Global Witness’ latest report revealing deep seated corruption, which occurred under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration is sufficient reason why President George Weah should bring to justice Sirleaf era officials who participated in the large scale looting of the country’s resources .
The UK based governance watchdog in its report of March 29, 2018 said a select few in former President Sirleaf’s kitchen cabinet shared oil revenue belonging to the country under the guise of bonus for good.
President George Weah’s administration has classified the revelation as allegation of bribery, which will be investigated and people blameworthy for the act with face the law for theft committed against the state and its people. We welcome this initiate step and agree with the administration that it is bribe from Exxon to the officials.
The circumstantial evidence here is Exxon response to a US publication that the deal was subject to Liberian government’s approval when it was asked about the corrupt nature of the concession it was acquiring. It could be that Exxon embedded the amount given to the officials to build the bonus theory and make it appear a clean deal.
This money placed into the pockets of those officials represents a fraction of the US$120million, US oil giant ExxonMobil paid for a lucrative offshore oil basin known as Block 13.
Officials who received payments include Liberia’s then-Justice, Finance, and Mining Ministers, each of whom received $35,000 – more than doubling their annual salaries. Robert Sirleaf, then-Chairman of NOCAL and son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also received a $35,000 payment despite reportedly working pro-bono, Global Witness said.
It is ex President Sirleaf who inspired, and directed the deal despite another US supermajoy expressed position that the concession was corruption tainted. Based on the General Auditing Commission report that it be annulled, Chevron fear US authorities could hold it for corruption and a new Liberian President could cutoff the agreement. But Exxon and the President were brave.
According to Wikileaks released US diplomatic cable, Sirleaf’s justification was that Liberia needed the money for development.
But it appears it is she and her allies who wanted the money. Reason: ExxonMobil concession is located in one of the country’s poorest counties – River Cess. The near quarter of a million shared with the officials could have impacted the lives and income of several vulnerable households in River Cess had the authorities opted to spend it there on poverty reduction programs.
But sadly, while Ellen Johnson Sikrleaf was traveling around the world, begging for other nations taxpayers’ money, she presided over the distribution of the country’s wealth into private pockets.
This is the heartless case of abuse of public office and corruption that should not go unpunished.
It is now time for President Weah to talk the talk against corruption and walk the walk. The fight against corruption in impoverished Liberia does not require words but deeds.
This is why we have stated in previous position that What Liberians want to see now and going forward is for their democratically elected President to with immediate effect place on traveling ban and prosecute individuals who worked in the graft driven Sirleaf administration and are holders of unexplained wealth. Stolen national resources that would better the lives of the country’s poor that are under the control of those officials listed in audit and mass of economic and financial crimes reports must be retrieved.
There are reports that some individuals in the fading regime have starched hefty but unspecified money in foreign bank accounts including the Kingdom of Morocco where a certain top official and associates is alleged to have more than US$200million.
Energy and resources directed towards the retrieving of stolen government vehicles can similarly be redeployed in the investigation of officials who with evil intent to take for themselves national wealth and keeping the rest of the population poor.