MONROVIA, LIBERIA -The President of Liberia George Manneh Weah more than a month ago completed his first nationwide tour and we would like to compliment him for the tour. The biggest question many Liberians are asking is, what was the President’s objective for the tour? Was the tour for the president to appreciate the people for electing him in 2017? Or was the objective for the president to see the needs of the people? Or was it to provide solar street lights?
Since the objective was not mentioned to the Liberian people, it leaves intelligent Liberians to draw their own conclusions. We closely followed the president’s activities, thanks to Spoon Television for carrying the activities live in all fifteen counties. In this article, we wish to do critical analysis of statements uttered and activities carried out by the president and to call the public’s attention to some of the things that were done and said by the President during the tour. From what we watched and heard on Spoon TV; we can conclude that the prime objective of the tour was to provide Solar Energy powered streetlights to the various counties’ capitals. If that was the case, it was very successful.
However, let us remind the president that these streetlights have proven not to be sustainable. Let the president ask former President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, or let him retrospect, about the Caldwell streetlights and the solar traffic lights that were installed during Madam Sirleaf’s Administration in Monrovia. These lights lasted less than six months. When the solar lights were turned on during the Tour in each county’s capital, it was written on Face Book that that was the first time these counties’ capitals were getting streetlights. What a faded memory of most Liberians. Remember that before the civil crisis, all counties’ capitals had electricity supply and pipe borne water 24/7.
And during the Independence Day Celebration in counties’ capitals during Madam Sirleaf’s Administration, the streets of the county hosting the program were lit with generators (Kakata, Barclayville, Greenville, Sanniquellie, etc.). But what happened in these counties after the celebration, the counties’ authorities failed to operate/maintain the equipment provided and in some instances looted. This tells us that the priority needs of the people have never been and even now are not solar streetlights. In as much as the President was in country during these times, it means that he failed to learn from their failure. What a sad situation. Our leaders need to learn from the failures of past leaders and avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Presidential Palace - RiverGee County
It is the responsibility of the Central Government to construct a presidential palace in each county. The question is why has the Central Government failed to build presidential palaces in counties created between 1984-2003; 1984 (Grand Kru and Bomi), 1985 (Margibi and Rivercess), 2000 (RiverGee) and 2003 (Gbapolu)? If the Central Government failed to construct one in a county and the people of that county constructed one with their own resources, should they be acclaimed not condemned? The presidential palace in Fishtown was constructed with the resources from the citizens of the county. Interim Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant and former President Madam Johnson-Sirleaf during their respective tours spent the night at that palace in Fish-Town. President Weah asked his GSA Team to demolish that building and build a new one. How many times does a president visit a county? Maybe once a year, or maximum twice a year. Are there more pressing needs to be addressed in River Gee than a presidential palace? The answer is probably “Yes,” and if they were asked, they would probably advise the president to use the money for construction of the presidential palace to address these needs. Is there a presidential palace in Bopolu, or Cestos City, or Tubmanburg, or Kakata, or Barclayville City? The answer may probably be “No” in some of the cities mentioned. The President should encourage county authorities, who have the political will to do what the Central Government has failed to do. The leaders should not and must not decide what the people’s needs are. The leaders should consult with the people to get an idea of what they need and this way, what they need and this way, what is provided will be protected and sustained by the locals.
While on the nation-wide tour, while the president was busy providing solar energy powered street lights, the citizens were requesting teachers for their children who were not in schools for lack of teachers and educational materials. This was clearly evidenced in Grand Kru County (President’s County), where the students of the only public high school were protesting for lack of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology teachers and laboratory equipment. Can these students pass West African Examination Council Examinations? The answer is a Big No. In Trumansburg the students at the Community College were requesting for computers and internet facilities, and in Gbarpolu the Superintendent informed the president that over nine schools in the county were closed and children were not attending school because the teachers were retired and they have not been replaced. We asked that the president contact Spoon Network and watch these clicks. Did the president visit these counties blindly without being briefed about the needs in each of the counties? The president should have sent an advance team, the team would have assessed the needs in the counties and would have briefed the president before the trip. The president would have been in a better position to address the needs of the people in each county. For these people, the pressing need was not for solar lights but education for their children and good roads. We also saw the president walking in the mud because his vehicle could not easily go through the mud. We believe the president’s vehicle is the best in the country and if he (president) has to disembark before the vehicle could go through that tells you what the ordinary citizens go through on these roads. Do not forget that intervention was done on these roads before the tour yet there were challenges. What if there were no intervention, could he have made it to Greenville or Barclayville?
A snap from Spoon Tv shows the president doing the Kru War Dance in Barclayville at the same time the students were protesting for the lack of teachers. Barclayville is a small city, we know the president was informed but he did not visit the school. This speaks volumes with reference to the president’s commitment to quality education in Liberia.
While in Bomi, the President had the audacity to ask the citizen the following question: “Alex Tyler was Speaker and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was President. Why did they not develop Bomi?” I wonder if these were the right questions to ask your people, Mr. President. But if the answer? is “Yes,” then we would like to ask why the late President Tubman, who served for 27 years, did not pave the road from at least Ganta to Harper? The late President Doe was President, who served as president for 10 years, why did he not pave the road from Ganta to Zwedru as well? Does the president or the men and women around the president understand the key factors that allow any government or donor to invest in infrastructure development? These factors are social benefits (number of persons who would benefit); economic and financial benefits (economic indicators and return on the investment). When one looks at the southeastern and western Liberia, these factors are at the lowest compared to Bassa, Margibi, Bong, Nimba and Lofa. Most past president understood this.
Bad Roads are the greatest threat to our country.
The president in enroute to Greenville or Barclayville, had to disembark his vehicle and walked across the mud. This was a serious security risk taken by the Executive Protection Service (EPS), who are charged to protect the president. Should we have such bad road conditions in our country today? The answer is ABSOLUTELY NO. And the reason is very simple. One of the best things Madam Sirleaf did for this country is the passage of the National Road Act in 2016. Below finds the summary of the act: Purposes of the road fund:
1. To finance road and bridge maintenance works and the directly associated planning, programing and management activities.
2. Governance and oversight of the road fund including the approval of annual road maintenance expenditure, a program submitted by agencies authorized to undertake road and bridge works in Liberia.
3. Administrative function that is capable of undertaking the core function.
Periodic maintenance means the following:
1. Resealing of the roads
Monies that should be deposited in the Road Fund Account are:
1. Monies collect from user charges
2. Money appropriated by the Legislature
4. Sale of Assets
5. Motor vehicle license plate sale
6. Driver License fees
7. Levy on every gallon of petroleum product imported into the country (30 cents on every gallon). This is paid before lifting from the LPRC piles.
If these periodic maintenance programs were carried out, there would be no need for the president to disembark from his vehicle or any vehicle to spend more than twelve hours from Monrovia to Harper or eight hours from Monrovia to Voinjama or Greenville. Now this brings us to the question, what is the money collected as per the Road Fund as mentioned above- been used for the past three years. Where is this money because the roads and bridges are deplorable? And before the CDC came to power, at the last meeting of the Steering Committee, it was reported to the committee that the Road Fund Account had US$24.0 million at the Central Bank, this excluded what was owed by Srimax (Musu Hassan Bility).
The legislature has oversight and she should exercise this power right now to prevent the mismanagement of the fund if not already done. We would like to remind the legislature that the Taylor’s Administration levied Gallion Tax of US$0.25 on every gallon of petroleum product imported into the country for road construction and maintenance. No road was constructed and no road maintained. It was alleged at the time by many Liberians that the LPRC sent this money to President Taylor every weekend. This must not happen to the funds collected as per the National Road Act.
We call upon the legislators of the following counties (Bassa, Bong, Nimba, Grand Gedeth, RiverGee, Rivercess, Sinoe, Maryland, Grand Cape Mount and Lofa) to spreadhead this drive because their citizens are the victims. Over the past three years, this Road Fund Act should be having over US$150.00 million. This is a lot of money for a country like Liberia. We asked you to do the calculation yourself. Audit the account. Invite the following individuals (Manager of the Road Authority, Managing Director of LPRC, Governor of Central Bank, Director General of Liberia Revenue Authority and the Minister of Finance and Development Planning). Particularly the manager and the minister, since they are signatories to the account and the managing director, who collects the fund and deposits same to the account.
As the country goes through this difficult period of COVID-19, with cases increasing daily. According to the Ministry of Health, Liberians are dying because of Covid-19. The health system lacks many of the needed materials (testing kits, oxygen, PPE, treatment units and enough vaccines). In the wake of all these the president recommended that the legislators should allocate US$2.0 million for COVID-19 intervention. And we are equally taken aback by the legislators’ allocation of the US$2.0 million as requested by the president. Are these legislators living on Planet Pluto? What can US$2 million do for a country with a broken system? And this a blanket request with no breakdown as to what it would be used for. Presently the country has limited or no PPEs, vaccines, ventilators, oxygen and adequate treatment centers including what is required to furnish them to respond to the epidemic. If the Legislature wanted to save lives, they should have allocated and approved US$10 million immediately for now to be used as follows:
1. US$5 million for purchase of vaccines (Fund given to WHO through the Taskforce);
2. US$2 million for public awareness, public education, social mobilization, contact tracing etc.;
3. US$1 million to construct treatment centers throughout the country (AFL-through the Taskforce);
4. US$0.50 million to purchase PPE;
5. US$0.50 million for beds;
6. US$0.2 million to setup a functioning Taskforce office fully furnished and staffed with diligent and honest people (independent of the Ministry of health);
7. US$0.03 million to install the oxygen production system allegedly donated to JFK Hospital during the EBOLA;
8. US$0.20 million for rapid testing equipment; and
9. US$0.30 for miscellaneous
The Legislators should also investigate what happened to the fund the Ministry of Health/National Public Health Institute of Liberia is collecting at Roberts International Airport. It was alleged in June that the total collection up to June ending was estimated at US$8.0 million. Reference to the question, why the country is doing poorly in containing the third wave of the Covid-19 virus. The answer is simple. Doing the first and second waves, the health protocols were upheld. For example, new arrivals in Liberia were isolated for two weeks at a local hotel pending their test result. There was massive contact tracing in communities. At the entrance of each community there was a check-point with a hand washing bucket. Treatment units were equipped and functioning. Patients were well taken off at the treatment. During the third wave, new arrivals after testing are told to go home and the result would be sent to them. If such individuals are positive, they spread the virus to their family members and people they interact with before receiving their results. Hence, the government is responsible for the wide spread of the virus.
And finally, the President should reach out to Dr. Masoka Fallah, former Deputy Director for NPHIL, Dr. Nyan, Dr. Dahn former Minister of Health, Attorney Tolbert Nyesuah, former Director General of NPHIL and James Dorbor Jallah, head of the incident management team during EBOLA, as well as Dr. Stone all the above-named individuals were active during Ebola. The international community worked with them and trusted their abilities to deliver. The professional Liberians will attract support for the Covid-19. They may not be CEDICANS, but they are Liberians and will be willing to help if called upon.
A Word to the Wise.