Dubbed as a stabilizing Speaker since the forceful resignation of Edwin Snowe, Alex Tyler has not been freed from controversies since his ascendancy to the House Speakership on April 6, 2007.
Speaker Alex Tyler
Elected against one of the basis of the combative leadership style of former Speaker Snowe, Tyler as a Bomi County Representative, was first dogged with a huge bribery scandal.
He was at the center of serving as disbursement officer of the five thousand United States Dollars (US$5,000) bribe dished out individually to over forty six members of the 64-member House of Representatives.
Serving then as the House Committee Chairman on Ways, Means and Finance, Tyler was accused of distributing the US$5,000 bribe to vulnerable and money-driven members of the House to influence their decision to sign the resolution seeking the removal of former Speaker Snowe.
The bribery allegation lingered at the House for months although a low level investigative panel set-up by Speaker Tyler comprising most of his closed allies and beneficiaries of the bribe were the hearing officers and judges.
At the end, the Representative Armah Sarnor’s investigative panel brushed aside the bribery claim by announcing that the allegation of bribe taking as revealed by former Speaker Snowe and confirmed in a news interview by Representative Samuel Bondo did not take place.
Tyler & others haunted by bribe taking
The stage-managed investigation led to the suspension of the complainant, former Speaker Snowe and Bong’s Representative Samuel Bondo who admitted to the media of taking the bribe of US$5,000 in an envelope from Tyler but later said his statement was a monkey-wrench designed by Snowe to draw public attention on his side as he was drowning in the middle of the ocean or in a lion’s den. Though the bribery claim was shamefully swept under the floor, Speaker Tyler and his accused team of bribe taking lawmakers continue to be haunted by the damaging allegation.
Tyler in damaging US report
As if the bribery claim was not sufficient to dent his character, Speaker Tyler was on January 18, 2008 involved in a serious human rights case as he was accused of unleashing his security personnel on former River Gee Assemblyman, Prince Toe.
The incident which was captured and reported in the US State Department Report of 2008 under column “C” titled: “Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, highlighted how Speaker Tyler used his powers to order the alleged severe flogging of former Assemblyman Toe who was attending a Sunday Church Service.
The US State Department Report said “After a near collision on January 18 between the vehicles of former government official Prince Toe and House Speaker Alex Tyler, Tyler's bodyguards allegedly followed Toe to his church, pulled him out of the building, beat him in front of the Speaker, and stole two kilograms of gold he had in his possession; it was unclear why Toe was taking two kilograms of gold with him to church.
Toe claimed police briefly detained him after the beating until a local clergyman intervened for his release. On January 21, the Monrovia Magisterial Court issued a writ of arrest against Speaker Tyler on charges of aggravated assault and criminal solicitation; however, the arrest warrant was withdrawn for "procedural errors" after the Justice Minister intervened. No action had been taken against Tyler by year's end.”
The report by the US State Department was not strange as former Assemblyman Toe confirmed the incident to the local media here, condemning Tyler of abusing public powers, a statement Tyler rejected by denying the account of Toe.
Tyler thwarted Threshold passage
Another misstep of Speaker Tyler was the issue of the controversial Threshold Bill which lingered at the House of Representatives and National Legislature for over two years.
Tyler, as a controller of the gavel and major influential member of the House, formed a partnership with lawmakers of smaller and lowly populated Counties to drag the passage of the draft electoral reform Act for two years because of fear that setting the Threshold in line with the 2008 National Population Census Results would have resulted to a loss of seats by the depopulated Counties like Bomi, where the Speaker hails from.
His sinister action was lately discovered by a crack team of lawmakers led by the vocal Bong County’s Representative, George Mulbah. This batch of lawmakers boycotted the normal sessions of the House for days and later disrupted the plenary session under the gavel of Speaker Tyler with threats of additional disturbances once the final dust on the Threshold Act was not settled.
Shamed by the challenge of his rule and authority, Speaker Tyler was forced to bring the Threshold debate back on the floor as he was getting apprehensive of losing power because of the resolved of the lawmakers from the big and populated Counties. At last, the Threshold dust was settled, but it remains an issue of debate as legal experts have questioned the Constitutionality of the Legislation which sets aside the Census results and without a prescribed numerical threshold but with the allotment of nine seats to five Counties.
Tyler extends wrath to lower staffer
With Speaker Tyler exercising his gavel to the fullest in a number of plenary sessions he attends, there came a time for the lower ranking officers of the House to feel the wrath. It was the late House Chief Clerk, Attorney James Kabba that the axe landed on though his head was not affected. Speaker Tyler had used his gavel to influence the plenary of the House to suspend the late Chief Clerk for the period of one Month without pay.
The decision was taken for what Speaker Tyler and the House Plenary considered coming to work late. As his suspension was being announced at then, Attorney Kabba entered the session, where his fate was decided. Soon after the stage-managed unanimous vote was taken to suspend Attorney Kabba, he took a deep breathe in disbelief and shouted: “oh Mr. Speaker!” The Chief Clerk stood for several minutes in complete disappointment.
Tyler in controversial Russia trip
Besides the issue of the Threshold misstep, Speaker Tyler resurfaced in another controversial deal as he was at the centered of being heavily involved in pushing the interest and ratification of the Putu mining deal.
A FrontPageAfrica report earlier revealed how Speaker Tyler was spotted in Russia recently discussing a deal with some investment firms. The House Speaker was in that foreign land along with the disgraced former Chairman of the National Investment Commission Richard Tolbert. Tolbert admitted that he was in Russia but was there to attend an investment forum while Speaker Tyler was attending a parliamentarian forum.
Senior administration officials expressed concerns at then about Tolbert’s travels, particularly his coincidental trip to Russia with Speaker Tyler. Tolbert did not state the name of the parliamentarian or investment conference he and Tyler attended when FPA sought inquiries at then.
Interestingly, Speaker Tyler and the Bomi Caucus have ties with Elenilto Minerals and Mining Corporation, a company recently granted the Western Cluster Iron Ore Deposits. It was while both Tyler and Tolbert were in Russia, as the company sought to present a Russian bank guarantee as a security for the 25 million US dollar signature bonus which was roundly rejected by international lawyers advising the President at then. At present the Elenilto agreement is under investigation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission amidst reports of several missteps in awarding the bid.
Tyler in Criminal Syndicate
As Speaker Tyler’s grew a ton of blunders, he was further at the middle of another scandal as reported by Bomi County Senior Senator Lahai Lansanah. Senator Lansanah in October 2009 reported the discovery of a criminal syndicate in Bomi implicating Speaker Tyler to the plundering of the county’s natural resources.
The Senator alleged Speaker Tyler and Senator Richard Devine were involved in illicit mining in Bomi and paying some youths to castigate his character, describing the alleged act by the two Bomi lawmakers was criminal, frustrating and unfortunate. Senator Lansanah revealed that as part of the criminal syndicate, Speaker Tyler used his government assigned vehicle in the illicit mining act; a damaging claim both Speaker Tyler and Senator Devine declined to comment on at then.
Tyler detains his rival
In Bomi County, Speaker Tyler has not just been in a bad-blood with Senator Lansanah but as Presiding officer of the House, he engineered a discussion to detain the disgraced former Bomi County Superintendent Mohammed Massaley at the Monrovia Central Prison. Former Superintendent Massaley himself has been a notorious figure with respect to the use of the Bomi Development Fund.
The House, under the rule of Speaker Tyler, had ordered Massaley’s detention along with the disgraced former Superintendent of Montserrado Beauty Bacon and other local officials of the two Counties and Internal Affairs Ministry after finding them guilty of grossly violating Section 8 of the budget law which relates to the unilateral expenditure of the County Development Funds.
Tyler constructs multi-million US$ House
Amidst the series of missteps by Speaker Tyler, a FrontPageAfrica investigation further revealed how the Klay District#1 Representative has abandoned his people for the past five years with no vision for his Constituents but rather focusing on the construction of his multi-million US dollars mansion on the Roberts field Highway in Margibi County.
The construction of the titanic structure containing a swimming pool, sunken living room, relaxation points from the top floor has raised eyebrows in public circles with lingering concerns how and where Speaker Tyler got his overnight riches from.
Prior to his election as a Representative, Tyler was an unknown figure as he traded in the fishing and petroleum industries of Liberia without much wealth. He served as General Manager of the Continental Fishing Agency. He also served as both Operations Manager at both the Katopas Fishing Company and the Theomol Fisheries.
Tyler had also served as Office Manager and Resale Supervisor with the British Petroleum West Africa. Tyler who holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from the African Methodist Episcopal University is a 2009 graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and a married Christian as well as a member of the International Order of Good Templar.
It is not clear how wealthy was Tyler prior to his election but his ascendancy to the Representative post of Klay District in Bomi and another added value to a title of House Speaker, made Tyler to reach one of his peaks of amassing wealth second-by-second, possibly.
Tyler controls half a million plus US$ budget
Various budgetary statistics prove that as Speaker of the Lower House, Tyler controls a budget of a little over half a million US dollars with some thirty-one office staffers. The salaries, allowances and benefits of sitting lawmakers have become a matter of secrecy in Liberia but Legislative insiders have given what seems to the clearest of the staggering statistics on the Speaker and his office.
According to sources, Speaker Tyler makes a monthly Liberian dollars salary of about twenty thousand (LD$20, 000) with a monthly allowance of three thousand US dollars (US$3, 000) and a monthly supply of three thousand gallons of gasoline which perhaps amounts to the operations of a gas station.
Also, Speaker Tyler receives in benefits thousands of US dollars for domestic and foreign travels, medical, telephone and fax services and entertainment, among others. Analysts are critical that these benefits cannot foot the huge under-construction residential complex of Speaker Tyler.
Tyler breaks tie to increase registration fees
The amassment and display of wealth overnight by Speaker Tyler comes at a time when he joined a team of lawmakers to increase the registration fees of candidates for elective positions in Liberia. The Speaker’s partnership was exposed Tuesday (May 31, 2011) after he controversially broke a tie in an even vote on the contentious fees increment bill.
Speaker Tyler, as a presiding officer, chose to vote in favor of the motion by his one time rival and now public ally, Edwin Snowe, to defeat the motion for reconsideration filed by Representative Eugene Fallah Kparkar of Lofa, who opposed the decision of the House to pass into law the bill. The action by Speaker Tyler came at the time when the House voted 17-for, 17-against and two abstentions on the motion for reconsideration.
In line with the House rules, he was to break the tie and so he did but in controversy. Speaker Tyler’s vote to finally pass the fees increment legislation proves how unsettled most incumbent lawmakers are, ahead of the November/October 2011 elections.
In breaking the tie vote, the House Speaker whose re-election bid looks slim said: “In line with our rule on a tie vote by the House, as Presiding officer, I do hereby vote in favor of the motion to defeat the motion for reconsideration and is hereby so order.”
The vote by Speaker Tyler prompted mixed reactions on the House floor as both sides reacted with equal measure with some lawmakers questioning the House Stenographer Sarfur Geeplay for announcing a fake result because the motion by Representative Snowe was defeated. Some lawmakers argued that the vote by Speaker Tyler shows how he tailored the discussion and that he wants poor candidates to be denied registration because of the lack of money. Others including Representative Snowe said the Speaker exercised his rights in line with rules of the House.
Representative Kparkar of Lofa and Bhofal Chambers of Maryland had described the fees increment bill as a reintroduction of the class system and a system of oligarchy and plutocracy- where the poor are denied representation or entry into elected positions with the rich including Speaker Tyler clinching unto powers because their wealth.
Under the new Law passed by the House of Representatives, it provides that the fee for the Presidency is increased from US$2,500 to US$7,500. The payment for Vice Presidential candidates increased to US$5,000 while Senatorial candidates are to pay US$2,500. The fee for Representative candidates was increased from US$500 to US$1,500.
Poor candidates dealt a blow
The additional one thousand US dollars increment for the seat of Representative has caused stir among potential aspirants who argue that the incumbents who have amassed wealth for the past six years but without representing their constituents ably are now working to ensure that they alone are left in the race as poor candidates may not afford the US$1, 500 to register and contest with the incumbents.
Whatever the case, the vote to maintain the increment in registration fees for electoral candidates by majority incumbent lawmakers is seen as a huge blow to other poor candidates, especially those in the leeward Counties where most of the incumbents have amassed wealth over the past years as they exercise powers on Capitol Hill though they have failed to skillfully represent their people. But, does Speaker Tyler care?
The final misstep by Speaker Tyler, who is not media friendly, was his order for the seizure of two digital cameras of print journalists Roland Perry and Boima J.V. Boima- both of whom cover the Legislature as journalists.
Tyler days are numbered
The action of the Speaker to order the House Sergeant-at-arms to seize the cameras of the journalists has drew a huge wave of condemnations with journalists covering the Legislature under the banner of the Legislative Press Pool, instituting a media black-out on all activities of the House of Representatives unless the Speaker writes an official letter of apology for his anti-press freedom behavior.
As Speaker Alex Tyler continues with his missteps, analysts say his days are being numbered as his fight for political survival in Klay District is hanging by a thread and even if he wins re-election, the position of House Speakership will not reach his grasp because of the level selfishness he has exercised over his four year rule as a Speaker.
Representative Rufus Neufville of Montserrado, who has been a vocal lawmaker, is best known for rating the four year rule of Speaker Tyler as a complete failure, lack of vision and it was time the Speaker desists from running the House on friendship basis. Whether Speaker Tyler has ears to hear the strong position of Representative Neufville is another thing as business as usual continues to be the habit of the Speaker, analysts