Former Public Works Minister, Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, has reacted to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’’s recent comments that she takes responsibility for the situation at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).
In a statement issued in Monrovia, Atty. Woods proposed that the recommendation on severance and retirement payment for NOCAL officials be suspended until a full report on NOCAL is submitted to the nation through an independent process.
Woods noted that the Board bears equal responsibility and therefore may not be the competent authority to conduct a house cleaning exercise. He wants accountability and institutions in the country including LACC, GAC, PPCC, take the lead, move in immediately and act consistently with their respective mandates.
The Human Rights lawyer stated, “I urge the President and other officials to take a page from my book. I voluntarily resigned from public service, remained in Liberia, submitted to two concurrent audits and continue to avail myself of any process consistent with the laws of our country. In this my guilt or innocence will be decided.”
He further recommended that the National Legislature should look into the situation at NOCAL and attend to the public anxiety on this grave national matter. “We eschew violence but cannot deny the public right to sustained peaceful protests when provoked by the indifference or insensitivity of our government.”
Atty. Woods at the same time, commended President Sirleaf for her response to his recent comments on the NOCAL intimating that she takes responsibility for what happens at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) and that he should take full responsibility for what happened at the Ministry of Public Works during his tenure, even if he was not directly involved.
Woods noted, “I have not and will not shy from any wrong that I may have done as Minister of Public Works. I have repeatedly said both in public and in private and in my various communications to the President that I stand ready for any scrutiny. I implore the Government of Liberia to do what is right for the Liberian people; I therefore challenge the government to do what is right, take me to a court of competent jurisdiction to answer for my stewardship.”
The Human Rights Activist added that “I am grateful that we are reaching the point where we can collectively end impunity and ensure that we account to the Liberian people for our stewardship both past and present. We appear to be ushering the age of accountability.”
Atty. Woods pointed out that in his recent comments, he urged the government to ensure that all public officials including past (including him) and present officials submit to similar processes without discrimination.
The Human Rights lawyer added, “The failure of our government to exhaust this process is a dereliction of duty. It encourages impunity and subject individuals in government to collective guilt. I will not be perturbed. Liberians will seek justice and demand what is right; No smear campaign will stand the test of time.”
Atty. Woods noted that he maintains his position on NOCAL adding that the President, in her recent address to the nation, announced that the head of NOCAL will be honorably retired and severance benefits paid out.
“I disagreed; I believe that a full management audit be conducted. This must include financial, procurement amongst others. Liberians need to know why a once potentially viable entity has so spectacularly collapsed,” he said.
He stressed that the response, in the immediate aftermath of what appears to be the latest evidence of the inexorable failure of a national asset is inadequate, is limited, is insufficient and is disconcerting, if not out rightly disingenuous.
The Liberian lawyer said when the President openly vindicates rather than demand accountability; she sends the wrong signal to the public which now views the government’s actions with much consternation and deep mistrust. He said information on the situation at NOCAL was well known to this administration long time ago but it chose to look the other way and do nothing.
Woods added, “The full scale of the consequences of NOCAL’s decline must not be lost; it must be brought to the full view of the public and responsibility taken to address collateral damage occasioned on innocent citizens and institutions. We need to ensure that students benefitting from NOCAL’s Scholarship Programs are given special consideration. We need to deal with our national human resource deficit and therefore cannot afford to let them become victims of this imbroglio.”