By Jerry Jeffery
The National Elections Commission, an independent body is now being pressured by some high-ranking CDC officials and their top Ministers of government pretending to be the LACC fight against corruption. In true, these high-ranking CDC officials and their Ministers are bent on removing the current NEC Chair by bringing criminal charges against her and to replace her with a puppet to rig the 2023 election.
Few weeks ago, the Liberian Daily Observer Newspaper reported that the National Elections Commission had rented 20 thermometers costing US$182,320.00 to be used in four counties for the just ended by-elections. The Newspaper further indicated that the Thermometers were rented from Tuma Enterprise and that this entity in question belongs to the brothers of Commissioner Davidetta Browne Lansanah. Due to the fact that there is a link between the owner of the Tuma Enterprise and that of NEC Boss, it has raised the question of Conflict of Interest as indicated by the paper.
Based on the foregoing, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission decided to probe into the matter to establish probable cause as to the allegation raised by the paper. After days of investigation, the LACC drew an indictment against the NEC Boss for Conflict of Interest, insider trading and Money laundering. A writ of arrest was subsequently issued and thereafter Commissioner Davidetta Browne Lansanah was brought before Criminal Court “C” by her lawyer.
A valid criminal appearance bond was secured by her lawyer to prevent her from going to jail especially during the festive season when the court itself has gone on break. This is the summary of the facts involving NEC and its Boss, Commissioner Davidetta Browne Lansanah.
Some high ranking Cdicians want to have control over the commission
On April 9, 2020, President George M. Weah appointed Davidetta Browne Lansanah as Commissioner proper, National Elections Commission which many of us lauded the President. Some Cdcians had the confidence that once they have constituted a new board of Commissioners every election would go their way and there was nothing to worry over. To test this false perception, the 2020 Senatorial Election was a classical lesson. The opposition Collaborating Political Party had a winning percentage of 40.27% of the total votes cast, while CDC obtained 28.02% of the total votes cast, a difference of 12.25% in favor of the opposition. That election saw the opposition winning six of the 15 counties, while CDC won only three of the 15 counties. The opposition won almost all the votes in rich counties, LOFA, BONG, MONTSERRADO, BASSA, RIVERGEE and GRAND CAPE MOUNT COUNTY. This was a severe defeat to CDC considering that if the narrative remains constant, it means CDC will find it difficult against an already falling apart CPP. It should also be noted that the President had toured the 15 counties a few months before the Senatorial election. The President’s trip was intended to re-energize his bases across the country. Again in 2021, the National Elections Commissions under the stewardship of Davidetta Browne Lansanah conducted a by-election in four counties for the house of Representative, BONG, NIMBA, GRAND GEDEH, and…., In the just ended by-election, CDC did not win a single seat amidst the huge campaign done by the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. With the latest election results, it is becoming clearer to the Liberian people that Commissioner Davidetta Browne Lansanah Commission is independent and not in any way intending to bend the rules. This has angered some top guys within the CDC.
In 2023, President George M. Weah will be contesting against the CPP that just handed him a massive senatorial defeat in 2020. 15 seats at the Senate will be up for reelection as well as the entire House of Representative. Going into the 2023 election with Davidetta Browne Lansanah serving as Commissioner, this is something that CDC has long been strategizing to deal with. They are aware that Commissioner Browne is not in bed with them, therefore they either create false corruption allegations to force her into submission to go their way in 2023 or she be removed. Those who are behind this political ploy are aware that the Commissioners at NEC serve on tenure basis and that Commissioner Davidetta does not fall within the meaning of Executive Agency, therefore Commissioner Davidetta can only be removed for “CAUSE” and it is that “CAUSE” they’re trying to establish in order to convince the President to dismiss Commissioner Lansanah to get her out of the way so as to have a controlling Commissioner to do the damage work in 2023. If nothing is done to remove Davidetta Browne Lansanah, many high-ranking CDC lawmakers may not return to the Capitol. Just to name a few: Senate Pro-Tempore, Albert Chea, Senator Saah H. Joseph. House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, Acarous Gray, Deputy Speaker Fonati Koffa, Ways, Means & Finance Chair, Thomas Fallah, Solomon George, Jimmy Smith, etc.
It has been gathered that criminal charges brought against Commissioner Lansanah and her summary arrest to put behind bars was meant to pressure her into resigning as chairperson of NEC. If Commissioner Lansanah should resign or be dismissed, so too must Bill Tweahway and Kanio Bai Gbala. That’s the fair interpretation of Conflict of interest and application of the law thereof.
By August of 2021, the biggest corruption scandal in 2021 broke the internet when frontpage Africa reported that a bogus Company called Creative Developers Incorporated (CDI) has been defrauding government and private port users in the amount of approximately US$500,000.00. The Articles of Incorporation of this company shows that the current National Port Authority Managing Director eldest brother name Paul Tweahway maintains a 60% share in CDI, while Kanio Bai Gbala youngest sister, Zarylee Gbala who is a Student of the United Methodist University maintains a share of 10%, while Hamed Sidiki Fofana, the CEO of the Company owns 15% share and Christian Brownell, deputy Comptroller, National Port Authority had a share of 15%. On August 20, 2020, A formal Memorandum of Understanding was entered into by and between CDI and the National Port Authority under the signatures of Bill Tweahway and the current comptroller of the National Port Authority awarding handling contract to this company. There is no record to indicate whatsoever that the company was registered with the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC). No PPCC procedure was followed, yet Bill awarded a very lucrative contract to this bogus company owned by his brother and Kanio Bai Gbala sister as well as NPA deputy comptroller. If the LACC argument against the current NEC boss is on the basis of corruption, conflict of interest and insider trading, then what prevented the LACC from pressing further with Bill Tweahway and Kanio Bai Gbala? Are the facts not similar, of course they are.
In the Tuma Enterprise case, the two individuals listed are not shareholders in Company as opposed to Bill Tweahway whose brother is the majority shareholder in CDI as well as Kanio’s sister. Bill Tweahway knew or had reason to know that he should not have awarded contract to his CDI own by his brother. He knew or had reason to know that all government contracts should follow PPCC regulations and procedures. The action of both Bill Tweahway and Kanio Bai Gbala was not only, CORRUPTION, CONFLICT of INTEREST and INSIDER TRADING, it was also gross abuse of power. What has LACC done so far since the situation came to the public, absolutely nothing, although it is on the same conflict of interest and insider trading that the LACC has recommended the dismissal of Commissioner Lansanah and has even forwarded her to court. Why Kanio and Bill Tweahway still passing freely. If the LACC wants the public to believe that it is fighting against corruption and conflict of interest and not merely being used by some top CDC executives to dismantle NEC in order to have their will and free ride in 2023? It also means that the LACC is now being used as pseudo hand to get rid of those who stand for integrity and at the same time being used to cover up corruption for those top CDC executives and to witch-hunt. To even have Kanio serving at the Commission while it pretends to be fighting against conflict of interest and corruption, is a joke. During one of the LACC press conferences, it was indicated that the LACC was still investigating the CDI scandal involving Bill Tweahway, two questions come to mind: are there certain cases that take years to be investigated, while other cases are speedily done? What is the motive of LACC fast tracking the case with NEC but still dragging with Bill Tweahway? The LACC has lost its balance, fairness and integrity provided if it still had any left. This justifies the call by many Liberians that Cllr. Edward Martin should resign his post since he is more of a politician receiving instructions from Ministers Nathaniel McGill, Samuel Tweah and Cyrenus Cephas who thrashed the original LACC investigators report for the one developed by them and speared headed by Moses Kowo, the executive director of the LACC who is brother-in-law to PPCC director ROSELINE KOWO and brother to the comptroller general, Republic of Liberia, Janga Kowo. It’s alleged that the Minister and the Solicitor General changed the original report and compelled the investigators to sign the report the LACC director wrote.
Clearly, the fight is not on the basis of conflict of interest or insider trading, the fight is to have the NEC in the pocket of McGill and his allies.
Liberia is at a crossroad. After civilian rule was restored in 2003 followed by a democratic election in 2005, 2011 an 2017, our democracy will once again be tested in 2023 and this early sign of trying to remove the Commission from its independent state is unhealthy for our fragile peace. It is expected that at this stage in our body politics, every well-meaning Liberians should condemn the current attack on the NEC and rally whatever support to help protect the NEC.
In 2017, our election nearly ended in conflict, it was due to farsightedness of the late Cllr. Brumskine and the wisdom of the Supreme Court that averted what could’ve been a potential electoral conflict. Quite recently, we just witnessed the situation in Guinea, our next-door neighbor. In the Ivory Coast, we all saw what happened. The gains we’ve made cannot be eroded because of few individuals who are bend on having a subservient National Elections Commission by all means. We’re still dealing with the situation in Lofa County, we can’t afford to have the National Election Commission being heavily muzzle.
The future of this country and that of the younger generation depends on the 2023 election. Can we afford to have our people living in fear for another year? In a well-functioning democracy, it is expected that the National Elections Commission should be independent at all times and Commissioner Lansanah has been able to maintain that independence since taking over the Commission. It is about time that our international partners to include ECOWAS, African Union, Mano River Union, the American Embassy near Monrovia, the European Union, Council of Churches, the Muslim Community, Civil Society Organizations and the Liberian people be able to stand in one voice to reject the current political ploy navigated thru the LACC against the NEC Chair as we move into the 2023 general elections.