Amidst grinding economic hardship here members of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate have received over US$200,000 from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, excluding their regular salaries and allowances as inducement for six weeks Special Sitting requested by the President.
Each lawmaker reportedly pocketed US$10,000, while Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue, Senate President Pro-Tempore ArmahJallah and House Speaker J. Alex Tyler received unspecified huge amount from the national coffers.
On September 2, 2015, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf submitted to the Liberian Legislature a proclamation, requesting members of the First Branch of Government, who were about to go for annual agriculture break, to remain in an extraordinary session for six weeks, beginning September 1 thru October 15, 2015.
The President’s Proclamation reads: “Now therefore, I, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, by virtue of the authority in me vested, do hereby issue this proclamation for the 53rd Legislature to extend the fourth session for six weeks beginning September 1, thru October 15, 2015.”
She wrote the legislature on August 27, 2015, requesting the body to postpone its annual agricultural break by six weeks in order to pass series of legislations, key among them the MCC compact, the Electricity bill, the Police Act and the Immigration Act, among others.
Article 32 (B) of the Constitution of Liberia states that the President shall, on his/her own initiative or upon receipt of a certificate signed by at least one-fourth of the total membership of each House, and by proclamation, extend a regular session of the Legislature beyond the date for adjournment or call a special extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concern. When the extension or call is at the request of the Legislature, the proclamation shall be issued not later than 48 hours after receipt of the certificate by the President.
The Constitution did not state whether lawmakers should be paid extra allowance for special session, but many believe providing special allowances to lawmakers is like paying them twice for executing the matter of State.
The legislators were requested by the Chief Executive to spend additional six weeks to pass some legislations in order to keep the government on track.Some of the legislative instruments submitted by the Executive include the Liberia Electricity bill, the bill to ratify the Millennium Challenge Compact, the Liberia National Police and Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization bills, among others. During the six weeks, the two chambers passed all.
Speaker Tyler said during their regular sitting, 33 bills were passed into law, while others are still outstanding, pending the resumption of the Legislature. Both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate officially closed last week for annual break. Lawmakers are expected to return to the Capitol Building in January, 2016.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Edited by Jonathan Browne