Monrovia: The Plenary of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 voted to submit a resolution to override Pres. George Weah’s veto of an act to create Zeayema District in Lofa County.
Recently, President Weah vetoed the act citing financial, constitutional and institutional reasons, highlighting economic burden on the already struggling economy.
“I surmise that they intended for districts to be created based on the necessity for effective administration and the need to bring services closer to the people. I also believe that districts should be created using a rigorous process involving a study on the justification, structure, density of population, revenue base and economic viability of the request,” a communication from the Pres. Weah’s office to Speaker Chambers on the Vetoed act.
The President’s veto is backed by Article 35 of the Constitution which gives the president the authority to approve or not approve Bills laid before him.
Plenary’s decision was triggered through a report from the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Hon. Cllr J. Fonatti Koffa, which the committee recommended that a moratorium is placed on the creation of districts in Liberia until the decentralization of the Local Government act.
The Committee among other things recommended that the House take cease of the matter and communicate with the executive branch of government on the House’s action.
According to Rep. Koffa, the president’s veto comprehensively cited fiscal and population concerns over districts establishment, noting that it was needful to invite the Minister of Internal Affairs over the rollout plan of the Local Government Act which will capture the decentralization of services.
“The cost-benefit analysis done by the president in his veto is compelling enough to wait for the Local Government act to get started because the creation of all these districts will be a fruitless exercise”.
The floor of plenary was greeted with mixed reactions from other Lawmakers who believed that the rule and constitution must be tested to override the President’s veto in an apparent way to ensure the governance structure of the country is decentralized.
Lofa County Representative Mariamu Fofana who introduced the bill stated during the discussion in open session that financial implications cited in the President’s veto should not deny the people of Zeayema District the right administration of governance.
“The alternative to peace is to minimize the cost of tension which is allowing citizens to have self-governance, because of the cost of controlling war, or other tension that may arise maybe very expensive than that of paying district commissioners and administrators in the district”.
Rep. Fofana craved the indulgence of the House’s Leadership to dialogue with President Weah in aiding the citizens in district creation across the country.
“Let me this time to appeal to the Leadership to sit with the Executive (President) to look into this matter keenly, today it is Zeayema but tomorrow it might be another district creation that the citizens are craving for and it would be vetoed”, Rep. Mariamu Fofana noted.
Article 34 of the Liberian Constitution gives the Legislature the power to create new Counties and other political subdivisions and readjust existing County boundaries.
Also commenting further, Nimba County Representative Dorhwohn Gleekia indicated that there is a need to override the President’s veto due to the provision of the basic needs of the people in rural parts of the country
“Colleagues we need to do all we can to override this veto because raising money to pay people who will serve as direct representation of the government which is very minimal than denying citizens the rights to district administration or creation”, Rep. Gleekia asserted.
Arguing further, Gbarpolu County Representative Hon. Cllr Kanie Wesso also opted to the test the democracy by holding a vote to override the veto where Plenary would decide in the vote count.
“We have the constitutional power to override the president’s veto because any plead to dialogue with the president is just for nothing, he cannot take back his word as it is enshrined in the Constitution so let’s operate within the law”. Rep. Wesso maintained.
Pundits believe that Lawmakers were afraid to openly take a decision to override the President’s veto which would be marred by outrage from the Executive over succeeding bills and instruments being signed into law.
Backed by Article 17 of the Liberia Constitution, Citizens of Konia Town and other parts in Zeayema opted through a petition to their Lawmaker Rep. Mariamu Fofana to create the Zeayema District in Lofa County with over 20,000 inhabitants on May 12, 2018. The Petition was received and through a bill landed on the floor of plenary in July 2018, in which plenary send it to committee room for proper scrutiny and subsequent passage and onward submission to the president in December 2018.
Article 17 of Constitution states “all persons at all times in an orderly and peaceful manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good to instruct their representatives and to petition the government of other functionaries for the redress of their grievances”.
The Zeayema District act mentioned the participation of citizens in government governance programs, undertaking of meaning projects for citizens as some of the main reasons for the district establishment.
“Whereas for proper administration of the inhabitant with the supra mentioned population that will ensure not only growth and rapid improvement of lives of the citizens of the area, but also will encourage full participation in speedy developmental programs initiated by the Liberian government as well as to awake the spirit of peaceful co-existence, cooperation, and consolidation for a meaningful awareness as to undertake greater projects physically, educationally, economically, socially, and spiritually for the progress and improvement of the citizens’ condition in said area, it becomes necessary to create herein a functional district by law”.