Calling Spade a Spade
Senator Sando Dazoe Johnson of Bomi County says the only way the George Weah-led Government can make progress is for him to fire his Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill, and his Finance Minister Samuel Tweah.
“All of us love the president, but his associates are gradually damaging Liberia. I will name Nathaniel McGill. I will name the Minister of Finance,” Senator Johnson said when he appeared on a local radio talk show during the week. He said President Weah must do the right thing and get rid of these men who are ill-advising him and carrying misinformation to the public about the missing billions and the US$25 million infused into the market to stabilize the high exchange rate between the United States dollar and the local currency.
“If the president were to ask for my advice, I will tell him straight off, let the Minister of State go. Let the Minister of Finance go. The person who was at the port when the money came in, let that person go as well. The party chairman should be punished regarding the statement he made regarding this money. If president Weah does that, trust me, he will get the result he wants. Because these are the people that have given contradictions to the Liberian people. McGill sits there and ill-advises the president, thinking that he’s prime minister on his own. These are the people who misinformed the public; therefore, the people are blaming all of us for eating their money. But I can celebrate myself because I wasn’t part of any group that ate some of that money. I will not take the bullet for people who perpetrated broad day robbery in our country. The other day I was driving behind one container vehicle and everybody was yelling: bring our money back. I was embarrassed. So I told my driver, anytime you see container vehicle, don’t drive behind them,” revealed a seemingly frustrated Senator Dazoe Johnson.
“I will speak out on this matter. I have received threats that they will not support me during the next elections. I really don’t give a damn who will support me or not. I am talking about Liberia. I don’t have to become a senator to become a leader. I don’t need Coalition. I don’t need anybody. If you don’t want to speak to me, it’s fine,” the loquacious legislator blasted.
“We are proceeding wrongly with this money issue. There are many other factors. How many investors have we brought in since we came to power? Instead of bringing investors, people are leaving because of the way we are conducting ourselves. You have more than ten persons speaking for one government. And when those ten persons speak, they are speaking from different misinformed angles. So the people no longer believe us, because of the many contradictions about this money issue,” Senator Johnson intoned.
The LD16 Billion and $25 million Question
Dazoe Johnson’s outburst comes against ongoing legislative hearings into the missing billions and the US25 million saga, where Finance Minister Samuel Tweah confessed to the lawmakers that the government did not inject the US$25 million into the commercial banking sector, but rather went directly to money exchangers to withdraw the excess banknotes from the market.
Surprisingly, Finance Minister somehow somersaulted from his earlier statement that no monies ever got missing, when he told the lawmakers this week that some monies went missing, but not LD16 billion. His latest revelation elicited shock and dismay among the lawmakers. At one point, Minister Tweah, when queried about how the US$25 million was infused directly into the market, begged the lawmakers’ indulgence to summon the Governor of the Central Bank because, according to him, the documents from which he was reading emanated from the Central Bank.
Venting his frustration about the whole affair, Senator Johnson said the entire operation was a criminal enterprise.
“We give them the authorization to print only LD5 billion. Anything else they wanted to print they had to revert to us. Ellen brought some of those monies in and some came under this regime. And so, you have two groups of people. People in the former government and people in the current government. These are the major suspects. You have a report that says LD15 billion was put in the vault. You have a report that says we have less than LD2 billion. So if we want to agree with the argument that the money was put into the market, what channel did you use? If you were putting those monies in the market they would go through the banking sector. Records will be there. Bring the records now. That’s the excuse they want to come up with. The Central Bank should not be in the business of putting people on line to change money. The money should be placed in the commercial banks and once you have money there, it will be changed. If you cannot provide records, it means those monies are still in homes. If you cannot provide records, it means that these monies were illegally distributed to criminals and used,” Senator Johnson lamented.
A Déjà vu Sign of the Times?
Senator Johnson reminded his colleagues that they should not take the patience of the Liberian people for stupidity, because he knows that the people will rise when their cups overflow.
“I feel so bad to hear people say that we are the messiahs, we are coming for change, hope for change. When you hear a group of officials telling you this is our time, it has evil intent. It means this is our time to steal, this is our time to chop. It is associated with evil. So somebody did wrong and you come back and say this is our time. If this story dies out and we don’t take action, Liberia will become a perpetual criminal state forever. If nothing happens with this money, Liberia will be a criminal state where we steal from ourselves. One morning Liberia could be mortgaged. If we keep talking and nothing happens, then we will ask the international community not to bring aid here. Because anything you bring here the vultures will eat it. If you can steal from yourself, who will trust you?” Senator Johnson wondered.
In reminding President Weah to take cue from history, Johnson warned his colleagues in government that popularity, like everything worldly, will diminish.
“If you think you are overly popular you have to do the right things to maintain that popularity. Taylor was popular. When some Liberians felt that because of his popularity they will not die, you saw what happened to him. When people start to realize that the popularity of George Weah will no longer help us, they will rise up. The people will speak up. And in their speaking up, somebody will intervene.
The people can rise up in different forms. Nobody wants to experience war. Nobody wants to experience violence. But the people could rise up politically. That’s what they will do. They will talk and somebody will come to their aid. I will support talking, I will not support violence. I will not support war, I will not support coup d’etat. No. There will be simultaneous demonstrations, peaceful ones. That’s why we will support those actions, so people can correct the wrongs,” he warned.
The Way Forward
Senator Johnson said the government must act swiftly to right the wrongs because the Liberian people are really suffering.
“We will have to roll up our sleeves and be bold to our leaders. I am part of the leadership; I am not leaving myself out, that’s why we’re speaking. People must be sincere. Listen to what the other woman said yesterday, that they must ask Charles Sirleaf. They know about the money business. Such statement coming from people who are supposed to be custodians of our money, it tells me that people sat down in one corner and divided the money based on friendship, believing no one will know about it. This government is supposed to give the public progress report every two days, but they don’t have anything to report. But when you jam them to the wall, they come up with contradictions. Should we be silent on this? We will not be silent. We will speak out.
They are now saying the money was placed in the CBL vaults. So, it is very simple. All we need to do is to go there. But we cannot take the lead, because we don’t have the constitutional authority to do so. The Executive and the Judiciary have the mandate to do so. We make the policies and give them to the Executive to execute, but they are not prepared to do so, because if they do so with due diligence, people will get disgraced. But it’s better for people to get disgraced than to allow the country to perish. You’re talking about four million people and you want to save three to four persons? Let them get disgraced,” Johnson stated.
Regarding widespread public perception that President Weah knows something about the missing billions and the US$25 million, Senator Johnson says he feels sorry for President Weah.
“I feel for him. On this money issue, he is confused. He was depending on these vultures and they let him down. He was depending on them to give him the technical advice, but they let him down. They failed him. Nobody should point fingers at the president that he knows something about this money business. Nothing has been established yet. When we get there, the only time they will blame him is if he doesn’t take the action that he’s supposed to take, then they will put all the blame on his head. And at the point in time, he will take full responsibility.”
All efforts to contact the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of State to get their side of Senator Johnson’s revelation proved futile.