• Minister Jeanine Cooper pleads to Senate Plenary

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate has held for Legislative Contempt the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Jeanine Milly Cooper, following a complaint from the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for her alleged refusal to comply with Committee to perform its legislative oversight.

However, the only female Senator in yesterday’s Session, Senator Botoe Kanneh, said she appealed on behave of the female Minister of Agriculture and even voted against Senate’s decision to hold her in contempt charge.  

Appearing on Tuesday November 30, 2021 in front of Plenary Madam Cooper openly apologized and said she does not harbor any intent to disrespect the Committee, nor the venerable Senate.

“In view of the foregoing, in my capacity as the Minister of Agriculture, I respectfully submit that I personally did not ignore citations from the Senate Committee on Agriculture and consequently, undermine Legislative oversight. But, I am the Minister of Agriculture and as such, I therefore offer deep apologies to this body for the inadvertence of the Ministry of Agriculture, and for the series of events that brought us here”. The actual and perceived missteps on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture were unintended, and I am sorry for that”, Minister Cooper Pleaded.

Minister Cooper said she was appearing before that august Body sitting in Plenary in compliance with a decision to re-schedule the matter of her “appearance to show reasons why she should not be held in contempt” for alleged non-compliance and non-compliant attitude towards the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries”.

“Distinguished and Honorable Senators, I herewith respectfully inform you, I have not harbored any intent to disrespect you, nor the relevant Committee, nor this venerable Body. I refer to my letter of October 22, 2021, and humbly stand here today to state, confirm and affirm that the Ministry of Agriculture through myself, the Minister and its Deputy Ministers cannot and will not whether directly or indirectly, impede the duties and responsibilities or the legislative oversight of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries”, the Minister said.

The female Agriculture Minister said never has been the intention of the Ministry of Agriculture and its officials to deliberately, willfully and intentionally refuse to comply with requests from the relevant Committees to appear.

“Whenever duly cited, the Ministry of Agriculture represented by myself, when I am in the country or in my absence, the Acting Minister will appear along with relevant documents to answer queries. It was in this vein that I responded to the letter signed by the Secretary of the Liberian Senate, Honorable Nanborlor F. Saingbe, Sr., dated October 21, 2021, ordering myself and the Deputy Ministers to appear on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at the hour of 11 a m, She said.

Minister Cooper said she we respectfully informed the Honorable Body in a letter dated, October 22, 2021, that she was not in the country at the time of either of the citations.

“Nevertheless, I worked with the Acting Ministers and project teams to ensure that the Senate citations were properly addressed. I have done all within my power and personal abilities to reinforce and facilitate legislative oversight including by and through the provision of reports to the House of Representatives, to various committees in the Senate, including the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Briefings are being given as to the Senior Leadership of the House of Representatives, to cabinet colleagues, to the international community and to the world at large”.

The Agriculture Minister said they have already supplied all of the reports in hard and soft copies on the Kakata Market to the Senate Committee on Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries. “However, and perhaps inadvertently, the Ministry of Agriculture was not informed of the communications from Senator Nuquay to have the SAPEC Project Coordinator appear in person”.

She said although the project has closed down in June of this year, she was humbly and kindly requesting that the Ministry organizes a meeting as soon as possible to address the concerns of the Distinguish Senator of Margibi County.

“As part of the activities organized by His Excellency President George Manneh Weah to support farmers during the COVID19 pandemic, and as part of stimulus grants to be given out, the Ministry of Agriculture embarked on an ambitious plan for increasing access to finance, expanding cultivation and boosting agro-processing since April 2020, Minister Cooper informed the Senate.

She said her team from the Ministry of Agriculture presented plans in June 2020 to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries through the then Chair, Senator Victor Watson. “It was presented to other committees in both Houses. “It is this plan that the ministry is now administering, and the delays have been caused by the time it takes for procurement processes to be carried out”. The Minister said because it is ongoing, periodic reports are available and are among those reports submitted to the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in October 2021.

Addressing issues on the $16 Billion of the Liberian Commercialization and Agribusiness Fund, the Minister said the amount has not been disbursed. “We most respectfully inform this Honorable Body that in September 30, 2021, we delivered to the Honorable Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reports of the ongoing procedures required by the World Bank before the funds can be disbursed. We most respectfully state this amount remains in the possession and custody of the World Bank”, Minister Cooper clarifies.

Despite her appeal and proposal to reset relationship with Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Plenary, she was rendered guilty of Legislative Contempt and instructed to appear on Thursday for jail sentence. 

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