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Liberian lawmaker slashes his salary, distributes nearly $10k monthly to constituency

August 16, 2019 at 09:16 am | News

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

August 16, 2019 at 09:16 am | News

Abraham Darius Dillon (second from Left), who beat the candidate of the governing party in a senatorial by-election last month in Montserrado County, said he will take only $5,000 a month as a senator. Pic credit: Daily Observer

In the wake of reports of harsh economic times in Liberia, a lawmaker in the country has decided to take a pay cut with the rest going into the development of his constituency.

Abraham Darius Dillon, who beat the candidate of the governing party in a senatorial by-election last month in Montserrado County, said he will take only $5,000 a month as a senator.

Lawmakers in Liberia currently take about $15,000 as salary a month but Dillon said he has asked to be given only a third of what his colleagues are earning while the rest should be put into a separate account for the benefit of his constituency.

Speaking during his induction on Thursday, the lawmaker said: “As a first sign of our commitment to our pledges, I want to publicly announce that considering the current economic situation the country is faced with, I Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, will only accept a salary in full sum of US$5,000, and any amount over this, will be deposited in an escrow account to go toward social development programs.

“I urge my colleagues in the legislative, executive and judiciary branches to kindly consider doing likewise so as to save money for other development projects,” Senator Dillon told a fully-packed chamber to the surprise of onlookers.

He also took another unusual step by declaring his assets before taking office.

“While a full declaration of my assets will be made following the due process outlined by law, I publicly declare today, as I present to the secretary of the Senate my asset declaration papers in keeping with law; everything I owe is not more than US$75,000, and the process to commence publishing same starts Monday, August 19, 2019,” he was quoted by the Daily Observer.

Dillion ran in the just-ended Montserrado County senatorial by-election on the ticket of the opposition Liberty Party. In a landslide victory, he defeated his closest rival, Coalition for Democratic Change candidate, Paulita C.C. Wie, by a margin of over 38,000 votes, the Daily Observer report said.

The country’s president, George Weah, was a senator for the Montserrado County before assuming power in 2018. Weah, who was in the news recently for opening his own church, caused controversy after asking his citizens to pray for two hours every day for God’s intervention in solving some of the country’s enormous economic problems.

The former football star further urged his countrymen and women to hold an all-night prayer vigil on the final Friday of each month for God’s blessings and guidance.

When Weah assumed power in Liberia, he promised to reform the economy that has been struggling to recover following the 2014-15 Ebola crisis, to fight corruption and nepotism and bring in a new era for the West African country.

Critics say these are yet to materialize, adding that the president should think of practical ways of tackling the problems instead of asking for divine intervention.

This June, Liberian authorities blocked social media sites as thousands protested on the streets of the country’s capital, Monrovia, over rising prices and corruption.

A petition presented by the protesters to delegates from the government of President George Weah stated that Liberians are suffering “harsh economic conditions being caused … and encouraged by bad governance, deliberate and wanton collapse of integrity systems…” CNN quoted.

“We have come to say no to bad governance, abuse of power, corruption and creeping dictatorship,” Henry Costa, one of the leaders of the protesters told CNN.

A week before the protest, Weah had issued a warning against the protest organisers, attributing the country’s woes to past governments.

“You can say whatever you want to, but be warned that cusses, insults and incitement of violence will never again be permitted under my administration,” he said.

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