By Tina S. Mehnpaine
MONROVIA – The U.S. government has been asked to sanction the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill for allegedly spending millions of Liberian dollars to buy voters ahead of the 2023 elections.
Of late, Min. Nathaniel McGill has been seen spending some huge sums of money on scholarships in the name of President George Weah and promising more money to people across the country ahead of the 2023 elections.
His action, which targets the vote-rich counties of Bong, Grand Bassa, Nimba, and Margibi, is being construed by Cllr. Tiawain Gongloe as an act of vote-buying ahead of the country’s general elections in 2023.
Winning 60% of the votes in these counties can propel a candidate to the Presidency, making these areas highly coveted ahead of the 2023 – and forcing Cllr. Gongloe to speak out against Min. McGill for “the reckless disregard for the feelings of the Liberian people who are suffering.”
According to Gongloe, who is also a presidential aspirant, it takes two to get the transaction to go on. Thus, votes buyers, too, should be sanctioned.
“I am saying this especially at a time when, within one month, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs has spent about L$170 million as political gifts to four counties,” said Cllr. Gongloe in a press release. “50 million dollars to Nimba, 50 million dollars to Grand Bassa, another 50 million dollars to Margibi, and 20 million dollars to Bong counties.
“We are calling on the U.S government to go beyond that. It was stated in the sanction statement [against Senator Prince Y. Johnson] that one of the reasons for the sanction against the honorable senator is that he has been selling votes but, for the market to be successful, there has to be the demand side.”
Cllr. Gongloe said although he cannot state how much Min. McGill makes per month, he feels the scholarship shows reckless disregard for the feelings of the Liberian people who are suffering amid great hardship in the country.
The money, according to Cllr. Gongloe has been obtained in a corrupt manner, so it is necessary that Min. McGill and others are sanctioned for giving money to voters, as a means of curtailing “such a habit that undermines the country’s democracy.”
“McGill is under obligation as a public servant to show the sources of his money. Therefore, [we are] calling upon the American Government to go on the demand side to capture those paying for votes to also be sanctioned.”
“This issue of vote-buying and vote-selling is a new aspect of our corruption in Liberia, the other is legislative bribery. On top of that, now we have vote-selling and vote-buying that the American government and other governments have taken note of.”
Cllr. Gongloe’s calls for sanctions against voter buyers come just a few weeks after the U.S. government sanctioned Senator Prince Yormie Johnson for a pay-for-play funding scheme that involves millions of U.S. dollars as well as offering the sale of votes in multiple Liberian elections in exchange for money.
The U.S. government added that Sen. Johnson “is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in or 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.”
Cllr. Gongloe added that the fact that the sanction talks about senator prince Johnson being paid by the central government to maintain peace and stability; that bribery and those involved should be dealt with as well.
“A lawmaker is entitled only to his salary and benefits so that benefits should not include the 30,000 dollars that they are taking. I considered that as a misapplication of entrusted property that they are getting collectively.”
When quizzed whether he is going to get the support of Nimbians come 2023, Cllr. Google added it was clear that Nimbeans had changed a lot, and that they have been complaining about vote selling and “I believe that the American government has heard them.”
According to Cllr. Gongloe, the action to sanction Sen. Johnson did not just come out of the blue sky, as majority of the Nimbians have been talking about votes selling, a cry which has not been in any other counties as it had been in Nimba.
He continues: “L$50 million was spent just on the eve of the election in Nimba for a candidate of choice of the honorable senator and it did not yield the expected result, that candidate who would have won had he gone as an independent candidate lost. That shows that the type of influence you are talking about is an influence of the past; it is no more effective.”