Monrovia — The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Internal Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Works has launched a citizens' engagement campaign to raise awareness on the importance of the National Road Fund. The campaign is funded by the National Road Fund of Liberia (NRFL).
The public outreach is targeting local government officials, youth and women representatives and stakeholders in the transport sector, including officials of the National Federation of Road Transport Union of Liberia (NFRTU), commercial drivers, and motorcycle and tricycle riders.
On Monday, the awareness was taken to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, bringing together participants from Grand Bassa, Margibi and Montserrado Counties. Speaking on behalf of Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf, the Technical Focal Person in the Minister's office, D. Emmanuel Wheinyue said the forum is geared towards engaging the citizens and informing them about the importance of the road fund.
He said, as a member of the Inter Ministerial Committee of the NRFL, which also comprises the Ministries of Public Works, Finance, Commerce and Transport, the Ministry of Internal Affairs was empowered to implement the outreach, to enable citizens get firsthand information and better understanding about the road fund and its importance towards Liberia's development.
"The reason why we are having this citizen engagement in the counties is to inform people about the impact of the Road Fund. We are targeting motorcyclists and people in the transport sector to help spread the message about the road fund, its impact and importance," he said.
In 2016, under the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the National Road Fund (NRF) Act was enacted and published January 26, 2017 and the law took effect under the Weah-led government in 2018.
The NRF Act establishes that the Road Fund can be funded through a range of sources including monies collected from road user charges (RUC), monies appropriated by the National Legislature of Liberia, Grants and loans arranged by Government to undertake specific programs, projects or works, monies received in respect of a loan obtained on behalf of the NRF, Monies paid into the NRF from proceeds acquired through the sale of assets and Capital gains derived from interests or dividends earned on investments.
A National Road Fund Office (NRFO), responsible for the day to day management and administration of the National Road Fund has since been set up and it is headed by the National Road Fund Manager, Mr. Boniface B. Satu.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Satu said the NRF has generated up to US$80 million in the three years since it started operational from the charged levied on each the purchase of a gallon of gasoline and loan and grant from the African Development Bank, GIZ, Millennium Challenge Corporation, the World Bank and the Swedish Government for the support.
The money, he said has been used for the implementation of several road projects including the Fair Ground Road in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, the Bishop Michael Francis Road in Montserrado and the ELWA Junction - RIA Road in Montserrado and Margibi Counties. Others include the Medina Road in Grand Cape Mount, the Bassa-Sinoe Road and the Gola Forest Road.
In addition, he said some of the fund has gone towards the payment of resettlement fees to citizens whose properties fall within the constructions areas along the Ganta-Saclepea road and the ELWA Junction-RIA Road.
Speaking further, he said out of Liberia's 13,000 square kilometers road network, only six percent is paved, and 60 percent is in bad condition. He added that since 2016, additional two percent has been paved; indicating that much needs to be done to improve the road network. To tackle the road problem, he noted it would require a lot of money.
Owing to this, the NRF boss said the government, through the NRF and the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee is putting in place mechanisms to generate fund for the construction of the more roads. He called for the involvement and participation of every citizen and resident including the local authorities and major stakeholders in the transport sector to take ownership of the road and other infrastructures being developed and supported by the government through the NRFL.
"For every asphalt road, 1km will cost up to US$800,000 and US$1 million. It's Very expensive, but we have to do innovative financing," he said.
"We are determined to ensure that majority of our roads in the country are connected. And we will make sure on an annual basis to generate fund for the construction of our road to connect our towns and cities and counties," he added.
"Let's work with our commissioners and the local government. Let sensitized our people to take ownership of the road and protect it. Our goal is to get back to you (participants); to work with you through the Ministry of Internal Affairs to improve our road system."
Also speaking, the Director of the Donor Projects' Division at the Ministry of Public Works, Mr. Albert Toukolon, highlighted the impact of the National Road Fund on road and bridges, and called for citizens to take ownership of the road project.
Meanwhile, the participants thanked the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the NRFL for the sensitization campaign and promised to spread the message in their various communities.
"I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to President Weah for making sure that the Road Fund is active and operational. I want to say thank you to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the invitation and knowledge. Count on us as local government that we will take the message to our people and be partners to the development process," said Moses Kamara of Margibi County.
"It is incumbent upon us, for those who work with the drivers. It is our fervent prayer that the NRF will extend this sensitization so that we all can be participant. Liberia belongs to every one of us. And to be developed, we all must join the process and render our contribution, a representative of the Federation of Road Transport Union, Grand Bassa Branch said.
Samuel Wilson, a CSO representative of Grand Bassa County added: "Montserrado has benefitted a lot and decentralization must be real. Fair Ground Road should not be the only project to boast off. We are thankful that we have an entity that is responsible to manage our road. Make yourself viable and we will advocate that you get more money in the budget."
The campaign was first launched in Ganta, and brought together people from Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties. Officials said the engagement will continue in other parts of the country.