As our search light for personalities that impacted society continues, names and leaders of institutions were nominated among which submitted names of Mr. Martin Kollie of the Concerned Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB) a coalition of more than 26 civil society organizations, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), Emmanuel Gonqueh submitted. Considering the ultimate need to fight the high scale of rampant corruption permeating the society and the consistent culture of impunity the members of The ANALYST’s Personality Committee sitting in its editorial room brainstormed and agreed on two institutions and their leaders to share the “Activists of the Year” honor for their advocacy role that kept the feet of the government to the fire to struggle with investigation that has long been overdue.
The role of the Mr. Kollie’s COCUBOMB and Emmanuel Gonqueh’s EFFL even provoked international investigative intervention that has caused a team of United States Forensic investigators to come to the country to look into the missing 16 billion Liberian dollars saga, after duty bearers inconsistent pronouncements regarding the mission at a time the country is at a crossroad of irking economic maleficence that has continue subject the people to dissing standard of living.
Advocacy in Demand of missing billions
Mr. Martin and his Concerned Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB), initially led the first ever peaceful protest action against the Weah-led government in July 2018 when the economy was at the verge of fatal collapse, demanding the government to find solution to increasing hardship. Martin organized marketers and students and paraded from Red Light Market to Duport Road Truth FM demanding the government through the President to Speak on the declining State of the Economy. In less than a week, the President delivered his first ever address on the State of the Economy instituting some immediate measures through CBL and Ministry of Finance.
The advocate of the Year along with his co-recipient of this award, the Commander in Chief of Economic Freedom Fighter of Liberia – Emmanuel Gonqueh mobilized and led thousands of patriotic Liberians on September 24, 2018 in a mass peace protest demanding full accountability of missing L$16 billion under the regime of President Weah.
The international community including UN, AU and ECOWAS described the protest as the most popular and peaceful protest in post-conflict Liberia. After petitioning the international community including UN Embassy and European Union, the US Government through its Embassy near Monrovia hired credible international firms to conduct an independent forensic investigation into the missing L$16 billion, which is almost the equivalent of US$106 million, as well as the US$25 million intended to mop up excess liquidity of Liberian dollars from the market.
After the media broke the news of the 10 billion Liberian dollars, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe confirmed the new and said the amount was even about 16 billion Liberians. The Finance Minister, Samuel Tweah, came on record to rebuke the Information Minister, saying that no money was missing (although he later summersaulted) while Central Bank Governor Nathaniel Partray who put the money at 15 billion Liberian dollars said that the money was in the vaults of the Central Bank of Liberia at the National Housing & Saving Bank, even though authentication of this claim has not been successful up to today’s date.
This act by the two groups spearheaded by Martin Kollie of COCUBOMB and Emmanuel Gonqueh of the EFFL was a drive against impunity in the context that they kept the government’s feet to the fire in the wake of the inconsistent utterances from duty bearers, leading government to constitute what was referred to as a presidential committee to investigate the missing money issue.
After the protest (considered Liberia’s first public peaceful protest in many quarters), leaders of public demands for the missing billions of Liberian dollars, COCUBOMB’s Martin Kollie and the Commander-in-Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), Emmanuel Gonqueh, vehemently rejected a claim by the Central Bank of Liberia that the money in question is L$15.5 billion which is being kept in CBL vaults. The two civil society front-liners in the public demands for the missing billions announced a second mass demonstration scheduled across the country that they said would have been held peaceful throughout the 15 Counties of Liberia.
How can the accused be the judge?
Kollie speaking for the groups wondered: “How can the accused be the judge? How can the prime suspect be the one to give verdict even though investigation is ongoing? When did they get to know that the money is in the vault? CBL Press Statement is a monument of farce and fiasco.” The CBL, Kollie and Gonqueh noted, is rather a “premiere suspecio” which they said is a Latin word meaning ‘prime suspect,’ noting that those at the Central Bank of Liberia who are public indictees for the missing money cannot be the same people to audit financial records and to vindicate themselves while findings of an investigation commissioned by President Weah is yet to be made public.
They then called on all Liberians to begin immediate mass mobilization for an impending nationwide protest. The prearranged press statement of CBL is a provocation to the masses, he said. In fact they both did not understand why Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf and Deputy Governor Mounir Siaplay who have been barred from traveling out of the Country as a result of their link to this missing L$16 billion are the ones having press conference to inform Liberians in their official capacities that there is no money missing. See them in this photo during the CBL press conference.”
Both Kollie and Gonqueh considered the CBL account as deceptive to the Liberian people in the wake of contradictions by functionaries of the government in their reactions to the money saga, at the end of which the CBL has issued its statement, and pointed out that Governor Nathaniel Partray and his CBL folks are not credible and should not be given credence in the missing money saga.
The COCUBOMB leader and his EFFL counterpart paraded few questions which they said remained unanswered in the wake of the CBL statement that there is no mission money. Asking:
“When did CBL get to know that no money is missing even though the President, Justice Minister, Information Minister, CDC Chairman, Rep. Solomon George, etc. have all said to us that money is missing? Why investigate since August 8 when you are claiming that there is no money missing? Why invite the US Treasury Department, FBI, and IMF to assist with investigation?” They further questioned, “Why ask the UN, AU and ECOWAS to also assist you with such investigation? Why ban over 35 persons of interest, mostly from CBL, from traveling out of the Country? Why was the writ of Ne-Exeat Republica issued against staff of CBL? Why did the brokers including the truck driver who released those containers escaped? Why ask LACC to lead an investigation since there is no money missing? What are they investigating then? And when did CBL get to know that the missing money in question is in the bank’s vault?”
The COCUBOMB Chairman said his group and others with like minds will not rest its demands for the ‘missing 16 billion Liberian dollars’ through protest until the Coalition for Democratic Change government of President George Manneh Weah can investigate and account for the money to the Liberian people; they also warned that the issue of bringing back the stolen money is a serious matter of grave concern which borders on impunity and the lack of accountability and transparency on the part of the CDC government.
L$16b Probe Committee: Stop Public Statements!
Embarrassed by the heightened public advocacy demanding the missing billions and the inconsistent public statements by senior government officials, the Presidential Investigation Team/Technical Committee (PIT/TC) also warned government institutions and functionaries against making public statements and pronouncements in the wake of the ongoing probe into the missing L$16 billion to avoid undermining the investigation; but the committee has paradoxically clarified that it has no problem with the recent statement by the Central Bank of Liberia proclaiming that there is no money missing in the country.
The PIT/TC gave the warning Thursday, October 4, 2018 at its first press briefing held at the Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism (MICAT). The Committee’s warning comes in the wake of multiple statements to the effect of the missing L$16b which provoked irking public sentiments and generated much public debates. The position of the Presidential Investigation Team, which however pointed out that the CBL statement could have been made two weeks earlier, comes in the wake of contradictory statements by government officials affecting the L$16 billion investigation commissioned by President Dr. George Manneh Weah.
L$16b Probe Committee Admits Missing Money
In the Committee’s first public statement, Alex Cuffy, Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Coordinator of the PIT/TC who led the statement issued also assured the Liberian people the investigation team as constituted by the President will perform to the expectation of the public. It said in August of 2018, the Government of Liberia (GOL) received reports from a “Whistle Blower” about suspicious activities concerning importation of currency banknotes. In August of 2018, the GOL requested the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the National Security Agency (NSA) to look into the suspicious activities concerning importation of currency banknotes it had received from the “Whistle Blower,” Mr. Cuffy told journalists.
Based on what Cuffy calls initial findings from the LNP and the NSA, the GOL established a Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) this time to include the LNP, the NSA and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to investigate circumstances surrounding the printing and importation of currency banknotes from January 2016 to August 2018. On Friday, September 14, 2018 and Monday, September 17, 2018 there were reports of missing container of Liberia Dollar Banknotes in the Hot Pepper and Frontpage Africa Newspapers, respectively, he noted, saying that from September 17, 2018 to date, Liberians and our friends at home and abroad are witnesses to a flood gate of press releases, press statements, local and international media reports, statements on local and international radio and television, postings on social media, etc. and a peaceful demonstration.
News about missing L$16 generated high public discontent leading to a group named and styled Concerned Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB) along with the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL) to lead a peaceful demonstration on September 24, 2018 during which both groups appealed to international partners to freeze direct support to the government until circumstances regarding the missing billions of Liberian dollars are unraveled. The United States Federal Reserve agency has since announced suspension of its dealings with the Central Banks of Liberia, according to media reports.
Death Threats on COCUBOMB Leader
In the wake or the rigmarole regarding the missing billions of dollars COCUBOMB leader Martin Kollie alleged death threats, and informed the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) of plan by the government the to expel him from the University where he is a student political leader associating with the vanguard Student Unification Party; but his group of Concerned Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back cautioned the Government of Liberia at the time to refrain from provoking public discontent and anger. Mr. Kollie told the LCC of the plan which he said is masterminded by the Monrovia City Corporation led by the Youth Chairman of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) who serves as Monrovia City Mayor and other high-ranking officials of the Government of Liberia to unleash thugs against campaigners of COCUBOMB. The meeting between the COCUBOMB and LCC has also highlighted an alleged planned plot to expel the National Chairman of COCUBOMB Kollie, from the University of Liberia, apparently for his role in championing demands for the missing L$16 billion.
Running Out Of Patience?
As the period under review closed in to an end , the leadership of COCUBOMB Wrote to the United States Embassy, the UN, EU, the African Union and ECOWAS requesting -Requests “partial or full update on ongoing investigation into the missing L$16 billion and controversial US$25 million which the group said remain issues of serious concerned. COCUBOMB says it is running out of patience. Signed by Martin K. N. Kollie, National Chairman and Jeremiah S. Swen, Secretary General of COCUBOMB, the letter recounted that “On September 24, 2018, thousands of patriotic Liberians out of firm conviction and love for Country petitioned foreign governments and prominent International Organizations (UN, AU, EU and ECOWAS) through a mass peaceful protest calling for an independent international forensic investigation into the missing containers of local currency amounting to L$16 billion.
“Such popular civil action demanding full accountability and restitution of those missing containers of billions under President George M. Weah was principally driven by the people’s unflinching desire to end systemic corruption and impunity in Liberia. The initial position of COCUBOMB in demand of full accountability, restitution and prosecution of all those linked to this cruel spree of economic sabotage and mass plunder remains unchanged. “In response to our 9-count petition on September 24, 2018, these international institutions assured COCUBOMB and the EFFL of their commitment to independently investigate this missing money mystery. “On October 10, 2018, you released an official statement through your Embassy near Monrovia indicating that you have reached out to credible international firms to conduct an independent forensic investigation.” Though hinted about this ongoing forensic investigation since then, the advocacy noted that such investigation has been without any form of update. The public remains in doubt even up to now as a result of absolutely no update, and therefore craves your indulgence to release a partial or full update on this ongoing investigation as Liberians remain eager. We remain grateful to you and all partners for your intervention which we hope will produce a credible outcome of this ongoing investigation.
On the merit of these occurrences and others that are not mention, we at The ANALYST show hats off for your advocacy and confer on you Mr. Martin Kollie and Mr. Emmanuel Gonqueh and your respective organizations the shared titles of Advocates of the Year 2018