MONROVIA – Nimba County Representative Larry Younquoi says a proposal seeking the printing of new Liberian banknotes under the Coalition for Democratic Change-led (CDC) government of President George Manneh Weah has an ‘ulterior motive’ that must not be given credence by lawmakers.
Representative Younquoi is a stalwart of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), and the Chairman of the Independent Legislative Caucus (ILC).
Members of the 54th National Legislature have returned to the Capitol Building for a special sitting to ensure the endorsement of the printing of L$35 billion in banknotes.
The request for the lawmakers’ return was reportedly made by President Weah who urged them to cut short their constituency break for a special sitting.
But speaking in an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica via telephone over the weekend, Representative Younquoi indicated that the printing of new money should not be initiated by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), or under the administration of Samuel Tweah as Minister of Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah until separate thorough forensic audits are conducted.
He maintained that government should also account for the US$25million mop-up exercise, audit the CBL and hold officials accountable for any financial improprieties.
“If they are telling us that there is no money, and people sending monies directly through Western Union cannot get the monies sent them, or you cannot get your money directly deposited in the banks – if we are to get rid of that – the authorization, printing and the infusing of the money into the economy must be done by somebody than those currently handling the situation,” he stated.
“All the evidences that are available; for Samuel Tweah to be allowed to sign that money as a Minister of Finance and the head of the Economic Management Team (EMT), when he cannot account for the US$25million which has not come to a logical conclusion, we don’t want to see it happening,” Representative Younquoi noted.
High level of suspicion
The Nimba County lawmaker maintained that despite the decline in the country’s economy, there is a high level of suspicion over the printing of new banknotes in the midst of a high level of dishonesty and unaccountability.
According to him, there are ‘integrity issues’ involving those spearheading the printing of the new money, and as such, no new banknotes should be printed until those issues are clarified or resolved.
Representative Younquoi maintained that there exists a possibility of inducement in the proposal seeking the printing of new Liberian dollars.
“There are high-level of suspicions that show that there are motives behind this printing; the conditions for printing have not been corrected. There are lot of integrity issues that are yet to be clarified,” he added.
The Nimba County lawmaker continued: “To forget about it and go straight to printing money as if people are insensitive; there have to be some kind of inducement, or something you want to achieve.”
The Invisible L$16bn
The invisibility of the L$16 that was printed during the administration of ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on the local market has been a paramount concern of scores of citizens.
The money was printed just a few months to the expiration of the second term of the Unity Party-led regime.
Goods and services are particularly being paid for with either ragged or mutilated Liberian banknotes as a result of the situation.
Commercial banks are overwhelmed or hit with mutilated banknotes or the scarcity of Liberian dollars.
Representative Younquoi observed that though government claimed responsibility of the L$16 billion, the availability of the money on the local market remains a mystery.
He said it is laughable for government to request the printing of surpluses of new money than the L$16billion that it has failed to adequately account for.
“Why would you want to tell us after you have said that the L$16billion that came entered the vaults of the Central Bank and out of a sudden, we cannot see the money. We are saddened and you are coming up again to say you want to print more than two times what you cannot account for. There must be a motive of either money laundering, or people are keeping this money and they want to bring it,” he added.
“All the evidences that are available; for Samuel Tweah to be allowed to sign that money as a Minister of Finance and the head of the Economic Management Team (EMT), when he cannot account for the US$25million which has not come to a logical conclusion, we don’t want to see it happening.”
– Representative Larry Yonquoi, Nimba County
On Crane currency
Unimpeachable sources have revealed that authorities of Crane Currency are in the country, with a hope that, the Liberian government will drop charges against the company to ensure the printing of the new L$35billion.
The Swedish company was indicted along with several top former officials of the CBL, including the son of former President Sirleaf, Charles Sirleaf, over the excess printing of new Liberian banknotes.
But Representative Younquoi noted that government should be acting in line with the indictment filed against Crane Currency, instead of finding means to drop charges against it.
“We are hearing that the very printer that was accused of aiding and abetting criminal activities with regards to the printing of the L$16b has been brought into the country and the government has dropped charges against them because they want to print new money or government wants to give them this particular contract. If the printers are in this country, they should be finding their way in court. This issue should not be taken for granted,” he maintained.
“For now since we can’t account for L$16b and even the company that was involved in allegedly over printing and was part of this syndicate is being invited by government for this particular contract, there are lot of things that need to be explained,” the Nimba County lawmaker added.
Seeking IMF’s intervention
The Chairman of the Independent Legislative Caucus wants the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bring relief to Liberians by taking charge of portions of the country’s sovereignty.
According to him, the IMF should help alleviate some of the difficulties civil servants, including doctors, nurses and teachers continue to experience as a result of the economic decline in Liberia by spearheading the monetary policies of the country.
Representative Younquoi stated that the current situation, including delay in the payment of salaries, hike in the prices of basic commodities and exchange rate will move from bad to worse if current and former officials are not held accountable for their separate roles played during the mop-up exercise and the printing of excess Liberian dollars.
“I think that the IMF or whatever group can take over the printing of this money. But to say the very same people who cannot account for US$25m and L$16billion should print new money or supply new money, I will not support this,” he noted.
No notification for special sitting
Representative Younquoi claimed that several members of the House of Representatives remain unaware of a proclamation issued by President Weah for their return to the Capitol Building.
The Capitol Building is the official seat of the National Legislature.
According to him, no formal communication was sent to lawmakers to return for the special sitting requested by the Liberian Chief Executive.
“We just heard that the President issued a proclamation. But we have not receive it. So, if the Speaker wants to keep it to his chest, let him go ahead. Apparently, he might have told other people, but I have not been formally informed. How can you convene when you do not have any documentation to that? We as lawmakers, we will be meeting on Monday to discuss some issues affecting our country and people,” he stated.