By: R. Joyclyn Wea
MONROVIA-The Liberian National Bar Association through its President Tiawon Gongloe has commended the American Government Treasury Department sanction for sanction imposed on Senator Prince Johnson because the bar had been fighting against corruption.
On December 9, 2021, the United States Government through its Treasury Department placed sanction on Nimba County Senior Senator Prince Johnson, a key player in the Liberian civil war for Global Magnitsky Act. Part of the sanction pointed out the issue of votes selling by the Nimba states man.
Reacting to the U.S. action against Senator Johnson over the weekend, LNBA President said the action taken by the American Government should be strengthened and it should include the buyers of votes in order for people to be satisfied that it is not targeting one person (Prince Johnson) alone that it is targeting those who are in the market of vote buying and vote selling.
During the recently held LNBA convention, the Theme was “Corruption is a threat to peace, is a threat to the adherence to the rule of law” at which time they called on the America Government and European commission during the law day program on May 7, 2021 to institute straight action against corrupt members of the Liberian Government in the three branches of government.
Cllr. Gongloe believes that the sanction is one of those steps consistent with their call which is why they at the level of the LNBA is commending the U.S. Government.
The Liberian lawyer cautioned the U.S. Government to go beyond just the seller of votes diching deep to uncovered and sanction buyers of votes as well.
“It was stated in their sanction statement that one of the reasons for the sanction against the honorable senator is that he had been selling votes, but in order for a market to be successful, there has to be the demand side so the U.S. Government had dealt with the supply side which is the seller of votes,” he appeal.
The bar wants the U.S. Government to also go on the side of those who are buying votes saying that it takes two to get the transaction to go on as such, votes buyers too should be sanction.
“I am saying this especially at a time that within one month, the minister of state for presidential affairs has spent about hundred-seventy million Liberian dollars as political gifts to four counties. 50 million dollars to Nimba, 50 million dollars to Grand Bassa, another 50 million dollars to Margibi and 20 million dollars to bong counties that adds up to 170 million Liberian dollars,” Gongloe mentioned.
The LNBA President said why he does not know how much the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs makes per month; but such spending shows the reckless disregard for the feeling of the Liberian people who are suffering so much, in the midst of this great hardship in the Country, and is obviously boarders on money obtained in a corruption manner.
The renowned Human Rights Lawyer further that McGill is under obligation as a public servant to show the sources of his money, therefore, they at the level of the Bar is calling upon the American Government to go on the demand side to capture those paying for votes to also be sanctioned; something he believe will curtail such habit that undermines the Country’s democracy.
He wants action that undermines the genuine democracy in Liberia such as vote selling and buying should be curtail by the harshest action.
“This issue of vote buying and vote selling is a new aspect of our corruption in Liberia, the other is legislative bribery on top of that now we have vote selling and vote buying that the American government and other government have taken note of.”
Part of the sanction talks about senator prince Johnson being paid by central government to maintain peace and stability; this Gongloe said is also a form of bribery.
“A lawmaker is entitled only to his salary and benefits so that benefits should not include the 30,000 dollars that they are taking, I consider that as misapplication of entrusted property that they are getting collective.”
When quizzed whether he is going to get the support of Nimbians come 2023 considering his latest decision on the sanction action, noted that senator Johnson influence is that of the past as the people of Nimba have change a lot.
“If you follow the election in district number one Ganta few weeks ago, it should be clear to you that the Nimbians had change a lot, so that is the matter of the past in fact Nimbians have been complaining about votes selling and I believe that the American government have heard them.”
According to Cllr. Gongloe, the action to sanction Johnson did not just come out of the blue sky as majority of the Nimbians have been talking about votes selling, a cry which had not been in any other county as it had been in Nimba.
He continued; “LRD$50 million dollars was spent just on the eve of election in Nimba for a candidate of choice of the honorable senator and it did not yield the expected result, that candidate who would have won had he gone as an independent candidate lost, that shows that the type of influence you are talking about is a influence of the past it is no more effective.”