Liberia’s (Mis) Information Minister, Lenn Eugene Nagbe
WASHINGTON, DC — Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Liberian government have vehemently disputed Global Witness’s recent report on Liberia. In its latest report on Liberia, Global Witness accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Liberian government of using the ‘Forestry Industrial Development & Employment Regime Act of 2017’ to provide the timber industry a US$13 million tax gift. According to Global Witness, by so doing, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’ and the Liberian government “put back efforts to halt climate change” and “shortchange the Liberian people.”
President Sirleaf angrily denied the report, describing it as false and misleading, and has instructed her Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, to issue an official statement on behalf of the Liberian government debunking the report as lacking in facts.
In a strongly worded press statement, President Sirleaf and her government said, contrary to the allegations contained in the Global Witness publication, the Forestry Industrial Development & Employment Regime Act of 2017 does not, in any way, provides the timber industry a US$13 million tax gift and that every penny the logging concessions owe is still due and payable. This means Global Witness’s latest report is erroneous and has no basis of truth. Essentially, President Sirleaf and her government are acknowledging that Global Witness reports falsehood and inaccurate information without due diligence and regard for the consequences such misleading information has on the image and reputation of individuals, institutions, and countries wrongly accused.
According to the Liberian Ministry of Information’s release as quoted by several Liberian media institutions such as FrontPage Africa, the economic rationale behind the bill is straight forward: “Encourage companies to expand production – we are today operating at 10% to 20% of capacity compared to what we envisioned 5 years ago; incentivize companies to build the processing industry in lock step with expansion of production – we want to stimulate employment and expand the tax base; substantially leverage the multiplier effect of investments in the logging sector and expand and deepen linkages to other sectors of the economy; expand the total tax base; collect more taxes cumulatively over the next 5 years with this bill than without.”
The Ministry of Information’s release says the ‘bill’, instead, provides an incentive for companies to accelerate investment in the processing industry.
– companies can offset investments in sawmills, dryers, plywood factories etc. against the portion of the tax bill that comes from the bid premium.
“Those companies that harvest and export continue to pay the timber taxes as they have in the past years since starting operations – this amounts to about $30 to $35 for each cubic meter exported,” the release concluded.
About a year or two ago, Global Witness, an international watchdog group, published an unfounded, baseless and sensational report, The Deceivers, in which it accused prominent Liberians officials, professionals and business people of corruption or bribery in a so-called Sable Mining Concession’s arrangement.
Global Witness claims it went to Liberia to investigate before publishing The Deceivers and Global Witness says that its investigators talked to unnamed sources in Liberia before publishing The Deceivers. Global Witness says that the motivation for the bribes by Sable Mining directly and through Senator Varney Sherman was to change the 2005 PPC Act and include Article/Section 75 in the 2010 PPC Act that provides for non-binding areas for mining so Sable Mining would win the Wologizi Mountain. However, in their visit to Liberia, if any such visit was made, investigators of Global Witness did not talk to former officials of the PPCC, such as Mr. Joseph Neufville, who was Executive Director of the PPCC from January 2006 to February 2009 (when the process leading to the changes of the 2005 PPC Act was started with the issuance of PPCC Regulation 002 in 2007 and the various studies and reports by international experts and the drafting of the 2010 PPC Act).
Global Witness did not talk to any member of the PPCC, especially those involved with the amendment of the 2005 PPC Act to get the 2010 PPC Act. Researchers for Global Witness never talked to Liberia’s development partners (USAID (and its GEMAP personnel or experts), EU, UNDP, the World Bank and ISLP), all of whom participated in and assisted in the change of the law. It would also appear that Global Witness does not know about the existence of Dr. J. Christian Ngot Konglo, Mr. Fui Tsikata, Dr. Paul Jourdan, Mr. Jeff Woods and Mr. David Osofu Dortie, each of whom played some part in the drafting of one or more of the following:
Regulation No. 002, the Mineral Policy and the 2010 PPC Act; and each of which document led to the inclusion of “non-binding areas” in the 2010 PPC Act. Instead, investigators of Global Witness were interested in mundane things such as the color of the villa in which Senator Sherman has his law offices and the part of Monrovia where that villa is situated. And this was the report on which the Liberian Government is prosecuting the accused persons.
Like the recent forestry report accusing President Sirleaf and the Liberian government that its forestry policy “puts back efforts to halt climate change” and “shortchanges the Liberian people,” The Deceivers is not the first report that Global Witness has written about Liberia; it has written several reports on various subjects, including corruption. However, The Deceivers is the first report on Liberia by Global Witness which the Liberian Government has taken sufficiently serious enough to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute those implicated in it. Why is that? The answer is simple; President Sirleaf’s political protagonists (Senator Varney Sherman, Prof. Willie Belleh, and former Speaker Alex Tyler) were implicated in The Deceivers. President Sirleaf has forgotten that these three persons were responsible for the merger of the Liberia Action Party and the Liberia Unification Party with the Unity Party, which made it possible for her to win the 2011 election.
President Sirleaf knows fully well that Global Witness investigates and reports on matters of governance in developing countries, but there appears to be no record of a report by Global Witness about good things done by any developing country. Investigations by Global Witness are almost always directed at showing the bad sides of governance of a developing country. Global Witness gets its funding and support by writing reports, such as The Deceivers, about developing countries, especially African countries. Simply stated, to continue to get funding Global Witness must continue to write and publish reports, such as The Deceivers, about African countries; that is a very strong incentive for the writing and publication of The Deceivers.
Knowing these facts, and having served as a board member on the board of directors for the Open Society for West Africa (OSIWA), a subsidiary of the Soros Foundation, one of the philanthropic institutions from which Global Witness regularly seeks funds to do its work, President Sirleaf should have known that based on the lack of veracity and the sensational nature of The Deceiver Report, Global Witness’ true intent could have been to justify the rationale and use of its funding. Instead, the Liberian used the ‘unsubstantiated’ report as an alibi to persecute Liberians she perceived as political nemesis and foes. In the process, President Sirleaf and her government spent more than $2 million United States dollars on a bogus “Special Presidential Taskforce” to conduct the persecution under the pretext of a rule of law, thereby wasting the limited but pressure time and resources of the Liberian judiciary.
Below Are Payments Ordered By President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the Special Presidential Taskforce To Persecute Her Real and Perceived Political Foes and Nemesis Using the Misleading and Inaccurate Globe Witness Report, The Deceiver.
It was against the importance attached to the need for judicial independence in Liberia and Africa in general and the invaluable significance attached to resisting the unfair way the reputation of credible and highly professional Liberians has been ruined in the process that Globe Afrique Media, an investigative media institution, and publisher of globeafrique.com, decided to conduct a research into the matter and the subsequent political witch-hunt.
After an extensive investigation, Globe Afrique Media found no credible basis for the Global Witness Report and the accusation made, and discovered that the true nature of why President Sirleaf and her government were persecuting the accused Liberians was based on personal historical vendetta, political witch-hunt and a calculated attempt to silence them by ruining their reputation. Besides, it is also later believed that the Liberian leader allegedly had additional political motives which concentrated on the 2017 presidential election.
There are two key things to be drawn from Global Witness reports on Liberia and the response of President Sirleaf to each of the reports. We have learned and now know that all Global Witness’ reports on Liberia which accused President Sirleaf, her children, family members, and cronies are always considered by her as false and misleading. The only Global Witness’s report which President Sirleaf has ever considered as factual and for which she decided to prosecute the accused persons by grossly wasting millions of Liberian taxpayers’ money is The Deceivers simply because she had a vindictive intent contrary to the alibi used for the so-called prosecution.
For example, in The Deceivers, Global Witness accused former Senators Kupee and Cletus Wortorson as well as President Sirleaf’s step-son, Honorable Fumbah Sirleaf as some of the prominent Liberians bribed. All three, especially Honorable Fumbah Sirleaf, strongly denied the Global Witness’s accusation as false and misleading. President Sirleaf, since she does not have any real and perceived whine with these people, she believed them even though the three persons named above were accused along with the other prominent Liberians.
Another lesson learned is that President Sirleaf is now casting Global Witness as a phony watchdog institution because the organization is accusing she and her administration of wrongdoing when, in its report, it says, President Sirleaf and her government forestry policy “put back efforts to halt climate change” and “shortchanges the Liberian people.”
This recent development involving Global Witness’s latest work again in Liberia justified the motivation for Globe Afrique’s research into The Deceivers, and it validates Globe Afrique’s counter report, The Real Deceivers, which tells a factual story that a government should not knowingly and erroneously use the judiciary, because the judiciary, in any country, is one of the most important institutions of a state. Its integrity and independence from political manipulations are the foundations for maintaining the rule of law. Globe Afrique’s objectives were to understand if the case against Liberian persons accused in The Deceivers of committing crimes for which indictments of bribery, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal solicitation and criminal facilitation were obtained, based on hearsays and violations of privacy laws by Global Witness, were adequate to sustain successful prosecution in Liberia.
THE “REAL” DECEIVERS – An Exclusive Investigation by Globe Afrique Media