Supporting The Liberian Senate

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Last week witnessed serious debate on the amendment of portions of the act that created the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL). The senate last week amended the act, barring the Executive Governor of the bank and members of the Board of Governors from contesting any elective post, while in office and even after leaving office for three years. The move by the Senate sparked off heated debate in the public, as many persons said the amendment was unconstitutional and that it was also discriminatory.

Interestingly, in the wake of the outcry against the Senate, the House of Representatives, unprecedentedly, hurriedly and hastily concurred with the Senate, thus heightening the outcry against the Senate and the House of Representatives too, for concurring to an amendment that has been repugnant in the eyes of the public that those lawmakers represent. With that passage by the House, some members of the public said the House was very “insensitive to public opinion” by concurring on an issue that has been rejected by the public.

The proposed amendment states, “ the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the Board of Governors shall be prohibited to contest political office(s) while serving in their respective offices and shall not be qualified to contest any electable office within three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure and in his/her resignation from the Central Bank of Liberia. ”

Proponents of the amended CBL Act have argued that the amendment was necessary to prevent these individuals, not necessarily the present government, Dr. Mills Jones, from using state resources to seek political power. They are of the view that the loan scheme being used by the bank through its executive governor was all intended to market him for a political office, especially the presidency, at the expense of the tax payers’ money.

Since news of the amendment of the CBL act, I have written few articles on the matter. Today as I continue on the matter in another fashion, I still feel that the argument and reasons being propounded by the proponents of this Amended CBL Act on the issue of sitting on “state resources” or on the issue of “undue influence,” is unpersuasive and cannot logically hold in that there are many in such positions in the status quo, and so to decide on an institution, when there are many, then, it is discriminatory and deserves a strong public disproval.

On the issue of undue influence, I still feel this too cannot be used as a reason for amending the act of the CBL because, as it is common sense, there are many, including members of the national legislature, who find themselves in such a position.  Because of this issue of undue influence, are we going to make law to prevent those Senators seeking re-election, or Representatives who want to ascend to the Senate from contesting because of this? I say a BIG NO!

On the issue for the day, as said previously, if the CBL and its Executive Governor are involved in acts ultra vires to the functions and mandate of the bank, I stand ready to strongly support the Liberian Senate to curtail that. But interestingly, this is not the case. The CBL and its leadership have not been accused of doing contrary to the statutory functions of the bank.  The CBL continues to vehemently maintain that it is acting based on its mandate. Therefore, the Senate must counteract this to say that the bank is doing things, such as its loan scheme, it should not be involved in.

Again, I stand to be a supporter of the Senate, from where this Act originated, if it is established that the loan scheme, for which this man is now popular, is wrong. Conversely, if this is not the reason for amending the CBL Act, then, there is all reason to deduce that there is another motive, rather than the issue of the loan scheme.

There are times people are appointed to positions and do not really comprehend the statutory functions of those ministries and agencies, thus failing to work in line with its functions and responsibility, to realize the objective and reason for setting up such institutions.  As a result, the good things of those institutions are not realized and noticed. Because of this, such institutions are regarded as ‘sleeping giants’ and not even counted among those seen as being very important.

I recall many years ago that the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications was never regarded as a ministry with important functions. As a result all kinds of people were appointed to work there, as a political appeasement. It was until Morris Dukuly, now Minister of Internal Affairs, perhaps based on his background in communication, took that Ministry from its slumber of being a ‘sleeping giant’ to an active giant. One of his legacies is the numbering system of postal zones. Because of what Minister Dukuly did at that ministry by transforming it, it is never treated with triviality.

Similarly, when the late Joe Tate became Director of the Liberia National Police, he enforced traffic regulations, including the reflectors sign in the streets. Even though, as human beings, he had his “buts”, as we always say of our shortcomings, his enforcement of the traffic regulations that have been on the books prior to his appointment to that post, indeed, paid off.

And so if the executive governor and the board of governors in the past did not realize this major function of the bank and this present administration under Dr. Jones is doing so, why then is the problem with this? Can’t we be happy that the bank is making use of an important function that is essentially helping to alleviate poverty, which is of serious concern to all Liberians, including the very lawmakers?

Although the proponents are insisting that this amended act is not targeted at the present administration, this is indeed, difficult to believe. Even if it is intended for governors, it is still an egregiously violation of their fundamental rights, and that it is also discriminatory, as it is strong to exclude certain group of people from seeking political office. Again, this is wrong.

As I conclude, let me once more say that I stand as a supporter of the Liberian Senate, should that body prove that the loan scheme by the bank is not in line with its statutory functions but an attempt by the Executive Governor, Dr. Mills Jones and members of the Board of Governors of the bank to politically conciliate the voting public, in favor of Dr. Jones, who it is perceived, is interested in the presidency. If it is proven that the giving of loans or micro-finance is not part of the bank’s function, I will descend on Dr. Jones and his officials for doing something that is ultra vires in line with their official duty. I wait to hear from the Senate on this matter. Until then, I REST MY CASE.