Why The“Mills Jonesphobia”

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

For the second time another debate has ensued on a ending action by some members or the Legislature, especially , the House of Representatives calling on the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) to conduct an audit of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL). Last week, the plenary of the House of Representatives agreed for the conduct of the audit following a communication by Montserrado County Representative, Edwin M. Snowe, Jr. who complained that over the past few months, CBL has been involved with moving into various counties and giving direct financial assistance or loans outside of the National Budget and Commercial Banks.

In his communication, Rep. Snowe informed plenary that the initiative taken by CBL is helpful to the citizens of the country but it is however important to ensure that those activities are carried out within the confines of the laws and status. He said the audit is to make certain that public funds are not used for political motives or as a way of buying future votes.

Expounding to newsmen after the endorsement of his communication,   Rep. Snowe said the PPCC should work with the GAC and if two months is more or less for the audit it would be welcomed because auditing is a technical work and it requires time.

Interestingly, since the plenary’s endorsement of Snowe’s communication, there has been heated debate in corners as to the intent of such a decision. It can be recalled that sometimes ago, there was a debate after the House of Representatives began a process to amend a portion of the 1999 Act that created the bank to bar the governor and others from seeking political ambition.

Despite opposition, as many said such a law was discriminatory and that the Legislature went ahead passing the Act.Today, because of the expeditious manner that characterized that process, it has been termed as the “4G Law,” because many of those who were opposed at the time held the view that it was only intended or targeted at Governor Mills Jones, who it is highly believed may be asked to contest the presidency in 2017, as he was becoming popular because of the loan scheme and establishment of rural financial institutions.

In the wake of the passage of the amended Act 2014, I wrote an article entitled: “The History Making Aspect Of Liberia: The Case Of The CBL Amendment Act,“ in which it was reported that the “Liberian Senate amended a portion of the Act that created the CBL, barring its executive governor and members of the Board from contesting elective office in this country. Additionally, the amendment said that should they decide to do so after leaving office, they have to wait for three years consecutively after leaving office before contesting for any elective posts.

“The proposed amendment which the House of Representatives has concurred with 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.”

Even though the proponents of the act, said the amendment is not targeted at the present Governor, Mills Jones, it was generally believed that this is only an attempt by the lawmakers to deny this man who it is perceived has political ambition for the presidency and is using the loan scheme to gain popularity.

Unsurprisingly, the issue formed major headlines in some of the local dailies in the country. For the nation’s oldest daily, the Daily Observer, it carried a front page story, captioned:” CBL Uneasy…As House Concurs with Senate to deny CBL Executives from elections,” while the New Democrat carried it as, “Jones Dream Hangs,” and the Women Voices had its headline as, “Legislature Kills Governor Jones Presidential Dream.”

The Heritage for its part at the time carried the banner headline: “Lawmakers Clash Over Concurrence Of CBL Amended Act.” As for this paper because of the speedy or rapidity that characterized Tuesday’s sitting, and its unprecedented nature, gave its story an idiomatic headline, which read: “4G” Concurrence At The Capitol Building.”

Again, the CBL and lawmakers have come to the spotlight with this latest communication to conduct the audit. This is once more seen as a decoy targeted at the Governor. Some said it was the issue of fearing an audit, but the continuous targeting of this institution and its head by these lawmakers, by providing misinformation to the public, especially regarding the issue of audit of the bank. Others are in disbelief of any amended act that empowers the GAC to conduct an audit of the CBL.

Furthering the debate on the issue of amended act, political commentator, Darius Dillon said it is not the issue of ambiguity as the CBL act is clear. He described as a “lie” assertion by Representative Snowe that an amendment to the CBL Act requiring the GAC to Audit the CBL was passed by the Legislature on December 22, 2014 amidst the Ebola epidemic and challenged Representative Snowe and the entire Legislature to make public their ledger, and minutes relative to the debate about their expert opinions before the passage.

Mr. Dillon who appeared on the Truth Breakfast Show last week also challenged Representative Snowe to produce a copy of such a law to prove that it was printed into hand bill on March 6, 2015. Furthermore, he noted that it is now clear that the CBL under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Joseph Mills Jones is being targeted despite the good work he is doing to bring economic emancipation to thousands of Liberians through its micro-finance loan initiative.

Initially, as I said that although Dr. Jones has not announced his bid for the 2017 presidency, it is highly believed and is being widely circulated that he may contest because he is winning a lot of hearts through the loan programs of the bank. Given the level of poverty in the country, there is no gaining saying that many persons, especially those in the rural areas, see him as someone who is identifying with them, as it is commonly said that people are always interested in people who “put bread on their table.”

Whether we like it or not, Mills Jones is now a popular person based on his functions. We should forget that popularity is also an important factor in politics, and so should he desire to venture into that path, this would grease his elbows. As such, to dampen his chances, some measures must be taken to prevent him. Many may be wondering why only the CBL should be audited. Presently, there is this audit about the Ebola fund. Recently, I supported a call by Rep. Snowe for his colleagues who received Ebola money to make report. How far has that gone before moving on to the CBL?

In all fairness, those who hold the view that all of these are targeted at the governor to “spoil’ his chances if he decides to run, have all reasons for this, especially in the wake of claim that the Lower House is also planning to put up a candidate, preferably the present speaker of the Unity Party.

Whenever I ruminate on this issue of the lawmakers and the CBL, I am reminded of the ugly days during the regime of the late Samuel K. Doe, who fearing the strength and popularity of the then Liberia’s People (LPP) then headed by Dr. Amos sawyer, now Chairman of the Governance Commission, did everything to prevent those two grassroots’ parties from contesting the 1985 General and Presidential Elections. Besides, the late Doe’s fear of strong opposition at the time resulted in making many persons popular, either by arresting or linking those to subversive acts.

Today, this may not be the same modus operandi because of the present dispensation. But what is obtaining may remind us of attempts to prevent this man from contesting. Let me say my argument is not whether or not the bank should be audited, but my point is that the way and manner in which these lawmakers are going about this, would give one the feeling or belief that there is something fishy about the action against the bank.

Also, as a student of communication and given our sociology, let me make it clear that these lawmakers may not know that they are adding to the popularity of this man in that they are subconsciously making him more popular.

For me, if this man is involved in something that ultra vires, then, there is reason for concern. But to use the issue of giving loan that the ordinary people appreciate, it is only adding grease to the elbows of the governor should he decide to contest.

Let me also say that sometimes people do not intend to contest in a political race, but some prevailing circumstances may encourage them to do so. I recall that in 1995, now Senator, George Weah, really did not intent to contest the presidency, but when he received many offers to be a “running-mate’ to some individuals eyeing the presidency at the time, he was encouraged to join the process as a formidable candidate. It was then based on that I wrote the first story about the calls for Ambassador Weah to contest the elections, something he graciously accepted.

Considering the moves by lawmakers against the CBL and its present Governor, one can logically deduce that it is all geared towards frustrating him, should he desire to contest. But if care is not taken, this could be as boomerang or something suicidal. I Rest My Case.