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"Let President Sirleaf understand that she must separate the Presidency from family"

Ex-Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives Edwin Snowe, held a press conference recently,  and told the Liberian people and the world what most Liberians have expressed over the years about nepotism and corruption in the Sirleaf administration. Snowe went even further by revealing in brutal details the  lack of transparency in the negotiation of oil deals, the influence of presidential son, Robert Sirleaf, who currently runs NOCAL, and also revealed what appears to be the hijacking of NOCAL by the Sirleaf clan.

Below is the full text of Rep. Snowe’s statement at the Tuesday news conference.        

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, Good Afternoon!

Today, in fulfillment of my obligation to my District and the Liberian people as well as in defense of my reputation, I’ve come to address this press conference regarding a range of National as well as personal issues.

Over the last few months, there have been claims and counter claims between the Legislative and Executive Branches of our Government with specific reference to the administration of the Oil and Gas Sector by the National Oil Company of Liberia, (NOCAL).

Of late, the Liberian people have read articles and listened to accusations and character assassination; in particular, a talk show aired on a radio station owned by the Vice President for Communications of NOCAL, against members of the National Legislature. Against this background, I’ve come today to defend and protect my character and to elevate the public debate surrounding activities at NOCAL.

About a year ago when I decided to support the reelection of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, I did not do it for personal benefit or greed, neither did I do it in exchange for oil block as been speculated in some quarters. I supported Madam Sirleaf based on my personal conviction in promoting democracy and stability in Liberia.

This is why I can proudly and publicly challenge anybody, be it Madam Sirleaf, Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf, the campaign team, or anyone associated with the campaign for the reelection of Madam Sirleaf, that a dime was given me to endorse or campaign for the President or even campaign for myself. I campaigned with the President in all fifteen (15) counties, at times, I even did so without the President, whilst at the same time campaigning for my reelection in my District. All this was done 100% at my own expense.

In May of 2011, I was approached by Gazprom (a giant Russian Oil and Gas Company) to explore the possibility of investing in the Liberian Oil and Gas Sector with specific reference to Block 13. Gazprom was one of the two preferred bidders recommended by Peppercoast, the owner of Block 13 on a mandated sale of the block by then CEO of NOCAL, Mr. Christopher Neyor.

Gazprom had made an offer of $100 million for the block where the Government of Liberia take would have been $27 million and $15 million to NOCAL as transaction fee but while it was obvious that Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited (COPL) did not meet the three qualification criteria set by NOCAL and Gazprom did, NOCAL delayed any approval as requested and required under the Peppercoast Petroleum Sharing Agreement. This was when Gazprom approached me to find out what was going on. Gazprom, which is also a major power producer, also offered to come in with expanded electricity for Monrovia within just few months.

I immediately proceeded to President Sirleaf and informed her about the request made to me by Gazprom. President Sirleaf in response, amongst other things, informed me that because of the location of block 13, being situated between blocks 12 and 14, which are owned by Chevron, a US company, it was impossible to have a Russian company situated between the two blocks.

After months of discussions, the President along with her Senior Advisor, Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf, who happens to be her son, agreed to meet with Gazprom. Thereafter, an invitation was extended to Gazprom to visit Liberia. The Chief Executive Officer of Gazprom flew to Liberia and a meeting was held at the residence of the president, notably in the absence of the then President/CEO of NOCAL, Mr. Christopher Neyor.

Upon our arrival at the residence of the president, we were met by Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf, who immediately proceeded with the guest into the residence of the president for closed door discussions while I was ushered a seat outside in the palava hut. That was when I realized that the Oil and Gas Sector of Liberia was at threat of being a family affair. I felt humiliated and was deeply saddened.

After learning that negotiations for block 13 were being held, and that only the President/CEO of NOCAL, Mr. Neyor and one member of the Board of NOCAL who again happened to be Mr. Robert Sirleaf along with his American lawyer, Mr. Jeff Woods were in the know at the level of NOCAL, I decided to question this process.

Why was Mr. Clemenceau Urey who was Chairman of the Board of NOCAL at the time not copied? Why is Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf the only member of the Board of NOCAL in the know of this transaction?

Mr. Robert Sirleaf, who absolutely has no knowledge of how the international oil and gas sector operates, wanted to force NOCAL to give Block 13 to Chevron at half the amount offered by Gazprom even when Chevron had not participated in the bid for the block, it was the National Legislature with its budgetary and oversight power that mandated that Block 13 be disposed off with no less than $27 million to the government treasury. This is how ExxonMobil made a counter offer that may now bring $45 million to our government. Thanks to the National Legislature for its oversight.

Now let’s discuss what started last week into this week while I was away visiting family and friends. During my absence, some serious accusations were levied against the Honorable Speaker, the President Pro Temp of the Liberian Senate, several of my colleagues and I from the House of Representatives by Mr. Henry Costa (a local radio talk show host), all in an attempt to assassinate my character based on falsehood.

For the record, at no time have I met and/or discussed with President Sirleaf or her Senior Advisor who is also the Chairman of the Board of NOCAL nor have I asked anyone to request an oil block from the President or her son, Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf. I don’t know of any discussion with the President or her son regarding any oil block which would lead to blackmailing as printed by the “FrontPage Africa” newspaper. I hereby openly in this public manner challenge anyone to prove the contrary.

I am aware that Mr. Costa was issued a US visa through the instrumentality of the “Executive” and was expected to travel during the same time the President visited the US to address the UN General Assembly. Mr. Costa was instructed by his principals at NOCAL to delay his trip until early November and carry on their planned attack against members of the Legislature. Let me take this time to bid Mr. Costa farewell and a safe travel to the United States in the coming days having accomplished his mission.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, from where I am positioned, I am aware of plans by NOCAL to dish out thousands of United States dollars to SOME media institutions (both electronic and print) in a campaign to confuse the minds of the public by discrediting the Legislature, especially the House of Representatives who have been very vocal about reform at NOCAL. This campaign is also intended to further discredit credible documented evidence of Mr. Robert Sirleaf’s “so called pro bono” activities at the National Oil Company.

We have explicit confidence in the Liberian media and have confidence that you will remain resolute in exposing the ills in our society. We know that no attempt will make you bury the truth.

Fellow Liberians, the issue at NOCAL is of grave concern and must be addressed immediately. Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf, son of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Senior Advisor to the President of the Republic of Liberia, So Called “Pro Bono Executive Chairman” of the Board of Directors of NOCAL and a taxpaying citizen of the United States of America with US Passport number; 2181983813, issued June 7, 2006, receives thousands of US dollars representing per diem, first class air ticket, five star hotel bills inclusive of entertainment and incidental payments for each and every trip made in the name of NOCAL. Attached are a few supporting documents for your review.

Most of these payments are not determined by any set policy at NOCAL. After these trips, Mr. Sirleaf gives instructions that reimbursement payments for his “pro bono services” be made to his Wells Fargo account number; 4000823640, in the United States.

As far as I know, board Chairpersons in Liberia are not paid anyway, so why call your services “pro bono” when you are receiving everything other board chairs are receiving, plus more? Why would Mr. Sirleaf try to play on the intelligence of the Liberian people?

Mr. Robert Sirleaf, is also in violation of the Aliens and Nationality Law of the Republic of Liberia. The Liberian Codes Revised, VOL. II: Chapter 22; Page 193. Loss of Citizenship; 22.1. Acts Causing Loss of Citizenship.
From and after the effective date of this title, a person who is a citizen of Liberia whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his citizenship by;

(a) Obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application, upon the application of a duly authorized agent, or through the naturalization of a parent having legal custody of such person; provided that citizenship shall not be lost by any person under this section as the result of the naturalization of a parent or parents while such person is under the age of 21 years, unless such person shall fail to enter Liberia to establish a permanent residence prior to his twenty-third birthday.

Mr. Sirleaf holds a Liberian Diplomatic Passport number; D 000189. Issued December 2, 2009, which puts him in a dual citizen capacity. The laws of Liberia do not grant dual citizenship.

I am therefore calling on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to immediately discharge Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf from all activities of the Government of Liberia and have him turned over to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.

Fellow Liberians, the danger in this situation, with Mr. Sirleaf, a US citizen, serving as Senior Advisor to the President of the Republic of Liberia, and so called pro bono Chairman of the Board of NOCAL is that, it is possible that in the event of any dubious or advert issue against the interest of the Republic (which is now emanating at NOCAL under Mr. Sirleaf’s chairmanship), the Government will lack the authority to prosecute Mr. Sirleaf because he will take off to his country of citizenship, the United States of America.

After single handedly appointing all of the members of the Board of NOCAL, Mr. Sirleaf now refers to himself as “Executive Chairman” of the Board of NOCAL which is in complete violation of the act that created NOCAL which calls for a “Chairman of the Board” and not an Executive Chairman. Moreover, there is not one person on the NOCAL Board of Directors as constituted by Mr. Sirleaf with any hydrocarbon or energy expertise as required by the Act creating NOCAL.

One of the issues raised in the Front Page Africa newspaper and on the Costa Show, was that of “PEP” (Politically Exposed Persons), a regulation found in Section 312 of the US Patriotic Act. What Front Page Africa and the Costa Show failed to tell the Liberian people is that after the passage of the PEP, another mechanism was put into place as a cover up for the PEPs, which is referred to as SPV/SPE (Special Purpose Vehicle/Special Purpose Entity) to protect the interest of such persons.

This Special Purpose Vehicle/Entity is intended to shield the commercial interest of those people by giving them the opportunity to establish foundations, trusts, funds, clubs etc. under the disguise of charity work. Take a look around here today, we have the “Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation”, Robert A. Sirleaf Barrack Youth Club, Robert A. Sirleaf Social Work Fund, and as expected, the Robert A. Sirleaf Young Boys Fund.

Most of the 10 million United States dollars from Chevron social funds was spent through those SPV’s. We hope that somewhere in Mr. Sirleaf social work; he will create avenues to assist the young girls of Liberia as well.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, we are aware that today there is a major conspiracy to remove the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. J. Alex Tyler, Sr., as was done with the Edwin Snowe leadership. We want to make it emphatically clear to the perpetrators to beware that this time around, their conspiracy could fall at their door steps. “A hint to the wise is quite sufficient.”

I want to call on members of the National Legislature, especially the members of the Honorable House of Representatives, to remain steadfast, unified and far sighted; to steer the course as we provide oversight of the Executive in the interest of the Liberian people. This is our responsibility and so let us not let our fellow citizens down.

Finally: In 2011 when the Liberian people went to the polls to vote for president, we voted for Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as President of the Republic of Liberia and not Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf. The involvement of Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf in running the day-to-day affairs of the state is a cancer that is creeping in as a threat to our hard-earned political dispensation.

Mr. Sirleaf masterminded the removal of two eminent Liberian citizens who are highly qualified (Dr. Foday Kromah and Mr. Christopher Neyor) from NOCAL because he could not push them around. We are informed of cases where Mr. Sirleaf told a certain Cabinet Minister during negotiations with Chevron that the Minister had his marching orders and that the minister should proceed in doing what he (Robert Sirleaf) wanted done against the professional advice of that Minister.

There have been other instances where Cabinet Ministers and other Senior Government officials have been subjected to thorough security searches as well as leaving their cellphones and pens outside before entering Mr. Sirleaf’s public office.

Mr. Sirleaf drives two bullet proof Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles with private plates and is escorted by armed EPS (SSS) personnel in an EPS (SSS) pilot vehicle. Other than the President, neither the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice nor the President Pro Temp of the Senate rides in a bullet proof vehicle. It leaves one to wonder if the safety or security of Mr. Sirleaf is more important then the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia and those others mentioned.

It is important for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to retrospect the cases of Saddam Hussein and the involvement of his sons in running the affairs of Iraq; Col. Maummar Gaddafi and the involvement of his sons in running the affairs of Libya; Hussein Mubarak and sons in running the affairs of Egypt and our own next door neighbor of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade and his son in running the affairs of Senegal, to name a few.

Let President Sirleaf understand that she must separate the Presidency from family. We saw official photos from Japan where the president and her son and another family member were at the head table at an official meeting whilst senior ministers of government were in the back. A few days later after it was noticed, the photo disappeared from the Front Page Africa website.

Liberia is not the newly formed monarchy in West Africa nor is Liberia the next Equatorial Guinea where the son of the president is also his vice president with oversight of the oil sector.

Ladies and gentleman of the press, I thank you for coming and I look forward to inviting you shortly to more press conferences as the debate continues. As we continue with Mr. Sirleaf’s role at NOCAL, we will also be looking at other handpicked executives at NOCAL with supporting documents of their stewardship.

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