Controversial LEITI Head of Secretariat Finally Removed

MONROVIA, Montserrado – President George Weah has finally removed the controversial Head of Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Gabriel Nyenkan.

According to the Executive Mansion, Weah has now appointed the former LEITI head as an advisor on communications to the presidency. That appointment takes effect on September 16, 2019.

“Meanwhile, the Liberian Leader has directed the Multi-Stakeholder Group to replace Mr. Gabriel Nyenkan,” the release said.

LEITI was established to promote transparent management of Liberia’s extractives industry, as part of a global standard, EITI. It was created by an act of the legislature in 2009.

Prior to his latest decision, Weah received criticisms from local and international organizations for removing Konah Karmo, who previously headed the LEITI secretariat.

The U.K.-based pro-transparency group Global Witness had strongly criticized the appointment, terming it as a violation of Liberian law and severely undermines the independence of a critical anti-corruption agency.

For over a year, the group’s extractive industries campaign leader, Simon Clydesdale, called on the president to immediately withdraw his appointment and allow Karmo to resume his duties.

Although the president has the power to appoint the 15 members of the governing body of LEITI, known as the Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group, the law empowers the group as the authorized body responsible for managing and implementing activities and programs, including the recruitment and dismissal of the head and deputy head of the secretariat.

Weah’s latest decision also followed a visit of a team of EITI representatives and discussions with the Liberian government, more than one year since the country’s membership was suspended for failing to publish its EITI report for the fiscal period ending June 2016 on July 1 last 2018. The board had also rejected a request from the government to extend the reporting deadline.

The board announced that it denied Liberia’s request for an extension because a new steering group had not been constituted at the time. It also promised to lift the suspension only if the country’s outstanding EITI report is endorsed published within six months.

Although Weah finalized the reestablishment of the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group in October last year, and the ninth EITI report was launched in January this year, Liberia’s suspension remains enforced.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Leader has directed LEITI’s Multi-Stakeholder Group to replace Gabriel Nyenkan through a competitive vetting process.

Featured photo courtesy of Jacques Maton

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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