Photo: President Sirleaf and members of her administration’s prosecution team
A few months ago, Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf dropped a political bombshell in Liberia. The firestorm created an uproar in the legislative and judiciary branches of the government and led to a series of political confrontations in the public square.
The firestorm was never-ending; President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf created a Special Presidential Taskforce to investigate corruption based purely on hearsay, gossips and unsubstantiated innuendos found in a report by Global Witness, titled, The Deceiver. The article alleged several government officials and private individuals in Liberia received bribes from Sable Mining to change specific concessionary provisions to allow Sable Mining to acquire the Wologisi Mountains in Lofa County.
It is alleged, according to the Global Witness’ report, that the accused persons received around $900, 000 United States dollars to allegedly implement their plan of changing the laws which, according to documents given to Globe Afrique, did not exist given that those laws had already being strapped during the interim administration of Gyude Bryant, the last interim head of state of Liberia.
This didn’t encourage the Liberian presidency in conducting a thorough due process before setting up the so-called commission, something for which she was commended by people and institutions around the world, including Globe Afrique, especially as the commission itself allegedly sensationalize the allegation against the accused and its ensuing investigation by allegedly bribing local media houses and journalists in Liberia to heighten the news surrounding the alleged case and its prosecution. This was an investigation Globe Afrique supported too but with caution knowing that evidence, not a political witch hunt, needed to prevail.
Globe Afrique’s support for any investigation involving corruption in Africa is unwavering because the graft is deadly, and it also affects the fabric of society, politically, economically, socially and national security-wise. That was and continues to be the basis on which Globe Afrique opposes, exposes and seeks to hold accountable all corrupt individuals and institutions throughout Africa via its investigative reporting.
But the equation has changed, and the Liberian presidency is acting dumb or invisible in several evidence-based, organized and dubious corruption cases that have been exposed by both the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), a government agency charged with fighting corruption, and Globe Afrique, a reputable international investigative platform, and magazine with exclusive focus on Africa.
There are documentary evidence and eyewitness’ accounts that a Nigerian ex-ECOMOG soldier named Tony Praise Lawal has colluded with certain officials in the Sirleaf’s administration to defraud the Liberian government and people with more than $18 million United States dollars through bogus and unfulfilled road construction contracts awarded to his fake companies. Besides, Lawal has an unpleasant history which includes attempts to plot the assassination of Liberians in business that compete with him as seen below.
The president has heard and read about this. Globe Afrique has personally communicated with the president through email. Many in Liberia have heard, read and know about this criminal act. Yet, President Sirleaf, her justice ministry and even the hyper-sensitive so-called Special Presidential Taskforce set up to prosecute corruption as a state crime in Liberia are all aware that millions of dollars of the Liberian people money have been laundered out of the country by a foreigner who is used as a front by some Liberian officials and well-connected individuals closed to the president.
So where is the president on the Lawal’s corruption issue? After all, Lawal took money belonging to Liberians–– taxpayers’ money that far exceeds the amount for which the so-called Special Presidential Taskforce was set up.
Where is the local media sensation on this issue? It is inconceivable that the president of Liberia can mortgage the future of Liberian children unborn in this way by acting indifferent to a corrupt act involving millions of dollars. Why was the Liberian leader sensational on an alleged $900,000 dollars that a private company is alleged to have given to some Liberian officials to allegedly get their vote in influencing a policy that did not exist or was dormant in the first place and now she and her special prosecutors are spiritless in a real and wicked theft of public funds in which a Nigerian national openly stole $18 million United States dollars from the Liberian treasury?
Is the president suggesting that the unverifiable information received by Globe Afrique that she, the president or her family members, allegedly received kickbacks from these Lawal’s deals, is accurate?
Lawal is not just exploiting Liberia’s wealth, he has entered the politics of the country. As a non-Liberian, Lawal has no right to a Liberian passport and no right to vote in Liberian presidential elections. But he does. Besides, Globe Afrique has learned that Lawal has more access to the power that is in Liberia than most Liberian officials. Does President Sirleaf know that this cannot happen in Nigeria or any other African nation where Liberians live?
Apart from Lawal’s case, an audit report on the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) some time ago revealed that 24 borrowers who received cash loans amounting to US$965,400 have not made any repayment, according to the arrangement. Sources say from 2014 to 2016, the Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) loan project disbursed US$2,274,400 to forty-six (46), borrowers.
The report reveals that Dr. James F. Kollie, former Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs (MFDP), signed all the loan approvals while serving in the position. According to FrontPage Africa, a local authoritative daily in Liberia, “Documents reviewed showed that out of an initial amount of US$1,991,900 that was disbursed to thirty-six (36) customers, only US$282,500 has been recovered. The recovered amount was re-disbursed to an additional ten (10) customers, thereby raising the portfolio to US$2,274,400. This means that the initial disbursement of US$1,991,900 is still outstanding,” the report states.
The fact that the PSDI loan scheme was marred by fraud and corruption, it was the time the Special Presidential Taskforce remains focused, but instead, it remains unconcerned and perhaps obsolete on the matter.
So, was the Special Presidential Taskforce set up as a politically-motivated, often vindictive investigation against perceived political and economic foes of the president and made to feed on public fears?
The Liberian people must seriously consider the reasons why Tony Praise Lawal, a non-Liberian, is so powerful and privileged in Liberia when dignified Liberians are not. It would make one to wonder as to why the president and her administration’s top security forces were able to arrest, jailed and tortured a little known young Liberian male, Vandalark Patrick, for speaking about the rights and the future of young people in Liberia and a non-Liberian, Nigerian Tony Praise Lawal, can walk free and dine with officials in the Liberian administration when he has helped to ruin the country’s economy through capital flight, corruption, and money laundry.
President Sirleaf sometimes wonders why many ordinary Liberians dislike her. Here are the facts Madam President of Globe Afrique sees it. Money may not be able to buy love and respect generally, but in Liberia, it can certainly buy the appearance of respect and love—and appearance, is everything. There is a need for the government of Liberia, under your last watch, and its officials to be honest, at least, with the Liberian people. Patriotism is not marketable and cannot be found in any store. It is a matter of will. Exercise that will Madam President!