NTLA Continues Hearing On “Printing Of Money”

…Chea Cheapoo, Justice Minister Appear

By: C. Winnie Saywah

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 6, 2004

Two Liberian legal minds yesterday appeared before the National Transitional Legislative Assembly to throw some light on the issue of who has the authority to print and mint banknotes and coins in the country.

In its bid to seek more clarification and legal ramifications about the printing of money in the country, the NTLA invited Justice Minister Kabineh Ja’neh and former Chief Justice Chea Cheapoo to appear before the full plenary of the august body.

Expressing his opinion on the minting of currency, Justice Minister Kabineh Ja’neh said the laws as provided in the constitution of Liberia, does not give the Central Bank of Liberia(CBL) the absolute authority to mint or print money, so whatever the bank did relative to the printing of more currency, the laws were not strictly followed.

He wondered how the CBL would print money without the knowledge of the legislature, when it is this august body that should grant the bank the right to only arrange for the printing of bank-notes and the minting of coins.

Cllr. Ja’neh contended that though the CBL was granted the right by an act of legislation to issue bank notes, it does not have the authority to print nor mint currency without the expressed approval of the legislature noting, “the constitution is so clear that the legislature has the right to approve.”

The Justice Minister pointed out that the constitution of Liberia, Article 34(d) states “the legislature shall have the power to levy taxes, duties, imposts, excise, and other revenues, to borrow money, issue currency, mint coins, and to make appropriations for the fiscal governance of the Republic, subject to the following qualifications...(ii)...and no coin shall be minted or national currency issued except by the expressed authority of the legislature.”; therefore since no prior approval was sought by the CBL, that decision and action was a violation of the laws governing the exercise.

Cllr. Ja’neh told the lawmakers that when the issue was initially raised, he met with the CBL Governor Elias Saleeby and his legal team, but they(CBL) said their action was based on the Act passed by legislation.

He said reviewing the Act makes it clear and ambiguous, therefore, he appealed to the body to rewrite the Act so that the CBL cannot seize the ambiguity, adding, “they are of the view to the extent that the issuance of coins was granted them by the Act creating the CBL.”

For his part, former Chief Justice Chea Cheapoo who sounded to be indifferent with the views expressed by incumbent Justice Minister Ja’neh, called on the legislature to wake up and control the power they as lawmakers have vested in the CBL.

Cllr. Cheapoo said the US$47million which was printed by the CBL has disappeared in thin air whereas Civil Servants have been left unpaid and no accountability, therefore it is the prerogative of the legislature to ensure that the Act is refined.

He assured the lawmakers that the power granted the legislature within the constitution, is in their hands as legislators, but if they fail to make good use of it, posterity will blame them.

Cllr. Cheapoo told the assemblymen that minting money has to be controlled or else the country’s economy will crush.

Deputy Speaker Eddington Varmah, himself a renowned lawyer, told his colleagues that the Act creating the CBL to mint is already considered mute and any law which contravenes the constitution is unacceptable and so such action by the CBL is contemptuous.

Section 20, part 5 and section 21 of the Act states that the CBL shall have sole right to issue banknotes and arrange for the printing of notes and minting of coins, according to Cllr. Varmah, the Act did not give CBL the right to print but to arrange.

The assembly then thanked the two invited legal minds for the consultation and promised to review those areas in the Act which are not clear to rule some out, and begin from there.

© 2004: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.