NEC concedes

The Chairman of the National Elections Commission Cllr. Jerome Korkoya has attributed the misplacement of names against individuals’ photographs on the voter roll as “human error” that could undermine the process of holding free, fair and transparent elections in October.

He had earlier reacted sharply to public concern that the situation could create serious problem on polling day, if not immediately addressed, describing apprehension expressed by the public as “total nonsense!”
But appearing before the full plenary of the Liberian Senate at the Capitol Building where he was summoned on Thursday, 22 June Chairman Korkoya however notes that there is no need for people to panic or worry on grounds that the electoral commission is in full control of the situation.

He discloses that the misplacement of voters’ names against photographs or absence of such information on the voter roll as a result of what he calls “human error” could affect about 13,000 Liberians across the country, representing 0.6 percent of the total registered voters.
However, he assures the senate that the commission is already battling the process of ratifying the situation by revisiting the data processing unit, and encourages legally registered voters to follow up at the NEC headquarters to get their information provided to registrants correct.
When quizzed by Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay how many forms were brought in the country, Korkoya says the commission printed about 4 million forms, but could not state how many forms were used, and how many left, on grounds that NEC is still processing forms with promise that said information would be available when the process is completed.
Cllr. Korkoya has been in hot water with the public, including some politicians over his recent comment that anyone with a voter card will be allowed to vote on polling day even if his or her name were not found on the voter roll exhibited to the public about a week ago across Liberia.
At a news conference on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, the NEC boss called on people in such situations to visit the various polling centers to have their names and photos retaken to be placed in the data base.
Korkoya: "People with the issue of unavailability of photos during these exhibition periods should go to the various magistrates for photo taking and every Liberian who has voter card will vote. The errors wouldn't affect you. There is nothing to be worried about. People should stop creating unnecessary alarm. Please help us to explain to the people the only reason we are holding exhibition is to correct the errors. We are working hard to ensure a credible election that will be acceptable. We have a fine process, we are working under extreme circumstances, we don't say don't criticize.”
The National Elections Commission on June 12th commenced the Exhibition of Provisional Voter Roll at all 2,080 Exhibition Centers (formerly Voter Registration Centers) across the country, which ended on 17 June. Editing by Jonathan Browne

Fire at MOH again

Less than a month after the National Drugs Service (NDS) and Laboratory at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center were gutted by fire, the central office of the Ministry of Health (MOH) situated in Oldest Congo Town was on Thursday, 22 June engulfed in flames.

A female MOH security, who asked for anonymity, narrates that they only saw smoke coming out of the Ministry and immediately alerted the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), which moves in and brought the disaster under control.

She continues that the fire affected the Monitoring and Evaluation Department of the Ministry along with other parts, leaving properties destroyed. LNFS officials at the incident scene declined to speak on the issue, as they were conducting an investigation to establish the actual cause of the fire.

The incident has caused serious setback to the MOH, especially the M & E floor of the building where important data of the country’s health sector are kept. The Monitoring and Evaluation Department is responsible to monitor and report on constraints and activities of Government of Liberia (GOL) health facilities across the country.

This is the second fire incident specifically within the Ministry of Health, causing damages to the institution. About two or three years ago, fire similarly attacked the ministry.
Eyewitnesses are pondering over the strange fire phenomenon that has engulfed the health sector in recent times, leaving properties worth thousands of dollars destroyed.

They want authorities of the ministry to ensure that result of the ongoing investigation is made public to provide a clearer picture of what led to the fire outbreak at the institution for the second time.

By Emmanuel Mondaye-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Lawmakers urged to ratify Land Bill

The Chairman on Land and Authority here, Dr. Othello Brandy, is calling on members of the 53rd Liberian Legislature to pass the Land Right Bill into law, stressing that the bill recognizes right of indigenous people to own their land.

Speaking at the opening of two days National Multi-stakeholder meeting in Monrovia on Thursday, 22June Dr. Brandy says the bill is intended to maintain peace in the country, vowing “We will not rest until the people have the rights to own their own land.”

The Direct Representative for the Secretary General of the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL, Yacoub Hillo, who was present at the ceremony, cautions that Land concession is one of the issues that led to the civil conflict in Liberia, so the bill should be enacted to avoid future conflict.

According to Mr. Hillo, when the bill is in place, it will help to set all records straight and put an end to conflict, especially in rural communities where the natives have lands, but do not have access to claim their own land.

Madam Elizabeth Mulbah of the Governance Commission notes that in order to improve citizens’ engagement in Concessions Management, they should get involved, adding the community people need to come onboard to discuss the problems they are affected with.

“We will work with the people of the community, and we have capitalized on doing it with the people and not for the people; the people need to get involved because they are the ones that are affected and they know all that is unfolding”, she further emphasizes.

Speaking on behalf of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Madam Ciatta Bishop, says the Government of Liberia recognizes effort made by the people, and that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf confirms the Government’s continuous support, while looking forward to a fruitful implementation.

For his part, Sime Darby communication officer, Samwar Fallah, thanked community resident for working along with his company in discussing issues affecting their respective communities.

By Ethel A. Tweh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Court releases 8 murder suspects

The 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Kru County, southeast Liberia has released eight murder suspects due to lack of evidence to prosecute them. The suspects include Stephen Dortu, Vuekm Nimely, Elijah Nimely and Habattus Sawee. Others are: Richard Nagbe, Mombo Tugbeh, Isaac Sieka, and David Boy.

Judge Zuballah Keizeku took the decision on Tuesday, 20 June following a motion for Nolle Prosiquoi filed by prosecution, Attorney David T.K. Dweh, who is also County Attorney for Grand Kru, and Aldophus Brown, Legal Counsel for the Ministry of Justice.

The two lawyers argued that since the eight suspects were arrested in January 2016 and detained for their alleged involvement in the death of a Nigerian national identified as Prince Okongo, along with his fiancé’ Miss Wallace Wilson in Jloh Statutory District, Grand Kru County.

They finally decided to enter into a plead of nolleprosequoi with the court, adding that keeping these suspects in detention perpetually violates their rights. The lawyers noted that they have been making frantic effort to gather pieces of evidence to prosecute the suspects, but to no avail. They maintain that the only option left is to set them free as there is no evidence to proceed with trial. Editing by Jonathan Browne

Rapist gets 10 years sentence

The 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Kru County, southeast Liberia has been sentenced 21-year-old Alphonso Wiah to 10 years in prison for the commission of statutory rape. The convict was arrested in February this year in Satiken, Forpoh Statutory District by the Liberia National Police for raping a seven-year-old girl.

Police charged the convict with statutory rape and brought him to Barclayville where he was detained, pending trial. After Wiah was on Tuesday, 20 June arraigned before court and police charge sheet read for his hearing, he immediately pleaded guilty to the crime, allowing assigned Jude Zuballah Kiezeku to announce his ruling.

Judge Kiezeku said the commission of statutory rape violates Section 18.70 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia; therefore, Wiah must be jailed for 10 years. Alphonso Wiah is expected to start his sentence at the Zwedru Correction Palace in Grand Gedeh County.

This is the second time in two weeks that the court has announced jail sentence in the county. Thirty-two-year-old Anthony Nugba of Po-River Big Town was last week sentenced for 25 years, after he raped a six-year-old girl.

By John Bropleh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

LEC battles power thief

Authorities of the Liberia Electricity Corporation or LEC are stressing the need to seriously address power thief, warning that it undermines growth. Addressing residents of PHP and Plunkor Communities in Monrovia during an interactive dialogue on Thursday, 22 June on the danger associated with power thief, the Assistant Director for Planning at the Liberia Electricity Corporation, Edwin Fahnbulleh, cautions residents not to incorporate the crime into various communities.

According to him, the question of power thief remains a great concern to the LEC, so management and citizens must all work together to find ways to resolving the situation, saying if nothing were done to eradicate this problem, the country stands to benefit nothing from the power that is being offered to citizens across this country.
Mr. Fahnbulleh notes that the intent of the community awareness campaign is for citizens to join the LEC management to put a halt to power thief, that is gradually affecting the management, and to allow citizens to ask major questions on the operation of the LEC.

he LEC Assistant Director recalls that few days ago, an incident involving power theft took place Metadi Estate community, Sinkor, leading to the death of two persons.
It was at the result of power thief, he says, somebody went into the system and put a line up, passed it underground and water set at that place where the little child mistakenly steps, why crying for rescue his mother also came and followed his foot step that was how they both die”, he explains.

“As the result of this death, we deem it necessary to come to you the community dwellers to caution you on the danger of this power thief, we have a full capacity that can adequately provide electricity to every citizen in Montserrado and other communities.”
He continues that people don’t necessarily have to steal current, saying what you have to do is to go to LEC and apply and there will be people who will come to do a sketch and put you on, but by passing the system creates many effects because the person climbing on the pole may not know the voltage he’s dealing with and such could burn any house.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fahnbulleh narrates that power thief also has the ability to put Liberia backward, adding that whenever this happens, we cannot generate the money we need to expand. Every time you steal power, LEC loses a vital amount that is supposed to be used to buy materials that will connect more people.
The LEC Assistant Director further indicates that everything the corporation uses is expensive because it’s being imported, including Transformers, Light poles, and meters. We’re calling on the public to protect the system, because electricity is vital to everyone.

By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

-Lone Star Cell MTN underscores

The Chief Executive Officer or CEO of Liberia’s leading GSM Company Lone Star Cell MTN, Mr. Babatunde Osho, emphasizes here that education is very essential to the growth and development of any nation.

Addressing reporters at the closure of 21 days of “Yellow Care” on Thursday, 22 June at the Lorma Quarter Elementary School in Buzzy Quarter along United Nations Drive in Monrovia, Mr. Babatunde says the future of any nation depends on education, and at such his company has thought it wise to focus on education, because its plays a major role in the life of every citizen.

“I say education is key because the future of any nation depends on education and that’s why we place priority and are investing in education”, says the Lone Star Cell MTN boss. He continues that the corporation supports the education of students in Liberia, saying “We are mainly carrying out these activities where our impact is being felt, and we anticipate seeing better learning facilities for students, and schools that find it difficult to achieve their goals.”

Commenting on the 21 days of “Yellow Care” promotion, he explains that at this time of the year, the entity takes on many projects in various communities around the country, including building of schools, equipping school laboratories, carrying on renovations, among others.

“The subject of this initiative is about investing in education, because we do believe that education is key, not only for children, but for the entire country; it is against this backdrop that Lone Star Cell MTN has thought it wise to observe this part of the year to give back to our customers through these kinds of services.”

According to CEO Osho, the idea behind the 21 days of “Yellow Care” within the MTN family is to remember the environment where they operate, stressing that a business must give back to the communities “so we instruct all of our employees to take up as a volunteer to get involved in these activities.”

He says the 21-day is set aside every year in all counties as a way of giving back to those communities in which the telecommunication giant operates.Meanwhile, the Principal of the Lorma Quarter Elementary School, Mrs. Catherine Mongar, expresses delight to the company for taking up time to recognize the importance of education.
She emphasizes that the issue of education must not be overlooked.
“These innocent children are the future, and next generation that will take up the mantle of authority of this country, if we don’t provide them the enabling environment to learn, they will not perform to our expectation”, Mrs. Mongar concludes. Editing by Jonathan Browne

We’re not sleeping

President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf has told citizens in Bong County that her government is not sleeping in terms of doing more work before she turns over the garble of authority to whoever her successor may be after the October presidential election.

“You heard what the elder said. He said we got how many more months? Four months, five months, so we’re not sleeping oh. Those four months and those five months, we’ll do some more things…” Mrs. Sirleaf said Wednesday, 21 June in Belefanai, Zota District during continuation of a nation - wide farewell tour.

In the farewell tour, the president has maintained a message of appreciation to all citizens in counties where she has visited for Liberians’ contribution to the more than 13 years of uninterrupted peace through their exercise of patience, support to government, as they go about their normal activities.

“Our time not finish yet oh, small there yet. And the small one that’s there we can still do plenty. And so we tell everybody don’t go to sleep. We still got that last mile. We still got another school to build, another road to build, another clinic to build, another job to create”, Mrs. Sirleaf said during town hall meetings at Belefanai, Palala and Manwainsue.

She told locals that she would ensure that works on Belefanai Road in Zota District is done before handling the garble of authority over to her successor.Mrs. Sirleaf recalls that in 1955 and before 1955 when government wanted to do projects in the counties, they would sit in Monrovia and decide that they would build one hospital here or build one school there.

But in 2006 after being inaugurated first female president here, Mrs. Sirleaf says her government changed the style of governance by introducing the County Development Fund which allows the people to have their own funds and decide the projects they want.

Besides the County Development Fund, she says, today there are also Legislative Projects which she notes have added to the developments that come from the center.
To sustain development in the country, Mrs. Sirleaf says peace is the number one ingredient that Liberia needs, and it is what the country has had now for more than 13 years without any break.

“So that peace we leave in everybody’s hands to make sure that you keep it because with that the development you see today will be even more tomorrow, because the next person who will come will have to take it from where I leave it and they have to carry it forward”, she notes in simple English tune.

Specifically addressing the people of Bong County in central Liberia, Mrs. Sirleaf says people look to them because of their numbers and to also follow their example.
She suggests that what happens in Bong County will be very important for the country because the county sits right in the center of Liberia and those going to other places like Lofa and Nimba would pass through Bong.

She expressed appreciation for the level of farming activities taking place in Bong, having made stops along the way, interacting with marketeers and buying goods brought fresh from farms.

She says what really comes to her heart during the farewell tour in Bong County is the women who are now heading local government positions, unlike before when women were scarcely seen in the corners at town hall meetings.

“When I went to Zota, all the main people were women”, she says and also acknowledged that “the men are now liberalized”, meaning the men have seen why they and the women must work together to move the country forward.

She says Zota District scores a point in terms of women in leadership because they have gone way ahead by having women superintendents, commissioners, mayors and chiefs.

“And that each one must be able to take that role in accordance with their energy, and their industry and their commitment. If they can do it, let them move ahead. And that’s what you’ve done in Gbah, that’s what you’ve done in Zota today. You allowed the women”, she says.

Earlier at the town hall meeting in Belefanai, Bong County Superintendent Selena Polson Mappy made a comprehensive report of projects undertaken during Mrs. Sirleaf’s administration through a power point presentation.Madam Mappy’s presentation touched on several projects that have been completed and dedicated during the tour; the projects she named includes others that were already dedicated previously as well those under construction.

They include commissioners’ residences, administrative buildings, high schools, community clinics, town halls, women’s multipurpose centers, the controversial Bong County Technical College, bridges, roads and resource centers. The projects are found in different places including Botota, Gbecohn, Quoipa, Nya Koi Bee, Mano Wainasue, Lelekpayea, Gbarnsu, Gbarnga, and Joquelleh District, among others.

Reps. Prince Moye, and Tokpa Mulbah have both expressed gratitude to the president for the level of development, while citizens also expressed appreciation for the harmonious working relationship and asked Mrs. Sirleaf to remember them even when she leaves power.

By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

MFDP holds SOEs annual review workshop

A two-day State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Annual Renewal Workshop gets underway from June 23 to June 24, 2017 in the port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.

According to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) release, the annual event is organized by the SOE Financial Reporting & Coordination Unit of the MFDP, and is intended to address planning and reporting challenges of SOEs as well as develop a common agenda to mitigate risks associated with SOEs operations.

The event is part of government’s initiative to continue the implementation of reforms necessary in the SOE sector, the statement said. The release indicated that the two-day workshop will provide a forum to discuss key challenges facing SOEs in the implementation of section 43 & 46 of the Public Financial Management Act of 2009, while in the same token develop a consistent approach in the evaluation and monitoring of the sector.

The workshop will discuss through selected presentations by experts mechanisms aimed at strengthening government’s financial reporting framework to enable SOEs understanding the principles of effective financial reporting.

Key discussions will include the following: Developing Strategic Plans and Annual Performance Plans (Annual Budget), Considering Synergies for Business Positioning; An insight on SOEs Reporting Framework: The PFM Act of 2009, Specific Issues with SOEs Financial Statements & Disclosures and Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability: Exploring SOEs Reporting Practices.

Others are SOEs Corporate Governance Structure and Functionality: Promoting Good Corporate Governance through Contributions towards National Policies; Corporate tax payments and social security contribution; and the pros and cons of SOEs corporate social responsibility spending.

The workshop will bring together key stakeholders from the SOEs, Donor and Development Partners, the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP), and other PFM Implementing Entities.-Press release

The white-chickens at Capitol Hill

The Institute for Research and Democratic Development or IREDD’s Legislative Report Card for 2016 has painted a grim picture for members of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate with some lawmakers scoring low marks and others receiving high scores.

The report released here on June 19, details the 30 new bills were introduced at the Capitol during the 2016 data collection process by individual lawmakers with 12 coming from the Liberian Senate and 18 from the House of Representatives, respectively. A total of 78 plenary sessions were conducted in the House of Representatives, while the Liberian Senate held 80 plenary sessions.

According to the report, 14 representatives introduced the 18 bills, specifically from Representatives Bhofal Chambers of Maryland County and Roland Opee Cooper of District#1 Margibi County. Both Lawmakers wrote three bills each.

Others are: Representatives Emmanuel Zoe Pennue, Grand Gedeh County, Edward Karfiah of Bong County, J. Christian Chea of River Gee County, George S. Mulbah of Bong County, Edwin Snowe of Montserrado County, James Binney of Maryland County, Thomas Fallah of Montserrado County, Richard M. Tingban of Nimba County, Alex Grant of Grand Gedeh County, Henry Fahnbulleh of Montserrado County and Johnson Toe Chea.

The seven bills introduced in the Liberian Senate came from Senators Geraldine Doe Sherif of Montserrado County, Nyonblee K. Lawrence of Grand Bassa County, J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County, Jewel Howard Taylor of Bong County, Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County, Morris Saytumah of Bomi County and Dr. Peter Coleman of Grand Kru County.

Of the 78 sessions held in the Lower House, 14 lawmakers attended all including Representatives Prince K. Moye of Bong County, Mary M. Karwor, Robert Siaway, Mambu M. Sonni, Emanuel Z. Pennue, Morias T. Waylee, Julie F. Wiah, Clarence Massaquoi, Bill Twehway, Henry B. Fahnbulleh, Adolph B. Lawrence, Christian S. Chea, Charles K. Bardyl and Jeremiah W.N. McCauley.

In the senate, five senators received high marks for plenary attendance, namely; Senators Francis S. PAYE of Rivercess, Albert Chie of Grand Kru, George Tengbeh of Lofa, Jewel Howard Taylor of Bong and J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor -Editing by Jonathan Browne

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