Dated June 13, 2014
By Christopher Zeohn Neyor
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Republic of Liberia
Dear Madame President:
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
I have been reliably informed of your venomous statement on more than one occasion that you will destroy me so that your son Robert A. Sirleaf can have an easy path to the Senate seat for Montserrado County and eventually to the Presidency of Liberia in the 2017 election to succeed you. Your threat to destroy me comes at a time when there are media reports of your son, Robert frantically trying to buy off all the Montserrado County’s senatorial candidates and promising cash for others to abandon their political parties to support his candidacy for Montserrado. Your threats to destroy me emanates from the fact that I have grass root support and I cannot be purchased even with Robert’s millions. Despite these threats, I will remain a formidable candidate for the senate race.
I take your statement as a serious threat to my person because in our part of the world when a President with all the power of the State wants to destroy a citizen, the order is usually followed to the letter.
Destroying a citizen can take many forms including made up accidents, poison, fabrication of stories that attacks one’s integrity or loyalty to the State (sedition, terrorism, etc.) or any combination of these plus more. I know you and your son are capable of this because we have gone down that road before when including when he tried to frame me as anti-American and had me under 24hr surveillance when I was removed from NOCAL. Madame President, you swore in your oath of office as our President to uphold the constitution, which guarantees the protection of life, liberty and property of every citizen.
Because of the seriousness I attach to your statement (which could be reason for impeachment in a non-imperial democracy), I am forced to issue this Open Letter to you so that our citizens and international friends can beware of how far you would go for one son to the detriment of your own administration and our country.
I cannot fathom why you would come after me with such vengeance, Madame President, one who has considered you a mother, admired you, have membership in the same church with you, utilized his own resources and connections to support you politically and was a shining star in your first term. Is it because I am the son of another Liberian mother from the rank of the marginalized?
I met with you on April 24 at your Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in presence of your Chief of Staff Dr. Edward McClain and informed you of my intent to honor petitions to contest the Montserrado County Senate seat in the October 2014 Special Senatorial Elections in order to help the National Legislature be more responsive to the critical issues of the country. You inquired why I wasn’t running for the Rivercess senate seat instead and I explained among other things that I was born and raised in Montserrado County to a father who came from Morweh in Rivercess and I was a registered voter in Montserrado. You stated it would be a difficult task for me but I told you that elections is about number and from survey, I had the number to win in the county. You told me then that others had approached you for the same seat and that you would do your own survey and see whom to support. I said that was fair enough for I was just informing you out of courtesy but not necessarily for your support.
Since I left your office that day and began consultations with cross section of Montserrado citizens, you have been doing everything to undermine my participation in the election in favor of your son whom you did not reveal to me that he intended running for the same seat. You have been trying hard to coerce officials of your government who are supporting or sympathizing with my anticipated candidacy to work with your son instead even when some advised it would not be a good idea for your son to contest the Montserrado County senate seat.
Madame President, democracy brings all qualified candidates into an election and the voters determine who they believe is the best candidate suited for a post. It would be a violation of the constitution and elections laws to coerce or entice support for your son to be elected senator. I am very much aware of your plan to have your son become “senator at all costs”, have him made President Pro Tempore of the Senate and then position him for the 2017 presidential election to succeed you. Your son, if he has given up his US citizenship and legally become a Liberian citizen again, is entitled to run for any position if qualified under our election laws but let the voters make the choice whom to support and elect. It would be a violation of your oath as President to misuse your office to make your son senator and eventually president of our country, especially when your own performance as President does not leave much to be desired now.
I wonder why you harbor so much bitterness against me, Madame President. In addition to your remarks to destroy me, you have also stated emphatically that you will make sure I am NEVER elected senator of Montserrado County. Why Madame President? Is it because as CEO of NOCAL I refused to give in to you and your son Robert’s adventurism to exploit the oil resources for your own benefits? I think the public should get to know why you are so bend on “destroying” me and trying to legitimize the already unconstitutional power you have given to your son Mr. Robert Sirleaf.
You are very much aware that I tutored you and Robert on fundamentals of oil and gas and informed you of the potential wealth of the emerging Liberia petroleum sector, the hard-to-resist temptation of millions of dollars demanding those of our citizens with the highest integrity in its management and advised you to give the sector more attention. From the time Robert was appointed to the Board of Directors of NOCAL in 2010 and he realized the millions involved, he started to position himself overnight as an oil and gas expert and instructing me on how we could make a lot of money. When I didn’t go along, he began to undermine and intimidate me as CEO as well as then Chairman of the Board Clemenceau Urey.
When I started the reform process at NOCAL learning from the errors of most of the African oil-producing countries and formulating a foundation for empowering Liberians through lucrative local content participation in this new extractive sector, you know that Robert interjected that it was unwise politically to allow citizens to have money like that, especially when the 2011 elections was around the corner.
You were fully aware that Robert began to portray himself as the de facto head of NOCAL and began soliciting huge amounts of money from individuals and companies with interest in acquisition of oil blocks. Some of these companies approached me and I brought those to your attention only for Robert to tell them not to pay attention to me because I was going to be removed after the 2011 elections and he was going to become Executive Chairman (which was later proven right). Oil blocks were promised to these people of which you are fully aware and millions was brought in irregularly for the campaign with cash brought in on private jets and taken to your home.
I brought to your attention that $2 million had been offered to me in bribe with a request that I do not take certain executive action against an oil company. I quoted to you portion of my remarks when I took over NOCAL few months earlier that no amount of money would be big enough to make me betray you and our people. What I got out of that was your ridicule of me before the Petroleum Technical Committee in the Cabinet Room at your office that I was parading myself as the most perfect man in the government boasting that I could not take bribe. Justice Minister Christina Tah and your Legal Advisor Cllr Seward Cooper (now NOCAL Board Chairman) were among those at that meeting. They can bear witness. Most of those at that meeting told me later how shock they were with your characterization of me.
Madam President, the interest and protection of the wealth of Liberia is more important to me than personal wealth. Far too long, Liberians have suffered from bad economic management of their natural resources and your administration, unfortunately, has not moved any further from the past. Unarguably, mismanagement of public resources is at the zenith during your administration.
Out of desperation, Robert tried to wickedly tag me as anti-American following a speech I made to the Liberia Business Association that diversification in future allocation of oil blocks was in our long term economic interest, a strategy agreed to and promoted by even American advisers. There was nothing anti-American about that, realizing the United States is our closest friend, prime source of economic support and currently have about 80% of contracted oil blocks. I was glad that our international partners and Liberians did not buy into such mis-guarded and unsubstantiated propaganda.
Robert got furious that the international watchdog Global Witness had referred to me as a “reformer” appointed by you to clean up NOCAL in its damaging report of September 2011 on corruption in the Liberian oil sector. The credit was to you that you had seen it fit to finally appoint a reformer at NOCAL but that didn’t go down well for your son who sent his friend and one of your trusted ministers after me, instructing that I made untrue statements to Global Witness. I still have those ugly emails exchanges with that friend who is still a minister today.
As your Energy Advisor, with your approval, I started quiet diplomacy with the Nigerian Government including then President Yar Adua’s office and the Petroleum Resources Minister to resume crude oil allocation to Liberia. The diplomacy continued when President Goodluck Jonathan took office. The convincing reason we gave to the Nigerians and later to the Kuwaiti was to use the proceeds from the allocation transaction to reduce the high cost of electricity in Liberia until we have in place more affordable power generation sources. Both for Nigeria and later Kuwait, when those sensitive negotiations I initiated and spearheaded was about to close, you put your son, Robert in charge of the closing as the Special Envoy. The Nigerian oil allocation intended to support lower electricity bill has been flowing now for years yet electricity cost in our country is the highest in the world. Not a penny from the allocation has gone to LEC fuel expenses and cost of power continues to be unaffordable to most of your citizens in areas where electricity is provided.
Every time I met with you as head of NOCAL, your constant remark was we were sitting on tons of money in NOCAL bank accounts. I responded every time that the monies were earmarked for capacity building and social interventions like the projects we were doing around the country impacting the lives of our people. One of Robert’s closest confidants tried to convince me to take $4- 5 million out of NOCAL’s account to give you as campaign contribution. He intimated to me that all my colleagues were doing that but I told him they would have to account some day but I cannot even give it a thought to do such.
Interestingly, I was the only head of a major state enterprise that was removed after your 2nd term inauguration though by all accounts you knew of my stand against corruption and my insistence on productive performance at NOCAL. It was not surprising when that same confidant of your son Robert came to me after my removal and said; “You see why I was telling you to give the old lady some money during the campaign?” The confidant is still alive and around.
Despite all that, God has been good to me and the company I established after leaving NOCAL, the Morweh Energy Group, is doing well. Though I make no income internally, I bring in what I earn overseas and employ Liberians in my office and my home, give away to scholarships and other social causes and pay various taxes including office lease (Coast Guard), payroll and income taxes. For the past two years, you and your NPA MD have given me the runaround for port land my partners and I want to lease in Buchanan to build an oil and gas logistics base that will provide opportunities for Liberians and Liberian businesses to profitably participate in provision of goods and services to exploration drilling operations now going on in Liberia.
Madame President, you know the value of a logistics base and the opportunities it provides to local citizens for business. I got at NOCAL three months before exploration drilling commenced and there was no preparation for a logistics base. I took you on one of the oilrigs where you noticed Ghanaians were providing catering and other services and I warned you that we had to do something about a logistics base. The highlight of your state visit to Angola in 2011 was a tour we made of the Luanda oil and gas logistics base. Since I left NOCAL, the initiative for a logistics base was stalled until I mobilized seven other Liberian investors and international expertise to construct the base upon lease of appropriate land at the Port of Buchanan from the NPA. Two years and counting, the land has not been granted though you tell me you support the project but then have your NPA head told to not do it. Yet millions of dollars are pumped into the Ghanaian economy for each oil well drilled in Liberia while our young people go unemployed, the education system is a “mess” according to you and people continue to live in unbelievable slums, most of them around Monrovia. This is just fundamentally wrong.
You have confided to some that I think you are a fool to grant approval for this vital national project when I had badmouthed your son, referring to the time in a NOCAL Board meeting when he was insulting and I told him the truth that he knew nothing about the working of the oil business and he would be cause for you not having a good legacy. You rather let Ghanaians and Ghanaian companies benefit from jobs and contracts on oil rigs operating in Liberia using the Port of Takoradi as logistics base than having a Liberian spearhead the building of one here in Buchanan for the benefit of our economy because of your vindictiveness.
You and your son, Robert have a complete stranglehold on the economy, depriving and punishing any Liberian who dare or desire to have an independent mind and who refuse to participate in looting the country of its resources. Closing the economy to perceived enemies is preventing job creation in Liberia!
Had the House of Representatives not imposed a freeze on oil blocks, Robert would have sold all of our remaining oil blocks by now. I know as a fact that he has lined up companies most of who have contributed heavily to the Robert Sirleaf Foundation for award of oil blocks. In your interview with FrontpageAfrica, you even confirmed contributions made by companies to the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation, while Robert was serving as Executive Chairman of NOCAL and Senior Advisor to the President of Liberia demonstrating how you and your son were trying to concentrate all the oil money into the hands of your family.
One can understand why that new oil and gas act drafted by your son left out provisions for defined citizens participation and oil revenue management mechanism but emphasized only the giving away of oil blocks, exempting future awards from the Liberian PPCC law. Have you read the draft act? It was a mockery when you openly praised your son for “completing his task” in “reforming” NOCAL with submission of the draft oil and gas act to the National Legislature just before his resignation from NOCAL due to public and international pressure. Robert resignation is also a joke because it is an open secret that he still calls the shot at NOCAL. Well, actually, he does at every agency where money and natural resources are involved including trying to give away Wologisi after the Western Cluster fiasco.
The primary purpose of a government is to protect and empower its citizens but as President of our country, all I have experienced at close range with you is a selfish desire to protect and empower only your family where your son Robert Sirleaf and your sister Jan Barnard are given power our constitution does not assign to instigate appointments, dismissals and amass ill-begotten wealth. You are good at showing two faces, one to the international community where you have been awarded medals and accolades and degrees and the other to your people at home where you have shown disdain and manipulation and deception and malice. You have been unable to reconcile the country because of your history of vindictiveness and putting Liberians against each other.
Why I am doing this
I am sure this open letter is shocking to you, knowing my quiet nature. I am not doing this because I just want to be Senator for Montserrado. I am prepared to withdraw from the race once I know we have a winning candidate who will not compromise the hopes and aspirations of the suffering people of Montserrado County…and you know that candidate is not the son you are trying hard to legitimize as your successor. The people of Montserrado deserve better and this is why I decided to get in the senate race to ensure that their interests are fully protected.
I am writing this because our country and the international community need to know who you truly are from someone who knows you well, having interacted with you on many matters of state where your decision and actions betrayed the people’s trust. I am writing this because at such a time when so many Liberians are crying out for skills building and college graduates cannot find internships or meaningful employment, when roads to slum communities are almost impassable during this raining season, when there is massive budget shortfalls due to corruption and incompetence which you have admitted to, when so much is at stake for the country requiring the best of leadership to put us back on course, you have made a decision to spend most of your time to be Campaign Manager for your son, Robert to become a senator at all cost
I have prayed about this Open Letter to you and I have a sense of relief in my spirit that this is the right thing to do for the good of our country. You and I are members of the First United Methodist Church and serve on the Annual Conference Advance Committee. In keeping with Scripture, I brought your deceptive behavior to attention of our pastor and the bishop. The bishop spoke to you about my concerns but you downplayed it as usual, saying you had nothing against me.
Madame President, this is not just against me, it is against the country. You uprooted from the government and around you those with the best integrity and competence to help you move our country further. John Morlu, Nagbalee Warner, Tiawon Gongloe, Alfred Brownell, Wilson Tarpeh and your own co-Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee are among those you have made enemies simply because they tell you the truth and will not betray their country and people to enjoy the spoils of corruption for a season.
Sando Moore, Liberia’s foremost photojournalist, who hails from Bomi with you and was instrumental in your reelection was told by you not to attend your 2012 inauguration simply because he had a difference with your son Robert. It was just fundamentally wrong for a president to come down this low to prevent a Liberian and a top journalist from attending inauguration because of a disagreement with the president’s son. NOCAL’s ad in his IMAGE magazine was pulled down as a result.
I fully understand the consequences of this Open Letter to you. I know you will come after me with vengeance utilizing all the apparatuses of the State. I am prepared for all eventualities.
I want you to succeed Madame President because when you succeed, the country succeeds, but it seems you don’t want yourself to succeed. For some strange and inexplicable reason, you take decisions that are inimical to your own government just to satisfy your son or your sister. You and your son Robert Sirleaf are driving our country down a cliff. Even your international supporters are gradually seeing that your governance is horrible and they are beginning to distance themselves from you.
A leader should be all-powerful to do good but at the same time restrained from doing evil. The new Liberia we are trying to build on the blood of over quarter million of our fellow citizens who lost their lives in the civil upheaval is one where we do not sit and watch the country go down that path of destruction again. We must all speak out for in doing so, our country will be freeing itself of presidents who abuse our rights and misuse our resources for their own selfish interest.
Madam President, you have the right as a mother to support your son for senator. But you do not have the right to threaten to destroy me or any other Liberian, or coerce anyone in the process. Your son must convince Liberians to vote for him on the merits not on the basis of using the power of the presidency to make him senator and then president at all cost. In this new Liberia, that is not going to happen. I do not take threats to my personhood lightly, especially coming from an all-powerful, imperial president. It is high time that vindictiveness is stopped!
I pray that God softens your heart and you change course for your own good and that of the country. I will be watching. I have much more to publish including email you begged me to destroy when I was at NOCAL.
Christopher Z. Neyor
Former President & CEO, NOCAL
President & CEO, Morweh Energy Group
Senatorial Aspirant, Montserrado County
cc: African Union Mission, Monrovia
ECOWAS Representative Office, Monrovia
US Embassy, Monrovia
Delegate of the European Commission, Monrovia
Embassy of Norway
The Liberia Council of Churches
The Moslem Council
National Traditional Council