Sunday 24 September 2017

Top Liberia politician steps down over corruption scandal

Top Liberia politician steps down over corruption scandal
(AFP 09/02/16)

Liberia's parliamentary speaker stepped down on Thursday as police investigate allegations that he took a bribe worth $75,000 to facilitate the passage of legislation favourable to a British mining firm.

Speaker of the lower house Alex Tyler has been out on bail since his May arrest by police over the accusations, which were first made by campaign group Global Witness.

"The people of Liberia whom we serve, are looking to us for leadership and their interest and welfare should reign supreme above any individual or personal consideration," Tyler told journalists at a press conference.

"I am herewith recusing myself from presiding over the plenary of the House of Representatives so that the business of the Liberian people can be fully addressed," he added, describing his decision as the "ultimate sacrifice".

Global Witness alleged that Tyler was a key player in pushing through a 2010 law allowing the mining minister to declare some mineral concessions "non-bidding" areas that could be handed out without a tender process.

A payment was made to Tyler the same year by London-listed Sable Mining in return for his help, with the aim of securing potentially lucrative iron ore deposits, the group has claimed.

Tyler is a member of the ruling Unity Party of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and despite being investigated by a taskforce convened by Johnson herself the speaker had until now refused to leave his post.

Since the allegations surfaced, at least half the members of Liberia's House of Representatives have refused to recognise Tyler's authority, and held separate sessions without him to register their discontent.

On Tuesday the disgruntled group of lawmakers were close to achieving the two-thirds super-majority of votes required to remove Tyler, placing extra pressure on his continued presence in the lower chamber.

"There are no winners when the nation's pride is at stake... For me it is not about Alex Jenekai Tyler," he told journalists.

Unity Party Chairman Varney Sherman and the former head of Liberia's National Investment Commission Richard Tolbert are also facing charges in connection with the affair.

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