Liberia: Nimba Youth Advocacy Group Detests Withdrawal From County Meet

One Nimba Movement, a pro-democracy and advocacy organization, has distanced itself from the campaign which a large segment of the population of the county is carrying on to exclude the county from the National County Sports Meet for this year.

It may be recalled that the last County Meet ended up in a misunderstanding, with Nimba County players walking out of the pitch upon observing what they considered as "cheating" on the part of the referee.

Since then, prominent Liberians hailing from Nimba County, including those at home and abroad, have been vigorously campaigning and soliciting views through radio talk shows in Monrovia and Nimba County. And from listening to those talk shows, they have attracted a huge support, calling for Nimba County to be out of the County Meet in the coming match.

Citizens from the county are of the opinion that Youth and Sports Minister Zoegar Wilson's description, which describes them as "Hooligans, rebels," and the like during the County Meet was an insult and affront to them. Additionally, calls monitored on a local radio station in Ganta, Nimba County, recently suggested that every time Nimba and another county are playing, the rest of Liberians will resort to raining insults and derogatory statements on them, particularly members of the Gio and Mano tribes, which dominate the population. A lot of views claim Nimbaians should withdraw from most of Liberia's activities, to concentrate on earning their living instead of being part of people who hate them so much.

However, for the Nimba youth group, which launched its activities recently, it says that it is not in full agreement with the withdrawal of Nimba County from the rest of Liberia in any manner and form.

According to the group, such a call is not feasible for Liberia's democracy. In the group's statement, which takes exception to Minister Wilson's comment, which was recorded at the advent of the misunderstanding, the group said it was a threat to "Promoting a cohesive society for sustainable development."

"The One Nimba Movement believes that such statement by the Minister of Youth and Sports during the peace tournament is counterclockwise to pillar three of the Pro-Poor Agenda for prosperity and development, which places emphasis on sustaining the peace," the group said in a statement read in Gompa City on August 10, 2020.

One Nimba Movement indicated that since the inauguration of the National County Sports Meet in 1956, it has played a significant role in Liberia by dislodging diversities while embracing unity among Liberians.

"This is a culture that we aim to wholeheartedly protect. In view of the foregoing, the One Nimba Movement believes that the withdrawal of Nimba County or any other county from the National County Sports Meet will derail the true essence of said National County Sports Meet," the group said.

"The One Nimba Movement calls for immediate dialogue between the aggrieved Nimbaians under the banner, 'Nimba Citizens Initiative' and Minister D. Zoogar Wilson, Minister of Youth and Sports, Republic of Liberia," the group said.

Attorney Lawrence Sua, head of the Nimba Citizens Initiative, said the youth group's statement about Nimba remaining in the County Meet was not in the right direction and wondered how they feel when a Minister has insulted them without remorse, and they remain in a national sports meet without an apology.

According to Attorney Sua, they are demanding Minister Wilson to apologize to Nimba for words they consider denigrating and demeaning to them. But the Minister has said he will not because Nimba County walking out of the pitch was a "Disgrace to Liberia."

He said the Nimba Citizen Initiative has already handed its petition to the Nimba Legislative Caucus and the Superintendent and will form a part of the agenda in the pending County Sitting.

"We are saying that Minister Zoegar Wilson should apologize to the people of Nimba County for referring to them as hooligans, rebels, dirty people and the likes, and without an apology. Nimba County will play its district league and will not be a part of the County Meet. I tell you, we have received words that the issue will form a part of the agenda and will be deliberated thoroughly and properly," said Atty. Sua.

At the same time, the group is commending the Nimba Legislative Caucus for what it calls 'overwhelming efforts' in buttressing their calls for the review and renegotiation of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Government of Liberia and Arcelor Mittal Liberia (AML).

"However, we still remain disconcerted about the illicit withholding of US$260,000.00 from recent remittance of US$3, 360,000.00 into the account of the Government of Liberia which serves as 80% of the total of US$4, 200,000.00 that should go to Nimba, and also with Arcelor Mittal's withholding US$840,000.00 as 20% for development purposes in communities directly affected by the operations of AML," the group further said.

One Nimba Movement further added that "With our simple calculation done, as a carrier of 50% of the Social Development Fund (SDF), the amount of US$1.55m disbursed to Nimba County falls below half the amount of US$3.36m. Our investigation further informed us that Nimba County should have received US$1.68M representing 50% of the total of US$3.36M paid to the Government of Liberia by AML instead of the US$1.55m paid to the county."

One Nimba Movement is asking the Nimba County Legislative Caucus to engage the Executive Branch of Government through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, to give a proper account of the 'unaccounted for US$260,000.00.'

The group further recommended that "The Executive Branch of Government through the office of the president concurs with the request from the National Legislature to review and renegotiate the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Government of Liberia and Arcelor Mittal Liberia."

In a related development, the ONM is calling for the full implementation of the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 GAC audit reports in order to conduct a full scale and fresh audit from the last period of audit on the management of the County and Social Development Funds, which will be considered at the pending County Council Sitting.

"We cannot continue nurturing the spirit of impunity at the detriment of the ordinary people of Nimba. The Nimba Legislative Caucus and the County Administration continue to display a high level of leadership role so as to maintain a calmness at the next county council sitting," ONM added.

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