Editorial

We demand responsible leadership in Nimba

The current words of war between two senior officials of Nimba County over which tribes wield political power in the county is not just absurd, but absolutely irresponsible.


Regrettably, a very influential elder of Nimba, Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, is the mastermind behind what could well be described as a creeping tribal feud in the county.

The controversial senator publicly singled out members of the Gio and Mano tribes as real owners of Nimba, while referring to three other ethnic groups - Krahn, Mandingo and Gbei in the county as visitors.

But Nimba County Superintendent David Dorr Cooper, sharply rebukes Senator Johnson, who prides himself as god-father of Nimba politics. Superintendent Cooper counters that Nimba belongs to all five tribes namely; Gio, Mando, Krahn, Mandingo and Gbei, rallying them to join his administration to develop the county.

Besides, ordinary citizens from the county have vehemently condemned the rebel general-turned politician for his utterance, which they described as not only divisive, but counter-productive.

We join the dissenting voices of the many peace-loving people of Nimba in condemning attempt by Senator Johnson, who owns a church and mounts the pulpit each Sunday to preach the Holy Bible to divide God’s children.

Tribal politics is not only selfish and myopic, but counter-productive to reconciliation, peace, unity and development, particularly in Nimba County. In this 21st century, it is highly uncouth for anyone, who considers himself a true leader, to thrive on tribal sentiments.

It is also disappointing that, Senator Johnson, said to be a born again Christian, baptized in the Holy Ghost and an ordained Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, would contradict Christ by spreading hate messages rather than love.

Saint John 3:16 says “For God so loved the World that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Throughout his mission on earth, Jesus Christ preached peace, love and unity, the central theme of his teaching.

So then where is the senator-preacher coming from with this divisive posture that certain groups of tribes own Nimba than other tribes in the county? This is not a mark of responsible leadership.

Winning the counterfeit war

The Liberian economy is being attacked from several fronts, including flooding the market here with counterfeit banknotes in exchange for legal currency characterized by unpredictably skyrocketing exchange rates and rapid depreciation of the Liberian dollar with inverse rise in prices.


What has even become more scaring is the wave of pouring in of foreign nationals, particularly Nigerians with millions of fake banknotes ready to be exchanged for real money thus, creating hyperinflation and diminishing purchase power of most ordinary Liberians.

Despite frantic effort by national security apparatus to curb the broad day robbery, those operating the money mills seem very determined in subjecting this economy to mockery, bring it on its knees and eventually cripple the operations of government.

The intensity of the syndicate appears to be overwhelming the capacity of the Liberia National Police, as the Inspector General of Police Col. Patrick Sudue, publicly declared last week that it would take about half of the total strength of his officers to adequately man the porous borders of the country along with personnel of the Liberia Immigration Service in order to stop suspects bringing bags of counterfeit banknotes from entering Liberia.

The Police have made several arrests of suspects in possession of both counterfeit Liberian Dollars and United States Dollars, coming to flood the market. The situation has drawn huge public concern here, and the national government seriously seems incapacitated

From all indications, we suspect that those involved in the fake money cartel are not operating along. There might be accomplices or collaborators in the business community and high profile offices that are making this trade not only attractive, but profitable here.

Therefore, we urge the entire national security force to move one step ahead of the syndicate by keeping close surveillance both within and without as we suspect there might be a network on the ground.

Rather than being pessimistic as the Police IG Sudue sounded the other day, we believe this counterfeit business can be curtailed drastically, if not totally eradicated, to give the economy a breathing space. All that is required is complete vigilance and sincerity on all sides.

We hope a mole is not in the system that could be working with the criminals, miles ahead, while pretending to be fighting crimes, as had been experienced with the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) in going after drug traffickers, which eventually led to the dismissal of its former head.

Yes, the battle against counterfeit is winnable if all hands were on deck. Commercial banks in the country and other financial institutions should equally get involved by thoroughly scrutinizing huge instant deposits to follow the trail along with our national security apparatus, for we refuse to accept that the criminals have overwhelmed us. We shouldn’t make them to feel so, and they shouldn’t be allowed to think so.

In defense of quality education

The West African Examination Council or WAEC Liberia Office should be commended for the timely release of the 2018 exam results for 12th Graders. This obviously was a hectic load of work done in impressively short duration.


Again, the procedures involved in scoring, collating and final release of results, if rigorously applied, would raise questions about the authenticity of the results released. For example, who marks or check the marker?

For a candidate to be considered for appointment as an examiner at WAEC for the marking exercise, he or she must possess the following qualifications: have degrees from recognized universities or institutions in the subjects applied for; obtain a minimum of three years post-qualification teaching experience in the subjects; possess thorough knowledge of the subject papers one seeks to examine or correct; applicants must, in addition, be computer literate (at least, be capable of using word processing programme); they must also have demonstrated ability to be thorough and accurate in their work and be able to meet target dates, and must have unquestionable integrity, among others.

The concerns are: did our examiners meet these criteria mentioned above? Are these ruthless standards actually applied in the Liberian classrooms in evaluating students’ performance in readiness for the exams? That is a debate for another time.

However, in an attempt to curb the educational crises plaguing the country, the Minister of Education recently introduced several policies. Laudable among these is the issuance of permit to entities desirous of operating schools only at the Ministry of Education.

We believe such stringent measures should be directed at sectors where the stakeholders have complete oversight responsibility, so that similar reform measures could be extended to other areas if found to be practicable and sustainable.

Educational reform in Liberia today should begin with motivation for learners, for if students learnt in the earlier stages of development that there is reward for hard work, it would inculcate in them a culture for productivity and potential maximization.

We also recommend that an independent body, in this case WAEC, should closely collaborate with administrators to scrutinize enrolment at universities, colleges and tertiary institutions to give access to only prepared students.

It is a well established fact that the current educational system in Liberia is below the benchmark established by international standards. Recognizing and embracing our deficiencies now would not only enable us to progress, but identify areas that need strengthening.

There are preparatory stages in all ventures which cannot be underestimated. There should no coyness in the recognition of deficiencies that are glaring. Education as we all know is expensive yet beneficial. This is why citizens of any country applaud governments that embark on policies to subsidize cost attached to education, since it is every government’s responsibility to provide best quality education in seeking the interest of its citizens.

In attempts to persuade people to opt for a decision taken by an organization, sincere analysis of the realities and outlines of both the pros and cons must be punctiliously done.

Quality education does not rest primarily on entrepreneurs, but the government. And the prime strategy should be to ensure that good number of students make a pass (i.e. between grades 1 and 3) - an occurrence that is very rare in Liberia.

Students in Liberia should be able to easily gain admission into universities within the sub-region and even beyond. However, this is unlikely where a pass for most Liberian students in the West African Senior School Certificate Exams or WASSCE is score such as 7 or even worse, 8.

Therefore, the desire of every student should be to write an examination such as the WASSCE that has international accreditation when the right premises such as standardized curriculum, textbooks, qualified instructors, equipped laboratories and libraries, among others are set.

 

The blame game must stop

Liberia is in a serious economic squeeze that has left the strength of the country’s currency tumbling to as low as 156-157 Liberian dollars to US$1.00 with an inverse upshot in prices further pushing ordinary citizens to the margin of society.


But the entire country seems not to be short of ideas on who to blame for its current economic woes with one finger pointed at the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, while others think President George Manneh Weah and his government lack requisite knowledge and professional expertise to finding prescriptions for the economy.

Some believe the former government of Madam Sirleaf is responsible for the bad shape of the economy. They blame her for printing new banknotes which total amount remains a top secret ‘till today, and putting the money in circulation without withdrawing the previous banknotes that were printed by jailed former President Charles Ghankay Taylor.

Other group of citizens put the problems at the doorstep of President George Manneh Weah, accusing him of ineptitude or clear lack of knowledge about the economy, and therefore, failing to provide remedy.

The administration’s conspicuous silence on the daily rise in prices leaves many to think that it is insensitive to the plight of the common people. None of the lieutenants are saying anything about the bad state of the economy.

Instead, some blind loyalists are directing the blame at the former government, deducing an orchestrated economic war against the Weah-led administration. Those constructing such tales say the former administration doesn’t want President Weah to succeed, so orchestrations are planned to strangulate the economy and eventually instigate citizens’ uprising against the current government.

Amid the blame game, we are getting report that the Weah administration is contemplating on printing new banknotes following suspicions that some unscrupulous individuals are flooding the financial market with excess local currency, including counterfeits , which is weakening its strength against the United States Dollar and pushing prices up.

The authorities here believe printing new money to replace the current ones in circulation would ease the economic mess or so they think.

But as had been experienced elsewhere, including Zimbabwe under former President Roberts Mugabe, newly printed banknotes are nothing but mere papers. They are as worthless as anything else unless other realistic policies such as investing in agriculture, cutting expenditure, focusing on exports, among others, are introduced.

Printing new money in itself would not change anything. In fact, on the contrary, it might further exacerbate the situation, leading to more hardship.

Unless we end the blame game as a country, and get to the real issues confronting the economy, we are just wasting precious time.

In the first place, what guarantee is there, if any, that when new money were printed today, some unscrupulous individuals would not similarly have an opportunity to bring in excess banknotes and flood the market again, as it is being suspected now?

The blame game must stop

Liberia is in a serious economic squeeze that has left the strength of the country’s currency tumbling to as low as 156-157 Liberian dollars to US$1.00 with an inverse upshot in prices further pushing ordinary citizens to the margin of society.


But the entire country seems not to be short of ideas on who to blame for its current economic woes with one finger pointed at the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, while others think President George Manneh Weah and his government lack requisite knowledge and professional expertise to finding prescriptions for the economy.

Some believe the former government of Madam Sirleaf is responsible for the bad shape of the economy. They blame her for printing new banknotes which total amount remains a top secret ‘till today, and putting the money in circulation without withdrawing the previous banknotes that printed by jailed former President Charles Ghankay Taylor.

Other group of citizens put the problems at the doorstep of President George Manneh Weah, accusing him of ineptitude or clear lack of knowledge about the economy, and therefore, failing to provide remedy.

The administration’s conspicuous silence on the daily rise in prices leaves many to think that it is insensitive to the plight of the common people. None of the lieutenants are saying anything about the bad state of the economy.

Instead, some blind loyalists are directing the blame at the former government, deducing an orchestrated economic war against the Weah-led administration. Those constructing such tales say the former administration does want President Weah to succeed, so orchestrations are planned to strangulate the economy and eventually instigate citizens uprising against the current government.

Amid the blame game, we are getting report that the Weah administration is contemplating to print new banknotes following suspicions that some unscrupulous individuals are flooding the financial market with excess local currency, including counterfeits , which is weakening its strength against the United States Dollar and pushing prices up.

The authorities believing printing new money to replace the current ones in circulation would ease the economic mess or so they think.

But as experienced elsewhere, including Zimbabwe under former President Roberts Mugabe had shown, newly printed banknotes are mere papers. They are worthless as anything else unless other realistic policies such as investing in agriculture, cutting expenditure, focusing on exports, among others, are introduced.

Printing new money in itself would not change anything. In fact, on the contrary, it might further exacerbate the situation leading to more hardship.

Unless we end the blame game as a country, and get to the real issues confronting the economy, we are just wasting precious time.

In the first place, what guaranteed is there, if any, that when new money were printed today, some unscrupulous individuals would not have the opportunity to bring in excess banknotes and flood the market again, as it is unfolding now?

The search for an orator

The Weah administration seems determine to break from tradition in the way Liberia’s independence is celebrated, particularly the process that involved naming an orator to address the nation.


Unlike in past administrations when the Government of Liberia thru the Executive would name a prominent and experience Liberian to speak to the nation on Independence Day, the current administration is calling on citizens to send in applications or nominations to serve as orator for the pending 171st Independence celebration on July 26, preferably a talented youth.

In fact, a vetting committee appointed by the Monrovia City Hall and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, two institutions jointly coordinating the vetting process has announced that it would shortly disclose who will deliver the 171st Independence Day Oration.

But one person, who is not happy with this strange approach and is not mincing his words in expressing so in public, is former Minister of Information Rev. Emmanuel Bowier.

Also an instructor at the Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia, Rev. Bowier says an Independence Orator is not an office to seek, rather, it is the State that usually asks a personality to serve this role based on his or her contributions and experience.

The outspoken ex-minister says anyone applying to serve as national Independence orator is “stupid.” He is totally disgusted about the sudden departure from the way it had been done for over a century and half.

We too are concern about the sudden twist and wondering whether the Weah administration is ignoring traditional protocols regarding who should address the nation on such historic occasion.

The vetting committee explains that President George Manneh Weah is taking this route to afford a young Liberian between ages 15 and 35 the opportunity to explore his or her talent.

While we do not oppose affording young Liberians opportunities to demonstrate their talents, a national orator for our Independence Day celebration requires a Liberian with high pedigree of historical knowledge about our country’s political, socio-economic, cultural and religious diversity, particularly in the wake of serious economic challenges to recommend a way forward in addressing the woes.

In other words, the duty of an independence orator is not a child’s play, and therefore, should not be a stage to explore talent or experiment. After 170 years as a nation, we need sober reflection during such national occasion as well as a window to the future. What can a person under 40 say to a country as old as Liberia?

UL takes forward march

The University of Liberia is taking a giant step to introduce three important programs in the area of health sciences that would help to boost manpower development in the country’s health sector.


Specifically, the University wants to introduce a certificate program in Health System Leadership and Management (CHSLM), a Bachelor of Science degree program in Public Health (BScPH) and a Master’s of Public Health (MPH) program with focal areas.

A statement issued from the UL on Thursday, 28 June says these programs were approved by the University Faculty Senate in March this year, and marks the UL’s historic move to eventually establish a School of Public Health in the country, an initiative that would significantly enhance and expand locally trained capacity to better prevent, detect, and respond to public health threats and reduce risk of catastrophic outbreaks such as the deadly Ebola Virus Disease between 2014 and 2015.

The move by the state-run University is a farsighted thought that should be applauded by all meaningful Liberians in the quest to building a resilient health system for the country. The effort also seeks to bridge the gap between what it takes to train as a medical doctor, and providing other essential services in the health sector.
The need for junior level, middle and senior personnel in our health sector cannot be overemphasized in achieving a resilient health system. Building a vibrant health system should be the first step in getting the citizenry out of poverty.
The UL says the BSc program in Public Health is intended to prepare recent high school graduates with sufficient knowledge and training into public health workforce in entry-level positions in order to function effectively in those roles.

Indeed, this is where focus should be concentrated in creating a workforce for the health sector that would learn the basics as they climb the ladder. Without the fundamentals, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to make any significant impact.
After the prolonged civil crisis, the health sector, like many other sectors in the country has been plagued with various challenges, ranging from lack of equipment, poor facilities, and brain drain.
We need qualified personnel in areas such as Nursing, Midwifery, Physician Assistant, Environmental Health, Public Health, Management, Sociology, and Social Work, among others.

It is our hope that authorities at the University of Liberia would source all rightful partners with support from the Government of Liberia in bringing this dream of building a strong and qualified workforce for the health sector to reality.

The killings must stop!

A wave of brutal killings is rapidly permeating the Liberian society with the frequency becoming not only alarming, but very scaring. In about six months, the number of violent related deaths reported across the country is well over 10, and the statistics keeps increasing.


Violent reactions among the population seem to indicate that Liberians are suffering from post-traumatic disorder syndrome. Arbitrarily taking away lives is becoming a common place here despite the presence of the law.

It is not enough to arrest suspected killers and put them in jail, pending trial in a country where the judicial system is found wanting. Perhaps it is time we set up a fast-track court for murder so that quick examples could be set on convicts to deter would-be killers.

Murder here is a capital offense under the laws of Liberia, punishable by imprisonment for long period, but the wave of willful killings in the past six months under a civilian administration governing by the rule of law appears to indicate that Liberians have no fear or regard for the law any more.

It is becoming visibly clear that besides the law, we need to adopt preventive strategies, including public campaign and psychosocial counseling on a mass scale which has not been done since the civil war ended in 2004.

The Ministry of Justice thru the Liberia National Police and the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection should collaborate in devising psychosocial counseling programs for communities and on radio and television stations as well as in print media to reduce the increasing wave of killings across the country.

The religious community should help in such endeavor. Pastors and Imams should educate their respective congregations about love, tolerance, peace and unity. These are key elements that unite people in diversity.

This current generation has a duty to stand up now against the brutal killings overtaking our once loving and peaceful society. Posterity would judge us unkindly if we failed to act collectively as a people.

As Liberians, do we take up time to ask ourselves what message are we passing on to the next generation if we allowed lawlessness, barbarism and share banditry to creep into the society, as the current situation depicts.

If anyone feels offended; has his or her rights violated, the best means to seeking redress is thru the law rather than resorting to jungle justice, which totally runs contrary to cultivating a civilize society where everybody’s right to life is guaranteed under the law.

What does Senator Sherman really want?

Proposition from Grand Cape Mount County Senator Cllr. Varney Sherman of the opposition, for accommodation in the Liberian Senate a defeated presidential candidate, who receives second highest votes in a presidential election, as “Senator of the Republic” is not only being selfish, economically insensitive, but it is also politically unwise.


Senator Sherman is a renowned Liberian lawyer, who owns a very successful private law firm in Monrovia that could accommodate any defeated presidential candidate, for the sake of accommodation, if that is what he’s interested in.

But to hide under so-called “inclusivity” in proposing such an arrangement that could further place more financial burden on the country’s already overstretched wage bill does not benefit ordinary Liberians except the would-be defeated presidential candidate; not even partisans of his party.

The presidency of Liberia comes with huge responsibilities; it is no child’s play or a cheap office that a candidate vying for this office, and got defeated at the ballot box should be rewarded with a seat in the Senate, as the former ruling Unity Party lawmaker wants Liberians to do.

Where then is the competition for the highest office in the land when candidate with the second highest total votes in an election is automatically accorded red carpet to the first branch of government?

It is nothing but share heartlessness that in the midst of unbearable economic constrains characterized by sky-rocketing exchange rate and swelling prices, lawmakers on Capitol Hill would rather than finding ways to alleviating the suffering of the masses, dream of imposing more hardship, as Senator Sherman and his Judiciary Committee are proposing.

We absolutely concur with Bomi County Senator Morris Saytumah when he says a loser from a presidential race should remain a loser rather than be accommodated with a senatorial seat. Any such defeated presidential candidate that would allow himself to be demoted to that level will only be proving to the Liberian people that he is a mere hustler, as he never had any real plan for the presidency in the first.

A serious candidate for the presidency is head of a government in waiting. He or she should understand that a defeat at the poll, only provides an opportunity to, while waiting for the next electoral year, carry out adequate preparation for the office being aspired for, not to abandon his dream and settle down for less.

Instead of advocating for defeated presidential candidates, we call on Sen. Sherman and the Judiciary Committee that he heads, to critically but legally tackle problems that are affecting citizens’ lives such as poorly negotiated concession agreements that deprive them social benefits; confirming round pegs in square holes for public offices that they are unqualified for, increasing and approving budgetary allotments for ministries and agencies that officials cannot defend, among others. That’s the real work of check and balance as a lawmaker.

Members of the Senate would do well for the Liberian people by thrashing Senator Sherman’s proposal into the dustbin in order to keep focus on serious matters of state, for which that august body exists rather than pushing selfish agenda.

A need for an accountable leadership

Performance of cabinet ministers and heads of various spending agencies from the Executive Branch of government at the ongoing public hearing on the draft national budget for FY 2018/2019 in the 54th Legislature leaves much to be desire, as some can hardly account for funds entrusted in their care.


The glaring ineptitude came to public notice on Monday, 18 June when the Joint Ways, Means and Finance Committees of the 54th Legislature turned away the Minister of Health Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah and the Registry General of the West African Examination Council or WAEC Mr. Dale Gbotoe for failure to adequately justify current allotments, and requests for increment.

Dr. Jallah struggled but unsuccessfully to defend US$1.8m of the US$58 Million being allotted in the Ministry’s budget for 2018/2019, while WAEC boss Gbotoe failed to explain the US$60.00 charged by the agency to every 12th grader for WASSCE, and how the figure is arrived at and expended. Yet, both officials seek lawmakers’ approval of their respective budgets.

What is even more embarrassing is contradiction in the Health Minister’s account for the US$1.8 Million, which she says will be used to purchase furniture, computers and others for use in health centers in the country, when the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning had earlier informed the joint committee the money is intended for mental health programs throughout the country and to compensate voluntary health workers.

The dismal performance of both officials left members of the Joint Ways, Means, Finance Committee with no alternative but to send them away from the hearing to allow them adequately prepare and come back to defend their allotments.

It is incomprehensible how heads of spending agencies would lack adequate knowledge of allotments in their respective budgets that is placed under their direct supervision for the fiscal period. No wonder why from years to years, funds from the national revenue are allotted for various programs that never see daylight because heads of agencies responsible are unable to exercise supervision and account properly.

This share laziness on the part of senior officials must change. Amid scarce resources and competing needs, if a government ministry or agency formulated a budget, and is fortunate to have same approved by lawmakers, the money should impact lives or go to tangibles.

We had observed during previous budget hearings, particularly from the former administration that ministers and heads of public corporations failed to give performance report on previous expenditure. Yet they come with demands for more money or allotment, while the citizenry wallop in abject poverty and misery.

We call on members of the Joint Committee to continuously scrutinize allotments for various ministries and agencies in order to stamp out waste or priorities that do not impact people’s lives.

A key responsibility of any good leadership is to account for resources placed into its care. One does not necessarily need to be an accountant in order to justify money entrusted in his or her care. All that is required is to be able to work closely with the account department during the budgeting and planning process.

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