11 July 2014

Liberia: 'Economic Injustice' - Woods Eyes Revisit of Concession Deals

Monrovia — Former Public Works Minister and advocate, Samuel Kofi Woods says Liberians are angry over the state of affairs in the country characterized by increasing poverty, high cost of living, increase in the rate of exchange affecting disposable income and savings, lack of a clear economic plan of action and a deep sense of economic injustice.

Addressing a press conference Thursday in Monrovia, Woods said he believes there is growing national discontent amongst Liberians and therefore there is a need for a national consultative dialogue to help ease what is a growing tension amongst Liberians to avoid the situation from slipping into crisis.

Woods said "For more than a year now, there have been indications of increasing anger and anxiety on the governance of our country. Liberians are losing faith in our national leaders to proactively address the teetering problems facing our country. This situation needs to be addressed irrespective of our political, social and economic persuasions".

He furthered "The national discontent regarding our natural resources relates to various concession agreements. We must revisit the concession agreements negotiated by the Government of Liberia". The former Minister is calling for an investigation into how Liberia's newfound natural resource-oil has been managed, and collectively take corrective actions where necessary to assure proper management and the application of proceeds to the broad-based development of the country for the benefit of all Liberians.

Don't sell oil blocks

Advocate Woods is cautioning the Liberian Government against selling oil blocks because according to him ordinary Liberian s are bearing the brunt of economic mismanagement.

"All current and future intentions to sell additional oil blocks must be discouraged. With ordinary Liberians already bearing the brunt of economic mismanagement and financial managers failing to offer solutions and a plan to address this situation, the least this government wants to embark on is to hassle press freedom and silence the media and other voices of reason which are only serving as the messenger and not the author of the multiple messages of poor planning, corruption, nepotism, cronyism and indifference to the plight of the people", stated Woods.

According to Mr. Woods, since the commencement of oil exploration in Liberia, there have been the continuous argument in various quarters not only regarding the commercial viability of the samples that have been found so far, but also the management of resources that have been accrued as a result of the sale of oil blocks with almost little or no consideration for local content.

The human rights advocate listed several events that point to the emerging conflict in the country as a consequence of rising insecurity, vandalism and threat to life which seems to be on the rise and has the propensity to drag the country back into conflict.

Amongst them, Woods mentioned the Nimba incident, protest against concessionaires in other counties; increasing levels of committed suicide, a man that burned himself to death in Gbarnga, the Ebola epidemic and the lack of trust in public officials to deal with the virus; poor service-delivery across almost all sectors of the government and lack of confidence in institutions of governance and leadership-executive, legislative and judiciary.

Audit before merger

Mr. Woods said the current merger of the ministries of Finance with that of Planning and Economic Affairs should have been done after audit of the two entities.

"I maintain my position on the need for a comprehensive audit of the ministries of Finance and planning. It should have been audited prior to the merger to establish the firm foundation for the new entity. We need to know the status of both institutions, assets and liabilities, personnel and provide recommendations for the new ministry".

The two ministries have been merged through an act of the National Legislature to become the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. The former Minister called on the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission to ensure that ministers who receive Board fees are made to return the amounts received in line with Executive Order N0 38.

He said such move will be in live with Executive Order N0 38 and the Administrative Code of Conduct which states, part IX, Section 9.10 "A public servant shall not, while receiving or being paid salaries by any public service office at the same time received or be paid salary y another public office".

Cancel Independence celebration

The Human right advocate is calling on the Government of Liberia to cancel this year's independence celebration and instead celebrate the day as National fast and prayer day. He believes prayer will help Liberians to reflect on the situation facing the country and unite instead of celebrating in the midst of the current hardships facing the people while funding intended for the celebration can be used to assist victims of flood and also help fight the Ebola virus threatening the country.

"I would like to restate my position that this year's independence celebration whose venue has been changed be celebrated as a national fast and prayer day to pray for our country. In the midst of all these trying sign of our times, we must turn to God. Now that the venue has been changed and all national issues festering, it is prudent to do this. This year's budget must be used to support victims of the increasing flood and victims of Ebola".

Woods served the current regime in two major capacities first as Minister of Labour and later Minister of Public Works but resigned his post over a year ago.

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