Dillon Questions Rationale for US$65M IDA Loan -Praises Rep. Korlubah for “Standing Up” against 5G Ratification
MONROVIA : Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, the man whose penchant for exposing the dark dealings of the National Legislature earned him the envious “Light” moniker, has now added his voice to that of Montserrado County District #10 lawmaker Yekeh Kolubah by openly questioning the rationale of the House of Representatives’ 5G ratification of a US$65 million loan agreement between the Government of Liberia and the International Development Association (IDA) on June 22, 2023; a loan agreement whose details are still unknown to those very lawmakers that ratified it.
“On the eve of the election, this president (George M. Weah) is sending out a loan agreement. He just sent a US$65 million loan agreement from some International Development Association. And what is painful is that the president sent this loan agreement to both chambers of the Legislature on the 21st of June, this gone Wednesday. On Thursday, the next day June 22, the House of Representatives ratified that loan agreement; except for Representative Yekeh Korlubah of District #10 who stood up and said, ‘why should we pass this loan agreement without even reading it, without even asking questions? Why can’t we let it go through the process of scrutiny?’ The House of Representatives passed it on Thursday, besides Yekeh Korlubah.
“I want to say publicly thank you, Representative Yekeh Korluba, for standing up. You didn’t get the vote you wanted, but you placed yourself on the record for history, for posterity. If we take that US65 million according to the way the loan is structured, we will be paying that money up to 2073. What do we want to do with that money at this time?” Senator Dillon wondered during one of his recent special podcasts on critical national issues.
According to Senator Dillon, the action of President Weah to send a loan agreement for ratification and concurrence on the eve of a crucial national election which could see him democratically exiting power, is akin to how former interim government chairman Gyude Bryant entered into concession agreements knowing fully well his two-year mandate according to the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord was to disarm fighters, hold democratic elections and turn over to a democratically elected government.
“But Gyude Bryant went beyond; entered into concession agreements and obligated Liberia and the people of this country to Mittal Steel for 25 years. You’ve got a two- year mandate; you’re obligating the country to 25 years; and especially so that your mandate is specific.
“So, when George Weah took over in 2018, he frowned on a lot of entities of government having tenure. The Roberts International Airport, Maritime, Liberia Telecommunications Authorities, National Lotteries, and the National Social Security Welfare Corporation, all these institutions were just granted tenure under the last days of Madam Sirleaf. And so, when George Weah took over, he said, people in those tenure positions with the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf concept tied his hands from putting his “right kind of people” in those places to fight for his vision in keeping with his Pro-Poor Agenda.
“The first thing he sought to do was to ask the Legislature to repeal tenure from all tenured positions, with no exceptions. And some of us were just elected just around that time and we had to fight it because if you say we should remove tenure from all tenured positions on entities of governments that were established by the Legislature, including the ones that were constitutionally established, it was troubling because Elections Commission is established by the Constitution, it has tenure. The Legislature decided that it would be governed by tenure so that people who are there cannot feel intimidated with political intrusion; they can work believing and knowing with confidence and courage that they are independent on the job because they don’t serve at the pleasure of a particular person.
“The president wanted the Legislature to remove tenure from the Central Bank so the people from the Central Bank could serve at his pleasure. The president wanted the General Auditing Commission tenure to be removed; LACC, RIA, everywhere, so he can appoint people there at his pleasure. And we stepped up and said no. Thankfully, the majority of the Legislature at the time saw reason that no, we will remove tenure from some positions like RIA, LTA, Maritime, National Lotteries, NASSCORP. So, we kept tenure at the LRA, NEC, Central Bank, at the LACC, the GAC, the Internal Auditing Authority, those integrity institutions. We insisted that we will keep the tenure there; and remove tenure from some of those other things that could serve at the pleasure of the president.
“This is the same president who is sending us nominations for people to go to tenure positions on the eve of elections that he will not win. And how can we as senators, rescue mission senators or opposition senators of like minds; how can we sit and allow that to happen?
“I know normally it is not every session that all lawmakers can attend or be present. So, some lawmakers may say they were not in session. Well, some members of the House may argue that they were not in session that day. But the ones that were in session, not one was heard, especially those who are from the “opposition of like minds”, to say, ‘we in the House don’t have the number but we stood up and we disagreed and we are relying hopefully with the growing number of Senators of like mind to please stand up and save the country’.
“Why am I against it? I am against it because every little thing we borrow, Samuel Tweah and George Weah make big news out of it. But we have US$20 to US$27 million in Road Fund money that was already collected by importers. Either they are in cahoots, or they are in collusion with these importers and they don’t want to collect the Road Fund money from these importers. Why would you want to borrow US$65 million to put the country and future generations in debt when there is money here that we can collect, but we are not collecting it because we are in cahoots with people who have the money for the country. And they have to pay, they have the ability to pay, but we are not taking the money from them because of political collusion.
“So, the House of Representatives disappointed us these few days – US$65 million. You know, I am reminded about ETON and EBOMAF. The IDA, the institution from which the government is sourcing this loan; we need to do a serious check on it. IDA could be a reliable, credible financial institution in the world, I don’t know. When the document lands before us, we in the Senate should do a critical review whether this institution is recognized by global financial institutions; where they are taking their money from to give it to us; at what interest rate we will be paying; when we are supposed to be paying; and what we want to do with the money at this time. There is information about another US$20 million loan that may be coming soon in the name of developing poultry.
“So, we will be looking forward to the Senate with the number of senators of like minds. Senators of like minds doesn’t mean that all of them support Joseph Boakai. The senators under the Rescue Mission, including other senators not part of the Rescue Mission, say for instance, Senator Daniel Naatehn, as Chairman of ANC, is an opposition senator. He has been standing up throughout. Senator Jonathan Boye Charles Saygboi is from the ANC. He in fact is one of those who helped “The Light” to keep the courage,” Senator Dillon said.
It can be recalled, Representative Yekeh Korlubah recently frowned on his colleagues’ ratification of a US$65 million loan agreement with the International Development Association.
According to Representative Korlubah, the decision by his colleagues, especially opposition lawmakers, to ratify a loan agreement of that magnitude without even perusing the contents of the agreement, has forced him to detour his support to the opposition community and their leadership because of their failure to exert their influence on lawmakers representing their respective parties in the national legislature.
“I always tell the Liberian people that if you are waiting for your lawmakers to liberate you, you are wasting your time. Can you imagine that a USD65m loan agreement signed between the Government of Liberia and the International Development Association was sent to us by President George Weah on the 21st of June and while we were sitting down in session and copies of the agreement were being distributed in our offices, it was placed on the agenda for us to pass it without looking at it.
“My office received my copy at 1:30 pm and by 1:45 pm the instrument was passed by us without seeing it, to know what is in it for the Liberian people, whether it will benefit our people”, Rep. Kolubah said.
He said before the commencement of the plenary session where the agreement was approved, Representative Thomas Fallah of District #5, Montserrado County who Chairs the Ways and Means Committee approached him and told him that his (Yekeh) earlier communication sent to the plenary will be put on the agenda for discussion for the day if he (Yekeh) consented to allow the rectification of the agreement to be discussed during plenary. He said he accepted the suggestion but instead of discussion, the plenary called for outright voting and besides him, all his colleagues including opposition lawmakers voted vehemently in support of the agreement.
“Now, that was done by the other lawmakers who you call opposition lawmakers who are a serious embarrassment to this country. Those who only come to you during the election saying we will straighten the government.
“Why do you want to straighten up now that which you haven’t done since 2017. Now everyone is saying George Weah failed. No. He did not fail. We made him fail. We refused to tell Weah what to do but now that we want to change the government, we are saying we should be together; but I am not going to be part of it”, Representative Kolubah lamented bitterly during a hastily arranged press briefing over the weekend.