9 August 2012

Liberia: 'You Don't Need Permission'

Internal Affairs Minister Blamo Nelson has told Liberians and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that they do not need the approval of superintendents before undertaking projects or visiting the fifteen counties of Liberia.

Speaking at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) Retreat in Robertsport City, Grand Cape Mount County, Minister Nelson cautioned Superintendents of the fifteen counties of Liberia to work along with other ministries and agencies of government in the various County Development Steering Committees (CDSC) must ensure that ministries and agencies Work in line with the rules of their various offices, rather than take decisions outside of the MIA's mandate.

According to Minister Nelson, "Liberians, non-Liberians as well as NGOs may inform the offices of the Superintendents about their visits as a matter of courtesy, although not compelled to get permission before traveling the execution of their duties.

He stressed on the need for Non -Governmental Organizations as well as other citizens desisting from obtaining permission from the offices of superintendents before undertaking projects throughout Liberia, adding that Superintendents must be guided by their scope of operations rather than get involved in other activities that are not part of their term of reference.

He said Liberia is a free country as required by the constitution and no one needs permission from another citizen to travel to any part of the country.

But several Superintendents differ with the Minister's regulations, describing it as a recipe for misunderstanding in the counties. They argue that some NGOs are in the practice of undertaking projects in the counties without the knowledge of the county authorities.

Many NGOs operating on some abandoned projects, such as roads, bridges, hand pumps amongst others referred to the directive as a situation that may cause difficulties to the free movement of goods and services throughout the counties.

Others argue that the Minister's statement has the propensity to reduce the functions of the offices of the various superintendents thereby creating problems for the smooth running of the local government administration.

They also state that in some countries, there are certain traditional shrines that prohibit the entry of non-members for which the superintendents are in the best position to guide them.

The superintendents informed Minister Nelson that Liberians in the various counties regard them as their leaders represent government's interests and hence look up to them for approving contracts, making policy decisions, as well as instituting measures that seek to promote their well-being.

They argue further that even though the Constitution of Liberia provides for the freedom of movement across the country, it is very important for superintendents to be aware of projects being implemented in their various counties. Following three days of discussions on the Minister's directives and the proposed decentralization of local government throughout the country, the MIA agreed to come out with its position on the outcome to the retreat in Grand Cape Mount County.

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