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House goes amok again

The Liberian House of Representatives went amok again on Thursday when its Members physically engaged each other in serious fist fight, after Speaker J. Alex Tyler attempted reading the restructuring of both the statutory and standing committees of the body. 

Earlier, some members resisted attempts by the Speaker to preside over the session because he was wanted by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission in connection with the misapplication of US$25,000 from the National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL.

It all started when the Sergeant-at arms of the House, Gen. Martin Johnson, called the session to order- meaning it was time for the normal business of the plenary, while the Speaker was seated in his official chair. Upon requesting the Chief Clark to read the agenda, which he immediately did, the Presiding Officer (the Speaker) commenced the session with announcement of the restructuring of the various statutory and standing committees of the House- an exercise

Representative Henry B. Fahnbulleh of the ruling Unity Party disrupted with a call for observation, but knowingly ignored by the Speaker.

The chambers of the House , then, went amok when anti-Tyler members ran from their various seats in violent protest against the manner and form the speaker was conducting the affairs of plenary.

The rebellious disorderliness and militancy displayed by the renegade Lawmakers led by Representatives Edwin Snowe ( also a former NPFL combatant), Henry  Fahnbulleh, Roland Opee Cooper and others threw the whole Plenary into a hostile zone for anyone who appeared in their way.

Adam Bill Corneh of Bong County, realizing the tension, chose to halt it by stopping Reps. Snowe and Cooper, but a hot and uncontrollable slap was enough to neutralize the Bong County lawmaker in his peace-making effort. 

It took staff of the House some time to  apply water on the forehead of Rep. Corneh for survivability.

As staff of the House were attending to the Bong County Representative, hell broke loose again, when  some ‘rebel’ Lawmakers rushed to the Speaker, attempting to violently take away the sheets bearing the list of new committee chairs and members, but the gallantry of some members of the Executive Protective Services and police assigned with Speaker Tyler thwarted the attack, escorting the Speaker away.

Despite the raining of insults and boxing, the Speaker, however, still continued the appointment of the new chairs and members of the statutory and standing committee- this time, in his office. 

Key and influential confidants of the speaker removed from the various statutory committees as chairs included Rep. Edwin Snowe (Chairman on Rules, Orders and Administration to a mere committee member), replaced by Grand Bassa Rep. Byron Brown, while Margibi County Representative Emmanuel Nuquoi was replaced by Lofa Representative Moses Kollie as  chairman of the lucrative Ways, Means and Finance Committee.  

Montserrado County Representative Henry B. Fahnbulleh was replaced by James Biney as Chairman on Foreign Relations, while Dr. Bhofal Chambers replaced Bong County Representative George Mulbah as Chairman on National Defence.

The  disgruntled members of the House had earlier written a letter during the course of their last session, on Speaker Tyler alleged involvement in the US$25,000 from the National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL, for discussion by Plenary.

The three page communication addressed to the plenary indicated: “this issue indeed exposes this august body to much public scrutiny, especially given the fact that the entire nationwide consultation was financed by NOCAL in the tune of US$1.2 million from which the Liberian Senate was given US$200,000 and US$1 million was left exclusively for the House. Our records also indicate that all services regarding the nationwide consultation were fully financed from this amount,” the letter said.

The letter further noted that the payment of the amount by NOCAL was based on a budget from the body, and accordingly, it was totally strange for the Speaker to have gone back to NOCAL for a new payment on behalf of the body.

They recommend that a special select committee be constituted by plenary to delve into the matter and report to plenary within one month; that Speaker Tyler, who is involved in the saga, cooperate fully with the committee; that the speaker immediately and unconditionally recues himself from presiding until the matter was resolved; and that the plenary sees this as a matter of ethics.

Speaking to members of the press after the tension, Deputy Speaker Hans Barhcue described the action of his colleagues as barbaric and uncivilized, urging any member of the House having differences with the speaker to express such in line with the rules of the House of Representatives.  

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