13 September 2017

Liberia: Nimba Lawmakers, Why Be So Ungrateful?

On September 2, 2017, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf expressed frustration over Nimba lawmakers' absence in Sanniquellie at the ceremony marking the dedication of a modern judicial complex that contains courts, the home of the county's resident judge, and offices of other functionaries of the Judicial Branch of government.

The complex is among many development projects from which Nimba has benefited in the two successive terms of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. These include the modern 100-bed Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital in Tappita; trans-border electricity from neighboring Ivory Coast passing through Nimba to south-eastern Liberia; and the well-paved Red Light-Ganta Highway. It is also evident to the people of Nimba and to all Liberians that since iron ore exploitation began in Nimba in 1963, the Sirleaf administration has, for the first time, made annually available social development fund to the tune of US$1.5 million to Nimba from the proceeds of this mineral. It is from this amount that the county has been able to purchase road building equipment worth US$4.6 million.

In spite of all that this Government has done, using resources that should benefit all Liberians, Nimba lawmakers, including some of their people, have continued to discredit this government. This is exactly what the lawmakers did at the dedication last week of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court complex. Adding to the frustration, Nimba Senator and hero Prince Y. Johnson defended this act of ingratitude by accusing the President on things that he does not know about, which also may benefit only him personally. According to him, President Sirleaf refused to give him a subsidy to run his private school. Senator Johnson went further to accuse the President of allegedly mismanaging US$40 million he says was meant to pave the road from Ganta to the mining town of Yekepa. ArcelorMittal, however, has clarified to this newspaper that it could not and did not provide the money because of the drop of price of iron ore. Some lawmakers gave different excuses, ranging from campaigning to personal issues, while others have not explained their absence from the judicial dedication.

How justifiable are excuses provided by Prince Johnson and his kinsmen to cause sitting lawmakers to stay away from the dedicatory ceremony of a major development project from which their county will benefit? Was it not even better for Prince Johnson to attend the dedication and raise his concerns there? The ingratitude demonstrated by Nimba lawmakers seems to be entrenched among people of the county as sometimes manifested by their decision making in elections. Despite all that have been done, Nimbaians without balanced judgment claim Prince Johnson as the only man in the political sphere of Liberia to develop them. This mindset arising from tribal divide leads them always to vote him for the presidency, despite the fact that his human rights record cannot convince other Liberians and the international community that he is presidential material. The matter is further exacerbated by the news that Gios have resolved to vote for only Gios, a classic example of tribalism.

Our reporter who covered the event quoted some local residents saying on a local radio that Nimba has resources from which government earns money and therefore the infrastructure erected in the county is not a favor but a right. These naïve perceptions keep those people from understanding the Liberian Constitution that gives all natural resources on and in the ground of this country to the government. Prince Johnson in 2009 ordered a slash in the county development funds, allowing each lawmaker to seize US$1,000 to facilitate his trip to Nimba "to oversee development projects." That is an oversight responsibility taken care of by the budgetary allocation to all lawmakers of gasoline slips and vehicles. Was this money taken in line with the rules and regulations guiding the county-social development fund?

Each Senator has received the amount of US$300,000 in this term of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration to implement Legislative Support Projects (LSP). Can Senator Johnson or any other Senator show any project they have implemented in Nimba with theirs? How can a man of this tainted record accuse others of not doing what he has not done? We want to state clearly that Nimba lawmakers were in serious error to abandon the dedication of the judicial complex on these grounds. Regardless of political difference with the President, they must realize that the very project dedicated on September 2 is directly benefiting their county, confirming why they should show appreciation.

The President remains the head of government and deserves respect from all officials, including citizens. Why will she visit your county and all of you stay away for selfish reasons? There is one principle about life that the Lord Jesus taught his followers: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." As you seek reelection while Senator Johnson eyes the presidency, remember: The respect you give others today will follow you, and anything you allow to take complete control of you decides your fate.

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