By Olando Testimony Zeongar
MONROVIA – Liberia’s exiled activist Martin K.N. Kollie has made the call for former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel F. McGill to be sentenced to jail, for allegedly being corrupt.
Martin, it is believed, is exiled at an undisclosed location somewhere in the West African sub-region, after he fled Liberia few years ago due to what he attributed to threat to his life allegedly by operatives of the George Weah-led government.
According to Martin, the vocal Liberian activist noted for unrestrained flagging of ills in the Liberian society including exposing educational fraud and excesses of the Weah administration, former Minister for State and Presidential Affairs McGill, should be handcuffed, dragged and placed behind bars, for abuse of power; waste of public money; institutionalized thievery; and mockery to those he (Martin) referred to as the poor, the hungry, the unemployed, and the marginalized in Liberia.
Martin, who recently took to his official Facebook handle to vent out his dissatisfaction over how he claims McGill conducted himself while in government, bemoaned how the former minister allegedly wasted stated resources to construct a luxurious structure as a grave for his deceased mother, while many Liberians to whom the resources used by the ex-official of government live in squalor and slums.
“And I am wondering who has this classic compound in West Point, Soniwien, Doe Community, Clara Town, PHP, New Kru Town, etc.?” Martin wrote, while displaying the photograph of a very exotic structure of a grave the former minister constructed to laid his fallen mother to rest.
Martin lamented: “The poor in these slum communities still sleep in zinc shacks, under leaking roofs, and among rats/cockroaches. But guess what? This is U.S.-sanctioned Nathaniel McGill mother’s grave.”
Last year, it can be recalled, the U.S. government sanctioned Nathaniel Mcgill and two other officials of the George Weah-led government for what the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office calls the men involvement in ongoing public corruption in Liberia.
“Through their corruption these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own personal benefit,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson, at the time.
The trio; the president’s ex-chief of office staff and former Minister of Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill; former Manager of the National Port Authority, Bill Twehway; and former Solicitor General, Sayma Syrenius Cephus; later resigned their posts while serving an indefinite suspension action taken against the men by President Weah following the Americans’ decision to have slammed them with sanction.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office, under the Global Magnitsky Act, stated that it sanctioned McGill specifically, because during his tenure as Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, he bribed business owners, received bribes from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office added that McGill also manipulated public procurement processes in order to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership, including by abusing emergency procurement processes to rig contract bids.
“McGill is credibly accused of involvement in a wide range of other corrupt schemes including soliciting bribes from government office seekers and misappropriating government assets for his personal gain,” the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office noted, adding that the ex-minister of presidential affairs while serving in that post, used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, made off-the-books payments in cash to senior government leaders, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals.
“McGill has received an unjustified stipend from various Liberian government institutions and used his position to prevent his misappropriation from being discovered. McGill regularly distributes thousands of dollars in undocumented cash to other government officials for government and non-government activities.
McGill is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery,” the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office said.
Howbeit, activist Martin K.N. Kollie further lamented that the luxuriously constructed grave of McGill’s deceased mother is by far better than the homes of over 90 percent of where partisans of President Weah’s party sleep.
“This place is far better than where over 90% of CDCians can sleep,” wrote Martin, who wonders “how many CDCians even had food to eat on Christmas Day or New Year Day,” also claiming that the sister of McGill, Rebecca McGill, who currently serves as Deputy Minister of Finance, took bags of rice to a grave.
In October of last year, U.S. envoy accredited to Liberia, Ambassador Michael A. McCarthy, in an interview with state-radio, ELBC, asserted that Liberia is poor because of corruption.
Ambassador McCarthy said at the time that by the U.S. government placing sanction on corrupt officials of the Liberian government, was the United States way of pointing out that this country is not thriving the way it ought to, squarely blaming the dehumanizing situation on corruption.
He stated that taking into consideration Liberia’s endowment with vast natural resources, the country should be thriving and not be ranked among the world’s poorest countries, adding that the only reason why Africa’s oldest republic is not thriving is because of public service corruption.
Referencing the Global Magnitsky Act, the American envoy stated that as a partner to Liberia, the U.S. is taking steps aimed at discouraging corruption in Liberia.
“What we are saying is we won’t allow these people to come into America and that we will freeze their assets in America. It’s alright as a sovereign nation to decide who gets to come in and who doesn’t,” he said, adding that he’s of the thinking that by freezing the accounts of corrupt Liberian officials it helps.
He disclosed that the concept behind imposing travel restrictions on corrupt officials of government in Liberia and freezing their assets is to encourage improved behaviour.
He stated that Liberia is special to the U.S. hence, out of dozens of cases since Magnitsky came into effect as of 2017, a huge chunk of the cases are in Liberia, making specific reference to Grand Cape Mount County’s Senator Varney Sherman, as the first Liberian official to be sanctioned by America under the Global Magnitsky Act.
“So within three years, Liberia has been a country that we have included in sanctions, which is very unusual,” said Ambassador McCarthy, who indicated that it’s only from Liberians that true accountability would be realized in the country.
He continued: “So by pointing out these cases, these examples, we are hoping that Liberia will stop and take notice and then do what Liberia wants to do accordingly. But that’s up to Liberia. We don’t tell Liberia what to do in Liberia with Liberians –that’s none of our business.”
The American diplomat, who sounded seemingly overwhelmed by having to repeatedly dwell on issues of public corruption in Liberia, in response to concerns of certain Liberians as to whether or not the U.S. would play a role in the prosecution of sanctioned officials of the Liberian government, stated that the implementation of the Global Magnitsky Act is not a prosecutorial process, but the United States government’s way of calling out corrupt officials in Liberia, banning them from traveling to the U.S. and freezing their assets.
“Magnitsky is not a judicial or a criminal prosecution process, it’s solely the United States government saying we’ve identified these people who are corrupt and who are badly impacting in a negative way the democratic process sufficiently that we don’t want them in our country and we think that their finances should be frozen,” he maintained.
He added: “So, after that we leave it up to Liberia. It is not a substitute for the Liberian criminal justice system. So if Liberia doesn’t want to prosecute them that’s the decision that Liberia has to make.”
A World Bank report quoting a Household Income and Expenditure Survey, states that “Poverty in Liberia remains widespread, with more than half of the population -50.9 percent –living below the national poverty line.” According to the World Bank, this translates into roughly 2.3 million Liberians who are unable to meet their basic needs.
Additionally, the World Bank says 44 percent of Liberia’s population lives below the extreme international poverty line of US$1.90 per day.