Global Witness alleged that it had incontrovertible evidence that senior Liberian government officials had taken bribes totaling US$950,000 from Sable Mining in 2010 to amend Liberia’s mining laws and to by-pass the public procurement regulations that would allow Sable Mining to win concession rights over one of Liberia’s main mineral rich mountains, the Wologisi range in Lofa County. Wologisi is believed to have a cocktail of untapped mineral deposits in the north-western bulge of Liberia.
Among those implicated in the allegations were Hon. J. Alex Tyler, Speaker of the 53rd House of Representatives; and Senator G. Varney Sherman, Chairman of the powerful House Committee on Judiciary and the lawyer for Sable Mining. Six others including two whom the leaked document from London simply named as” Big Boy One” and “Big Boy Two” were listed in the Global Witness dossier.
No sooner had the bribery scandal hit the Liberian newsstand than President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the establishment of a presidential task force to probe the report. From the very onset of constituting the investigation committee, there rose fumes from smoking guns. Some members of the public, who have questioned the sincerity of the government to prosecute corruption, did not hesitate to question why the composition of the presidential team of investigators comprised the Ministry of Justice, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the Ministry of State Without Portfolio. At street corner debates, pundits raised the question as to why a presidential task force, when there are statutory bodies to probe corruption. They also asked why so much premium was placed on the Sable Mining bribery, when there have been more intriguing corruption and criminal cases lingering on the shelves. Other pundits were concerned by the composition of the task force featuring two newcomers to cabinet, such as counselor Fonati Koffa and the Minister of Justice James Cherue.
Government spokesmen had a ready-made answer. They told the media that the government was in a hurry to dispel rumors about its insincerity to fight corruption. The presidential task force under the gavel of its chairman, the newly appointed minister of state without portfolio, counselor Fonati Koffa, who until his preferment was chairman of the opposition Liberty Party, set out with a dashing speed to fulfill its mandate. Its first step was to petition the criminal court to issue a search warrant on key defendants, thereby laying the path for the arrest and indictment of some of those named in the Global Witness allegation.
Government prosecutors, who usually insist that they needed time to gather sufficient evidence before going to court, were overly in haste to lay charges against the suspects. The prosecutors were heavily reliant on the Global Witness narratives. Of course, the employment of the whistleblower’s evidence could not disguise the underlying political motivations. As the case unfolded, speculations abounded that the whole affair was about settling scores between President Johnson Sirleaf and Speaker Tyler who had resigned from the Unity Party and formed the Liberia People Democratic Party (LPDP) on the one hand, and President Johnson Sirleaf and Counselor Sherman on the other, an estrangement that affected the hierarchy of the Unity Party.
The quarrels spilled over into the Legislature, where deep-seated partisan feuds rose beyond boiling point. All of a sudden, factions or blocs emerged in the Legislature calling for Speaker Tyler to recuse himself from presiding over plenary, while the other resolutely supported him. The mudslinging reached a crescendo that hindered normal deliberations including the 2016/2017 budget at the Capitol.
Speaker Tyler could not bear the shenanigan. He told the media that President Johnson Sirleaf had paid some members of the Legislature to unseat him. The Executive Mansion refuted the claims. The ink on this disclaimer hardly dried up when the Presidency announced it recognized the legislative faction presided over by deputy speaker Hans Barchue. At the height of this high-wire maneuver, Speaker Tyler recused himself and requested a sick leave. Perhaps Tyler thought this retreat would have temporarily brought him a respite. To the contrary, his hecklers led by Montserrado County Representative Edwin M. Snowe saw an opening and pushed for the Speaker’s removal from the post. The anti-Tyler bloc tabled a resolution which removed him by a majority vote. The House has since elected Representative Emmanuel Nuquay of Margibi County as Speaker.
From hindsight, analysts have come to grips with the insidious plot of Global Witness aimed to plunge Liberia in a crisis while it sits in London watching the country reeling in the slime. What other conclusion could be reached than the fact that the sponsors of the Global Witness expose used Liberia as a battleground to fight their rival Sable Mining, with which they are in fierce competition for iron ore exploration in Eastern Europe and Latin America. No matter what pathway of thought is used, Liberia is but a pawn in this corporate warfare. (Culled from Capitol Insider Magazine October 2016 edition)