Liberia: The Embarrassing, Painful Gasoline Shortage - the Weah Government Must Never Let This Happen Again

None of our readers could miss our Judicial Correspondent Abednego Davis' front page lead story yesterday. It reminded us of the terribly embarrassing gasoline shortage that hit Liberia over the past few weeks.

Yes, the entire country was affected, but not too many people knew that the gasoline crisis shut down the entire Third Branch of Government, the Liberian Judiciary, with courtrooms at the Temple of Justice entirely abandoned.

Reporter Davis also told the readers in yesterday's lead story that not only were the courtrooms in the entire Temple of Justice abandoned; even the Chief Justice of Liberia, unable to use the elevator due to the lack of fuel to run the Tempe's generator, had to use the stairs to get to his fourth floor office.

The Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, Madam Marie Urey Coleman, Commerce and Industry Minister Wilson Tarpeh, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Mr. President, George Weah, we plead with you all never to let this happen again!

The last time we remember this happening was in the 1980s, when the nation was faced with several major crises: among them no fuel and the nurses' strike at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center. That same morning, in a dramatic reaction to the Daily Observer's triple crisis headline, Head of State Samuel K. Doe paid his first visit to the Daily Observer office on Broad Street, Crown Hill.

During his visit, Head of State Doe profusely apologized for the triple crisis, especially the gasoline crisis. He blamed several parts of the Executive Branch for the crisis and pledged that it would never happen again.

The newspaper staff breathed a sigh of relief, for none of us knew what to expect when someone spied the presidential motorcade approaching the office.

Head of State Doe kept his promise. That was indeed the last time we had a fuel crisis like that. That was in 1982.

The time has come for us to tell President George Weah something he most probably does not know. Or has anyone told him the history of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company? He needs to invite former Senator Cletus Wotorson for a conversation. Wotorson, a former Managing Director of LPRC, can tell him all about LPRC, including the time when the company was actually refining petroleum, during which period the company was located in the Liberian Industrial Park, off Somalia Drive.

Wotorson can tell the President how and why the company abandoned its mission to refine petroleum in Liberia.

We hate to recall once again the theme of Time Magazine's cover story on Africa in 1975. The magazine stated, "In Africa, things always go backward."

Most regretfully, we can today point to our own dear country Liberia and say this is one of the tragic evidences of Time's declaration. How Liberia has slid backward in so many ways over so many years, so many decades! And today we are behind most other African countries, including some of our closest neighbors. Many of us recall the 1970s, even early 1080s when Ghanaians used to come to Liberia shopping for bread and other essential commodities. Women used to travel by Cameroon Airlines all the way from Zambia to shop in Liberia. Today Ghana is on the upward swing while Liberia is on the downward spiral.

But being the eternal optimists we at the Daily Observer are, we dare not translate this our temporary circumstance into a permanent situation. We have a new government and this government needs guidance and direction. And this is what we are doing in this Editorial.

We propose to President Weah and his government to begin to take steps to transform the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company into what its name says it is--a company that refines petroleum to the extent of exporting it to neighboring countries. What humans have done, humans can still do. We have done it before and can still do it. We call on the Weah government to invite a company like Sun Oil in the USA, which was once engaged with LPRC, and other such companies in China and elsewhere toward helping us to revive the refining capacity of LPRC.

We pray that President Weah will convene another Cabinet retreat to discuss this urgent matter and get moving on it; and not stop until the goal of refining our own petroleum is achieved.

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