Monrovia — The Executive Protective Services, an elite group of armed men and women tasked with providing security protection to the Liberian Presidency, is refusing to address reports that nine of its agents who traveled with President George Manneh Weah, have abandoned the President during his recent visit to Qatar, where he had the traveled to watch his son, Timothy Weah play for the United States of America at the World Cup.
FrontPageAfrica has reliably gathered that the whereabouts of about nine agents is still unknown, with multiple theories and insinuations flooding the social medium Facebook, alleging that the agents may have stolen monies intended for the president’s current trip to Qatar and the United States where he is expected to attend US President Joe Biden’s US-Africa leaders’ summit which runs from December 13-15.
On October 31, President Weah departed the country for Morocco and Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to attend the MEDays Forum and COP27 respectively and on November 9, he departed Egypt and arrived in Paris, France to attend the 5th Edition of the Paris Peace Forum which serves as a platform upon which state and non-state actors engage in transnational cooperation for collective action.
Over the weekend, however, news broke out that about five of the EPS agents, who were assigned with the President had abandoned their respective duties and their whereabouts remain untraceable.
The agents reportedly escaped when the President and his entourage were preparing to leave Qatar for the United States.
They reportedly fled to seek greener pastures in Europe.
Authorities of the EPS are tightlipped over reports of the sneaky escape of the agents. In a brief telephone conversation with FrontPage Africa on Monday, December 5, EPS Director Trokon Roberts could neither deny, nor confirm the reports.
“Until the president can complete the tour (travel), I cannot tell you otherwise. I will be lying to you or misleading myself. But as far as I’m concerned, I have not heard anything about such.”
His Special Assistant agent Osei Williams posted on his official Facebook page:
“The Executive Protective Service’s attention has been drawn to reports circulating on the social media that EPS officers assigned to the President of Liberia H. E. Dr. George Manneh Weah left their respective duties and are nowhere to be seen. The EPS rubbishes such claim. We like to inform the public that the President and his entourage are still on the tour and EPS agents assigned are working as per their duties.”
The EPS is expected to address the issue this week.
Director Roberts who was later contacted for the second time after his mobile phone was unreachable for calls told FrontPage Africa via WhatsApp: “Sorry, I am not in the country and the network is not clear. The EPS is going to address these concerns by Friday.”
He is expected to return to Liberia on Wednesday, December 7.
It remains unclear why the EPS Director is returning to the country at the time President Weah and his entourage are still in the US ahead of the opening of the US-Africa leaders’ summit.
The Summit will demonstrate the United States’ enduring commitment to Africa and will underscore the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities.
The Liberian leader and the others are expected back in Liberia on December 18.
Since the inception of the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) led government, the EPS has been entangled into series of controversies, including unethical and dishonest acts.
Over US$200 unaccounted for
Recently, more than US$$200,000 was illegally withdrawn from a saving account which was opened at the United Bank of Africa (UBA) Liberia Limited to help address financial constraints confronting agents of the agency.
More than 800 agents of the EPS adopted a constitution under the banner “Executive Protection Service Employees’ Development Fund” to afford them the opportunities to accumulate saving and create credit facilities for themselves, from which they can obtain loans for productive and provident purposes at a fair interest rate of 5%.
The Fund was managed by a Team of five (5) persons and its activities were being monitored by a team of three Board Members as Observers and Auditors.
Those who headed the management team were James Helb (Chairman), Alex Togba (Co-Chair), Tony Morris (Credit Manager), James Paye (Financial Secretary) and Joseph Weah (General Secretary).
The Board members were Esther P. Chea (Chairperson), Emmanuel Wesseh and Stephen Morgan.
Those comprising of the management team and board were elected by agents of the EPS, who are referred to as shareholders under the Fund.
Section 1 of the constitution adopted by the agent states that: “In order for the EPS Employees Development Fund to achieve its intended goal and objectives, the sum of US$20 is charged as monthly due per member and it is to be deducted from all agreed member monthly salary check by the Comptroller of the EPS and transferred to the Fund’s Bank Account through its Management Team.”
Since then, more than US$300,000 has been deposited in the Fund’s account at the UBA.
The Fund Account number # is: 53010550002258 with title: EPS Employees Development Fund.
Several employees of the EPS benefitted from the initiative and were also made to pay back interests into the account of the Fund, which was being managed by the James Helb leadership.
However, the initiative backfired when both the administration of the EPS and the Board noticed high level of discrepancies and alleged malpractices on the management of the Fund following multiple complaints and concerns raised by some of the agents or shareholders.
An unimpeachable source at the EPS confided in FrontPage Africa that the administration of the EPS, requested a comprehensive audit of the Fund in October 2021.
The audit, which was conducted by an independent firm, recommended a halt in the deduction of US$20 each from the salaries of the agents (shareholders) and requested the payment of monies that were already paid by the agents to the Fund to avoid additional problems in the future.
The source revealed that following the move, the Management Team of the EPS Development Fund, through the Board made a payment of 70% to all employees of the agency, with an outstanding of 30%.
The Board shouldered the responsibility to commence the payment of the 70% when agent James Helb allegedly reneged to show up for work since August this year, following the release of the audit.
Though agent Helb promised several times to return to work to uphold the trust and confidence reposed in him by his colleagues, our source added that, he failed to do so.
In October 2022, the Board again made multiple attempts to ensure that the Management Team settled the payment of the remaining 30% to the agents (shareholders) of the Fund through agent Helb, but he failed to avail himself up to present.
Our source disclosed that Chairman Helb has not been seen on the grounds of the EPS on Capitol Hill in Monrovia for nearly four months now.
Helb, Togba and Paye were the previous signatories to the Fund’s account at the UBA bank.
“Following James Helb’s surreptitious departure from the agency, the U-Direct code which was being used previously to electronically withdraw monies from the account of the EPS Fund at UBA, was clandestinely changed, making it impossible for agents Togba and Paye, who were also signatories to the account to have access. Since then, over US$200,000 has been clandestinely withdrawn from the EPS Employees Development Fund Account and agents (shareholders) cannot receive their outstanding 30% the Fund owes them along with the interest,” a source who spoke on condition of anonymity stated.
US$180, 000 paid to an agent
Agatha Nyhorpulu Sayee, an agent of the EPS, holds the account number: 53030500099138 at the same UBA in Liberia.
A copy of the EPS Employees Development Fund account bank statement, which is in the possession of FrontPage Africa, revealed that the amount of US$180,000 was paid to agent Sayee from the account between the period of January 26 to October 12, 2022.
She was previously given loan under the Fund to seek advance medical treatment in Ghana following a period of protracted illness.
“We want to know how the US$180,000 disbursed to the account of agent Agatha Sayee from the EPS Employees Development Fund’s account was not totally captured in her personal bank statement”, the source maintained.
Other accounts were also credited from the EPS Employees Development Fund account though the used of the LEO App, which is connected to the bank account.
When contacted via telephone, the Managing Director of UBA Madam Nkechi Joyce Arizor requested this writer to contact her via text message.
“I am in my Board meeting and the meeting is sensitive. I cannot attend to this now,” she responded via text message when she was abreast about the situation.
Madam Arizor promised to call back later, but however failed to do so up to press time.
However, FrontPage Africa has independently gathered that the administration of the EPS has written the bank seeking reconciliation of the two conflicting bank statements issued.
On the run
Agent James Helb, Chairman of the Management Team of the EPS Employees Development Fund is said to be on the run.
He reportedly fled Liberia for Ghana.
He has been linked to allegedly using LEO APP to transfer and withdraw monies from the account.
The Board of the Fund was reportedly planning to pay the balance when it noticed that its account at UBA was depleted.
From October 14 to present, a little over US$300 remains in the account.
EPS Agent on trial for murder
In August this year, EPS Agent Patrick Kollie was disrobed, charged with murder, and sent to court for prosecution after he allegedly shot one Valentine T. Johnson at the Police Academy Junction in Paynesville on Monday, July 4. The crime is in violation of Chapter 14, Section 14.1 of the Penal Code of Liberia.
A police charge sheet released that during preliminary investigation, it was established that while suspect Kollie was on his way to his Police Academy residence, he came across some alleged attackers. Police said the alleged attackers tried to molest defendant Kollie by impeding his movement.
While arguing with the alleged attackers, police say Agent Kollie went into his parked vehicle and pulled out his assigned arm, a 9MM Norinco pistol with serial number LR/EPS/409730767.
The charge sheet revealed that the investigation established that when the alleged aggressors realized that suspect Kollie was in possession of a firearm, they took to their heels and passed by an approaching motorbike.
Within that time, police said suspect Kollie fired a round behind the aggressors, which then allegedly hit victim Valentine T. Johnson who was riding on the approaching motorbike.
Johnson was allegedly hit above his left eye and the shot exited behind his head, leaving him unconscious.
Subsequently, police said the victim was pronounced dead by doctors upon arrival at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.
Additionally, it was revealed that when suspect Kollie realized that he had hit the wrong person, he immediately got into his vehicle and absconded the scene.
Police said Kollie allegedly admitted discharging his firearm and further said that he was attacked by a group of criminals who wanted to take his assigned arm.
In the process, he allegedly told police that the arm got discharged and hit a civilian who was riding on an approaching motorbike.
Journalist Zenu Miller’s death
In February 2020, the Liberian government, through the former Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) Lenn Eugene Nagbe officially apologized to the family of fallen Liberian broadcast journalist Zenu Miller and members of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) for its failure to investigate complaints of the alleged flogging of the deceased by some agents of the EPS.
The ace broadcast journalist died on February 15, 2020, at the ELWA hospital in Paynesville barely few weeks after he had complained of severe chest pains that he was experiencing after being allegedly manhandled by EPS agents during the national county sports meet final on January 26, 2020.
But the EPS denied the accusation.
EPS Agents injured AFL soldier
On Sunday, November 18, 2018, six agents of the EPS were disarmed and placed under investigation following a scuffle between them and some soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who were assigned at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex.
The incident resulted into an AFL soldier being shot and five others sustaining injuries. An EPS agent was also injured. The shot AFL soldier was admitted at the John F. Kennedy hospital.
The fracas occurred prior to the start of an African Cup of Nations qualifiers soccer match between Liberia and Zimbabwe.
Though investigations and prosecution were initiated, the outcome remains unknown.
The tragedies which continue to mar the once prestige and elite presidential guard service continue to endanger the lives of not only the President, but other immediate family members and foreign dignitaries.
It would be a waste of taxpayers’ money if those providing security for the Liberian leader and others continue to use the opportunity afforded them to travel to foreign countries escape in the name of seeking greener pastures.
This would also make the nation to appear as a “laughingstock” to the outside world.
More pressure will continue to mount on authorities of the EPS to clearly state the facts and avoid covering up or managing information on the escape of their agents from the EPS.
The muteness of the EPS authorities is in violation of citizens’ right to know in keeping with the 1986 Liberian constitution.
The constitution is the organic law of the land.