President George Manneh Weah appears to be in a very combative mood since his return here on Sunday. First, Mr. Weah told a packed thanksgiving service held in his honor that journalists claiming that 16 billion of Liberian bank notes have gone missing should be joined in the investigation surrounding the alleged missing money.
On Monday, October 1, President Weah took a swipe at his predecessor, ex-President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf blaming her regime for the current financial mess the country finds itself in, saying “maybe” the money lost under the Sirleaf administration.
“Everybody in the international community knows that 16 billion lost from Liberia. But … maybe it’s under the previous government, not under my government,” Weah said Monday, 1 October at Pepperwulu Market in Johnsonville, Montserrado County.
Mr. Weah’s comments follow series of publications and interviews conducted by both Mrs. Sirleaf and her former Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks on one hand and current Information Minister Eugene Nagbe and others on the other.
While Mrs. Sirleaf and Mr. Weeks appeared to have challenged claims that the 16 billion in question had vanished from the Liberian economy, Mr. Nagbe, backed by the Ministry of Justice confirmed that the container with the money vanished between the National Port Authority and the Central Bank vaults.
The report of the missing money prompted a protest from the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia demanding that the 16 billion, about US104 million be brought back to the country.
Justice Ministry officials have maintained that they are looking into the circumstances surrounding the alleged missing money and have shortlisted several key individuals to be interviewed.
However, while this investigation is still ongoing, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah challenged the version of his colleagues both Information Minister Nagbe and Justice officials that the amount in question is 16 billion, rather he said the total amount printed was 15 billion and that the said amount is in the economy because according to him if people claim that the entire amount is missing there will be no money in the economy.
But despite the claims and counter claims, government announced that it was bringing in the FBI, EU, ECOWAS and other partners to help with the investigation.
As if that was not enough, President Weah upon his return Sunday joined his Finance Minister to rule out the possibility of any missing money, especially under his regime, instead supposing that if the amount is missing as being reported then it is not under his regime but rather that of his predecessor’s.
“I don’t even know when 16 billion came in and it lost. 16 billion lost from Liberia, I don’t know. So I’m going to check,” he continues.
“Today we’re hearing that 16 billion get lost. Where? From mine end, no, I did not print money,” he adds.
He says if it is established that $16 billion lost, those responsible will refund it; but if nothing is missing, those that reported that such money lost will have to answer questions as to why they made such statement that could trigger war.
“You cannot lie to the entire citizenry for them to jump in the street,” he says, recalling how journalist’s report in other country incited conflict.
Mr. Weah argues that while he was Senator during the 53rd Legislature, he refused to sign for the printing of money because he thought it was not timely, especially on the heels of a campaign season.
He frowns against opposition Unity Party and Liberty Party for putting protesters in the street, telling those that want to be president that campaign time is over.
“Campaign is over. Whether it is [Liberty Party] partisan, the Unity [Party] partisan that went into the street and for people saying that money lost … that was the wrong thing to do because you put people’s children in jeopardy,” he says.
He warns young people not to allow others to take away their future, saying they have their time but they misused it.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah