By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
There are certain people in the society because of their status, former positions and field of specialization, the media always take whatever they say with great seriousness. Because these individuals enjoy what is known in Mass Communication as “STATUS CONFERRAL,” the media always highlight whatever they say on issues of national concern. Additionally, such individuals fit in one of the elements of news gathering which is “PROMINENCE.” This can simply be stated as “BIG NAMES MAKE BIG NEWS.” Therefore it is because they are prominent; they are featured highly in the media.
Today, one of the issues of national concern is the reported financial problem at the Liberia National Oil Company (NOCAL) and so when Harry Greaves, former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) who was also an authority in financial matters commented on the issues reportedly during a hearing at the Capitol Building on the status of NOCAL organized by the Joint Legislative Committees on Oil, Gas and Petroleum, it became a major issue in the media, especially by the “Women Voices” which carried the comments as its banner story (front page major story).
A truncated version of the story as published by the newspaper on Monday, under the caption: “NOCAL CEO EARNS MORE MONEY THAN OBAMA, ELLEN,” states that Greaves attributed the current financial stoppage at NOCAL to the issue of huge salary to the Company’s president and Chief Executive Officer Randolph Cooper who he said is reportedly earning a monthly salary of US$ 30, 000 in a poverty striken country such as Liberia. He told reporters at the Legislature that the NOCAL CEO receives more than the President of the United States and even President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
He said that no public servant in Liberia is making such an alarming salary adding that NOCAL spends US$ 25 m of the public funds annually when it is not producing anything because there is no oil that has been discovered and that the company only operates as an administrative unit. Terming the NOCAL representation at the hearing as one just to fool the Liberian people, Greaves also said the financial crisis at NOCAL was prompted by the huge salary disbursements and payments of US$ 1.5 m as Board fees annually to members of the Board of Directors.
In its harsh or exacting reaction, NOCAL said,” NOCAL said, “The National Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has described as malicious and self-seeking Mr. Harry Greaves’ deliberate campaign of lies and misrepresentations directed against the oil company. NOCAL observes that Greaves’ campaign of calumny and unsubstantiated criticisms of NOCAL and the Presidency is deriving from the defeat he suffered at the hands of NOCAL late last year, when the Supreme Court threw out his complaint against the oil company over the bidding process involving four oil blocks.
Furthermore, NOCAL said, “It can be recalled that the former LPRC Managing Director had filed a writ of prohibition against NOCAL to prevent the lease of the four offshore oil blocks and questioning the handling of the bid round for the leasing of the oil blocks. It went on:” However and unfortunately for Mr. Greaves, His Honor Philip A.Z. Bank, Associate Justice presiding in chambers, rightly dismissed the claim, stating that Greave’s petition did not show a sufficient basis to warrant the issuance of the alternative
It said, “In the wake of this judicial setback, Mr. Greaves vowed and threatened that he would continue the fight against NOCAL—hence his ongoing media campaign against NOCAL, representing a classic case of sour grapes. “The oil company would like Harry Greaves to first remove the dirt in his eyes before attempting to remove someone else’s, as the Liberian media and the general public knows very well Greaves’ not-so-impressive work at the LPRC where the running of the entity under his leadership left so much to be desired in terms of transparency.
“Meanwhile, NOCAL wishes to refute exaggerated and false claims being made by Mr. Greaves about the salary of the President/CEO who is nowhere making the amount of salary that Mr. Greaves claims he is making. Greaves’ assertions in this regard are therefore unsubstantiated, malicious, unverifiable and completely inaccurate.”
Indeed, I take interest in this matter when a man like Greaves makes an assertion or comment on such a matter one does not expect that he had spoken from the blue sky for which he has been challenged, more importantly when NOCAL has termed as “exaggerated and false claims being made by Mr. Greaves about the salary of the President/CEO who is nowhere making the amount of salary that Mr. Greaves claims he is making. Greaves’ assertions in this regard are therefore unsubstantiated, malicious, unverifiable and completely inaccurate.”
Although NOCAL did not mention the salary of its bosses, perhaps for administrative reason, it still does not mean that this is not an issue for discussion, especially when it borders on the “TRUTH.” Mr. Greaves had made this serious disclosure and NOCAL has categorically refuted, thus creating a gap of who is actually telling the Liberian people the truth. Besides, the caliber of individual who has made such disclosure, this matter cannot be swept under the carpet.
Actually, had this been made by someone other than Mr. Greaves, a former insider of the government and an authority of the subject matter, I would not have taken this as a serious matter. By NOCAL denying this should not suggest that Mr. Greaves spoke out of ignorance or try to deliberately and maliciously bring NOCAL to public ridicule or disrepute without the facts.
Under our jurisprudence, “one who alleges a fact must prove it.” This is why I say that since NOCAL says that Mr. Greaves exaggerated, it now behooves the accuser to prove NOCAL wrong. Hence, the truth must be established for the Liberian people to get the actual story on the subject matter.
The allegation came at a time some unpleasant comments were made about the media in reporting accurately. Sometimes the media finds itself in an embarrassing situastion when it publishes information that later proves not to be the truth. But in this case, it is premature or unwise to suggest that Mr. Greaves would say something unsubstantiated or something that is fraught with lies, misinformation and disinformation. Besides, I know that Mr. Greaves himself is embarrassed that NOCAL is suggesting that he lied. Therefore, Mr. Greaves is now under obligation to provide the FACTS to the Liberian people.
Prior to Mr. Greaves disclosure of such astronomical figure, I have been hearing about this in the grapevine, and so for it to come from an authority’s mouth or the ‘horse’s mouth’, it can be treated with triviality. As I stated earlier, the Onus Probandi (burden of proof) rest with Mr. Greaves. I Rest My Case.