Nigerian (Tony Lawal) who helped robbed Liberia of $18 million received an award from President Sirleaf for no reason
Washington, DC/West Africa –As Globe Afrique research and analysis team continues to pursue corruption impact as part of many investigations being conducted throughout Africa, there is reliable information that more non-Liberians have robbed Liberia of millions of dollars with full support and help from well-connected and powerful individuals in the country.
Many of the corrupt practices that enriched the non-Liberians in the country were officially organized at the highest level, with top and influential Liberians. These powerful Liberians either brought in or internally used these foreign nationals to exploit the country and its vulnerable people.
According Globe Afrique’s ongoing probe, a former Nigerian soldier, Tony Lawal, with no background in engineering, construction or business, was offered more than $18 million United States dollars through a shadowy company he was helped to create to siphon the fund out of the country.
Lawal, who resigned from the Nigerian army after serving in the West African peacekeeping force (ECOMOG) in Liberia, was allegedly used to established a fake company (Pealat Construction Company) which served as a front in securing the resources. Globe Afrique’s ongoing research revealed that Lawal became the company’s CEO and was offered an initial contract amount of $5 million United States dollars to construct the Bellah Yallah road in the Gbarpolu and Lofa counties region. The funds were later allegedly increased to more than $18 million dollars with no ‘bidding’ process.
According to preliminary findings, the funds were immediately divided and deposited into individual personal bank accounts with Lawal taking few millions dollars for being the front man in the criminal deal.
When Globe Afrique initiated the research into this matter, Lawal fled the country and is believed to be in his native country of Nigeria. In an effort to reach him in Nigeria through Globe Afrique’s on-ground team, a lady who responded on his behalf, said, “Mr. Lawal has no money from Liberia. The money you guys are talking about was stolen by officials and big people in Liberia.”
Pressed forward to give names, the lady said all questions about the company (Lawal’s business), the funds that were awarded and the failed road project should be addressed to one Mrs. Janine Johnson Bernard.”
According to the contact for Lawal, Mrs. Bernard and others were the ones who secured the contract and not Mr. Lawal. Adding, “He was only used to get the contract.”
While the information provided by Lawal’s contact in Nigeria remains unproven for now, Globe Afrique is making effort to identify the Mrs. Janine Johnson Bernard in Liberia to obtain the facts regarding the allegations. That said, preliminary research suggests that the only Janine Johnson Bernard identified in Liberia is the influential sister of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Meanwhile, Globe Afrique has also learned that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has allegedly issued an arrest warrant for the ex-Nigerian ECOMOG soldier, Tony Lawal, in relations to the case.
Liberia is known for offering lucrative government’s contracts to foreigners, mainly individuals from other African nations and Lebanon. Since 2006, several local government’s contracts were offered to Ghanaians, Nigerians and Guineans at the expense and disadvantage of Liberians. The reason is, it is all about kickbacks, as Globe Afrique’s ongoing probe suggests.
The Lawal’s corruption ring brings many question to bear. Why was Lawal, a soldier and non-engineer and his company offered such a contract when he had no resources and expertise to offer Liberia? Why has the Liberian government denied Liberians the opportunity to secure such lucrative contracts, especially when several Liberian engineering and construction firms are struggling to stay in business?
Globe Afrique has also learned that several nationals from many West Africa states are posing as Liberians and are engaged in dubious activities in the country. These predominantly include Nigerians, Ghanaians, Guineans and Sierra Leoneans. Many of them carry Liberian passports under false pretense that they have Liberian background or relatives.
Assuming Lawal and his company were the best suited in implementing the project, did any Liberian own a stake in his company as is done in Ghana, Nigeria and other African nations? Did Lawal’s enterprise also employ Liberians? What did the Public Works minister and his ministry know about the Lawal’s deal? How many companies bidding for contract that was awarded to Lawal? To many of these questions, the answer is negative.
Over the past decade, more than a billion dollars have been siphoned out of Liberia through organized corruption and money laundry while the population suffers from the lack of access to health care and basic social services. The educational system remains dismal and unemployment poses a grave social and security concern. Prostitution resulting from acute poverty is increasingly alarming. Yet, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf painted a rosy picture of the country to the United Nations General Assembly during her farewell speech on Tuesday.
Even as presidential election is scheduled for 10 October 2017, Globe Afrique has also learned that the next Liberian president will have no official residence and office as the country’s official office and residence for Liberian presidents remain in ruins despite millions of dollars allotments for repairs and renovation every budget year.
More details to come as Globe Afrique’s probe into the Lawal’s situation continues.