SANNIQUELLIE, Nimba – The comptroller general of the Republic of Liberia who also serves as secretary-general of Pres. George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change, Janga Augustus Kowo, has been accused of dishing out US$12,000 to delegates attending the Nimba County Council Sitting to vote for his partisans who are competing for positions on the county’s Project Management Committee.
Delegates were in the county capital the weekend of August 21 to deliberate on funding priorities for development projects and to also vote for individuals who would be in charge of managing the development funds and ensuring that the projects are completed. Those positions up for voting included chair, treasurer, and comptroller.
However, several youth delegates have taken to social media and local radio stations to raise alarm over the reported bribery by Kowo to ensure that candidates connected to the ruling party are elected.
They alleged that the bribes were paid to chiefs in a secret meeting held at an undisclosed location late on Friday night. They also said district commissioners were promised one motorbike each from the county budget by Sen. Prince Johnson, who has aligned himself with the ruling party, if they vote for the CDC choices to the key Project Management Committee.
The allegations began to emerge a few hours after the chair of the Nimba County Legislative Caucus, Sen. Johnson, called on delegates not to vote for anyone who is a partisan of the former ruling Unity Party because they had mismanaged the county funds in the past.
Johnson, in his opening statement at the gathering, claimed that the social development funds are CDC funds, so the ruling party’s members should be voted to the Project Management Committee to manage it. Johnson’s statement was met with strong opposition by Rep. Larry Younquoi of Nimba’s eighth electoral district. In actuality, the funds are provided by mining giant ArcelorMittal as part of its social responsibilities for extracting mineral resources from the county.
Johnson and the CDC support the candidacies of Harris Y. Yeanamie, Sam Ta-Kruah, Jr., and Richard Yengar for the positions of chair, treasurer, and comptroller, respectively.
The senator’s statement, coupled with the allegations against Kowo, led many observers, including lawmakers, to call for the election of the committee to be held by secret ballot, instead of by headcount.
At the gathering, Rep. Younquoi was pushing for this move. He noted that he had strong information that the delegates were being threatened with dismissals from their respective positions if they failed to vote for the team being supported by Johnson and his ruling party collaborators.
Voting at the county sitting had long been conducted by headcount, and Younquoi said it allowed for conflicts.
“That old-time way of voting has been prone to conflict and confusion, where brothers and sisters have not been speaking to each other because of it,” Younquoi said.
“So I want to tell the chiefs to eat whatsoever amount will be given them as financial inducement to vote for their candidates. Y’all will not stand before them to vote, it will be by secret ballot.”
Younquoi further warned that if secret voting was not allowed, he and others would seek an injunction against the election from a court.
Individuals familiar with the internal meetings among lawmakers reported that members of the Nimba County Legislative Caucus had earlier resolved to allow the elections to be held by secret ballot. However, as the allegations of financial inducement by Kowo and Johnson emerged, the Nimba senator and a few representatives have since decided that the process would be held by headcount.
Johnson and collaborators insist that the process will be held by headcount because voting at the county council sitting is a parliamentary process. The senator’s insistence on a public vote has led many to conclude that he and his collaborators aimed to know the officials who voted against their wishes.
Efforts by The Bush Chicken to reach Janga Kowo to provide his side of the story did not materialize.
On Saturday, August 22, the election was held by headcount, but three lawmakers, including Younquoi, say they plan to ask a court to overturn the results.
Featured photo by Jerry Myers