Senator says timeline inadequate for passage
By John Eche
The fate of the Dangote Cement Liberia deal and 12 other bills is presently hanging in the balance as the West African nation moves on to set the stage for the winding down of the Ellen Sirleaf Johnson administration and the inception of the George Weah government, The Difference has learnt.
To ensure that every parliamentary bottleneck is taken out of the way, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has penned a communication to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the 53rd Legislature to fast-track work on the affected bills with a view to ensuring their passage at the close of this week.
Top of the list of bills that the outgoing president wants urgent action taken on are the US$41 million Dangote Cement Liberia deal and the extension of the Firestone Agreement top the list of the President’s 13 bills.
In all the president had submitted a ‘Matrix of 22 bills with a priority of 13 bills’ to the Legislature to be considered during the subsisting 9-day extension, which came into effect on Thursday, January 4 and would lapse on Saturday, January 13, 2018.
However, sources close to the Liberian parliament say that the likelihood of getting the bills passed at this time could really not be guaranteed.
Indeed, Senator Varney Sherman, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee has expressly stated that the bills’ passage was “very unlikely and doubtful,” as no amount of ‘rubber stamping and 4G speed’ will result in both Houses passing the bills within the time-frame under consideration.
“It is very doubtful, extremely difficult; there is no time, it is impractical, because the President’s Bills will not only be the issues, there are issues on elections of the President Pro Tempore, Speaker and Deputy Speaker,” the Senator asserted.
It will be recalled that the President had issued a proclamation extending the sixth and final Session of the 53rd Legislature by nine days beginning January 4, 2018.
The proclamation acknowledged that there are several unresolved key matters of national interest that require the urgent attention of the 53rd Legislature and is aware of the emergency nature of these matters, which are all geared toward the enhancement of the socioeconomic interests of the state and its people.
Also, the proclamation realizes that cognizant of the limitation of time to discuss these key matters to facilitate the smooth transition from one democratically elected government to another, which requires the participation and involvement of the 53rd Legislature in Session, it is “convinced that the President of the Republic of Liberia shall appropriately take advantage of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia to invoke Article 32 (b) as a sole means to involve the participation of the 53rd Legislature in Extraordinary Session to address these unresolved state matters.”
The 13 prioritized bills which the President wants passed include, Investment Incentive Agreement between Liberia and Dangote Cement-Liberia Limited; An Act Ratifying the Agreement for the Establishment of the African Export Import Bank (AFREMIXBANK); An Act to Amend Title 25, Patriotic and Cultural Observances Law, Chapter 3, Recognition of Distinguished Service, by adding thereto to a New Subsection 64 to be named the Order of the Republic and An Act to name Certain Roads and Bridges in the country.
Others are, a bill to Amend Chapter 22 Subsection 22.76(a) of the Liberian National Police Act, 2015; Land Rights Bill; a Bill to Amend Section 6.1(5) of the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia, Title 4, Liberian Codes of Laws Revised, regarding Permits of Residence; a Bill to Ratify the Investment Incentive Agreement between Liberia and the TIDFORE investment Company and Liberia Steel and Cement Mining (LICEMCO).
The remaining Bills include An Act Repealing the Public Employment Law and Amending the Executive Law to Create a Civil Service Commission; Amendment to the Amended and Restated Concession Agreement between Liberia incorporated; a Bill to Ratify the Concession Agreement between Liberia and the Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI) and the Amendments to the country’s Constitution/CRC Propositions and An Act to Amend Title 21 of the Liberian Code of Laws of 1956 to update the Provisions of the Maritime Law and Maritime Regulations to implement the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 and Incorporating other necessary and appropriate Provisions relating to the name change of the Bureau of Maritime Affairs to the Liberia Maritime Authority including edits that were inadvertently overlooked in previous years of the codification of the Maritime Laws and Regulations.
Further faulting the inclusion of one of the prioritised bills, Sherman said the Land Rights Act would not be possible for his Judiciary Committee to report, adding, “there should be no urgency in passing of bills.”
Analysts say that in the event that work on the bills is not concluded, it will now be left for the 54th Legislature and the new administration to continue work on them after the January 22 inauguration of the new president.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia