would be the height of hypocrisy.