Nigerian humanitarian among Golden Image Award recipients

Chief Clifford Nzeruem with Liberian Embassador to Nigeria Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh, Ambassador Dew Mayson, and some members of the Liberian Community in Nigeria.

A Nigerian philanthropist, Chief Clifford Obioma Nzeruem is among about 12 international personalities to be honored at the Golden Image Award (GIA) in Monrovia, Liberia.

Chief Nzeruem, a former Honorary Consul General of Liberia to the State of Lagos, is being honored for his unending humanitarian assistance, particularly to Liberians in Nigeria and adjoining countries, a release from the Liberian Embassy in Nigeria quotes the vetting committee of the GIA.

A total of 30 national and international awardees are expected to be honored at this year’s GIA event which takes place at the Monrovia City Hall in Monrovia on Thursday, July 19, 2018.

According to the release, President George Manneh Weah will convene the event, while the ‘Image of the Award’, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia will co-convene.

Chief Cliff, as he is well known in the Liberian Community in Nigeria, especially among Liberians residing in Lagos and adjoining states, is described as “a selfless and altruistic humanitarian”, who has been using his own resources to assist Liberians in difficult situations, ranging from refugee welfare to domestic problems.

He is also accredited with encouraging and supporting the formation of the Organization of Liberian Communities in Nigeria (OLICON) which comprises all Liberian groups in Nigeria’s 36 states and its Federal Capital, Abuja.

He currently serves at his own expense as Protocol Attaché to the Embassy of Liberia in Abuja by assisting the Embassy with the provision of protocol and hospitality services to Liberian officials, business people and students visiting or transiting Lagos. Now in its 8th edition, the Golden Image Award (GIA) forms part of this year’s (171st) Independence Day celebrations of Liberia. Dispatch

Weah trashes blame games

President George Manneh Weah on Monday July 16, refused to walk down the pathway of many of his officials to blame the past administration for the nation’s current economic woes, rather he insists that he was well aware of the before contesting the presidency.

“We were very aware of these systemic problems when we decided to run for the high office of President of Liberia. And so, we are not surprised. And we are fully aware that we were elected with the expectation that we will solve these challenges. This is a task that we are now embarked upon with strong determination, focus, and commitment,” Mr. Weah said in a much awaited state of the nation’s address Monday, 16 July.

His shifting of the debate on the economic hardship here bore holes in arguments by some of his top officials, including House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and some of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) lawmakers who blame former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf and her administration for the tough situation confronting the nation.

In the much publicized nationwide address Monday concerning the state of the economy, Mr. Weah rather chose to take responsibility, saying today’s situation is not to cast blame upon previous administrations but to find new and sustainable solutions to these age-old problems.

Mr. Weah reminds the nation and his supporters how in his first Annual Message he candidly described the poor state of affairs of the economy that his administration inherited, saying the economy was weak and under-performing.

According to him, government was facing solvency and liquidity challenges, and the currency was experiencing rapid and unprecedented depreciation, contributing to rising inflation here.

He recalls that unemployment was very high, and Liberia’s foreign reserves were at an all-time low.

“Today, five months later, it is not for us to complain about the bleak situation we inherited; or to cast blame upon previous administrations,” he urges.

Rather, he says it is a duty and responsibility of his government to find new and sustainable solutions to these age-old problems that have stubbornly defied solution in the past.According to President Weah, he is fully aware that he was elected with the expectation that he will solve these challenges.

“This is a task that we are now embarked upon with strong determination, focus, and commitment. As a first step in this direction, we have placed emphasis and urgency on the formulation of a comprehensive development strategy that will be supported by a strategic implementation plan,” he notes.

President Weah announces an immediate infusion of US$25m into the economy to mop up the excess liquidity of Liberian Dollars as part of a series of monetary and fiscal measures he thinks should help reverse the decline in the value of the local currency.

The local currency here has dramatically fallen against the US Dollars at a rate of LRD$162.00 to US$1.00, and it has immensely affected prices of goods in an economy that is mostly dependent on imports.

Mr. Weah said he had mandated to the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to provide more effective supervision and regulation of money-changers or foreign exchange bureau.

His mandate comes in the wake of reported infusion of millions of Liberian Dollars counterfeit banknotes into the economy by a criminal syndicate here that extracts the few US Dollars from the market by exchanging counterfeits for high rates.

Mr. Weah mandates the CBL to provide more robust oversight of banks under its supervision and to conduct a comprehensive review of regulations on the hoarding of both Liberian and U.S. dollars outside the banking system.

He sated further that CBL provides incentives and safeguards to encourage the utilization of the banking system, including financial instruments.According to President Weah, since 2016 the Liberian Dollar has been on a consistent depreciating trend, while prices have been on an upward trend.

By December 2017, he recalls that the Liberian Dollar had depreciated by 25 percent and since January 2018, it has depreciated further by another 25 percent.

“This recent depreciation in the value of the Liberian Dollar has increased, inflation by 4 percentage points to 21 percent, from 17 percent back in February 2018,” he notes.

He says he is fully aware of the negative impact of the declining exchange rate on the economic well-being of the Liberian people, and the serious hardship that this is beginning to cause here.

“Let me assure you, that Government has resolved to take the necessary and urgent measures to address the situation,” he says.He tells citizens that while the fall in the prices of the nation’s traditional exports and the UNMIL drawdown have contributed significantly to this situation, government believes a stronger and more aggressive enforcement of monetary policy, along with the relevant fiscal instruments, should go a long way to partly address the problem. 

As a first step in this direction, he says government has placed emphasis and urgency on the formulation of a comprehensive development strategy that will be supported by a strategic implementation plan.

According to him, the development strategy, to be known as the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, is nearing completion, and will very shortly be presented to all stakeholders, including foreign development partners, the private sector, and the general public, for consultation, input, and buy-in, before being finalized into a strategic implementation plan.

He adds that the development strategy and implementation plan will serve as a roadmap for the urgent and important next-steps to be taken in giving direction to the economic recovery, and will consist of short-term interventions, medium-term reforms, and long-term restructuring of the Liberian economy.

By Winston W. Parley

Tribal feud creeps in Nimba

What could degenerate into a serious tribal feud is gradually creeping in Nimba County, Liberia’s second most populated county of 462,020 inhabitants (2008 Population and Housing Census) with two prominent officials of the political subdivision seems to be at loggerheads over tribal politics.

The word of war is building up between Senator Prince Yormie Johnson and County Superintendent David Dorr Cooper over which tribes wield political dominance in Nimba.

Senator Johnson, a very controversial but influential leader of the county, says members of the Gio and Mano tribes own Nimba.But Superintendent Cooper disagrees, rallying the support and involvement of all five tribes in the votes-rich county to join his administration for development.

Speaking on a community radio station sometime ago in Nimba, Senator Johnson declared, “Like me tell you today, only the Mano and the Gio ethnic tribes are recognized in this county.”

He referred to the other tribes there as visitors, to the disgust of citizens with swift response from Superintendent Cooper.“My brother, like me tell you today; the development that is going on in the county is not only the two tribes that are involved, but the rest of the tribes”, replies the County Superintendent.

Nimba County with nine electoral districts, has five main ethnic groups, including Mano, Gio, Krahn, Mandingo and Gbei, respectively.Senator Johnson made the claim in the presence of Superintendent Dorr Cooper when both officials had gone to attend ground breaking ceremony for Radio Sehletolwa FM101.1, a community radio station in Ganta City.

Several citizens, who spoke with our Nimba County Correspondent, totally condemned PYJ’s utterance, describing it as not only divisive, but non-productive.According to them, the statement coming from the senator has a potential to create problem among the county’s population.

Our Nimba County Correspondent says Senator Johnson’s comment has caused citizens from Gbi-Dru to say they would boycott a major County Sitting set for Thursday, July 19, 2018 in Nimba.

By Thomas Domah/Nimba--- Editing by Jonathan Browne

Marketers decry high exchange rate

Marketers at the Jacksonville Market in Harper City, Maryland County, Southeast Liberia are calling on the Government of Liberia to address the skyrocketing exchange rate between the Liberian dollar and the United States dollar, currently at 163LRD to US$1.00 in the forex market with corresponding upsurge in prices here.

In a live address to the nation on the current state of the economy on Monday, 16 July President George Manneh Weah announced series of medium and long-term prescriptions to salvage the economy, including immediate injection of US$25 Million in circulation to strength the Liberian dollar, at least in the short term, while other measures are being considered.

However, marketers in that part of the country lament the escalation in the exchange rate coupled with bad roads is causing serious economic hardship both in homes and at their business areas.

Specifically they note that increase in the exchange rate or depreciation of the Liberian dollar is greatly affecting the purchase of CFA to purchase goods from neighboring Ivory Coast.

One marketer Jamama Russell, explains to the New Dawn that previously a carton of fish was sold for less than four thousand (4,000) Liberian dollars, but since the escalation in the exchange rate, it is bow being sold for six thousand (6,000) Liberian dollars, an increase of more than 2,000LRD.

The current exchange rate in the county is 160 Liberian dollars to US$1.00 thus, leading to rise in prices of basic commodities. Adding her voice to her colleague, another marketer Madam Helena Harris, who is engaged in cross border trade, describes the shortage of forex exchange as a serious challenge, lamenting that if nothing were done by government the hardship would intensify.

Maryland County, which until 1857 was an independent state, largely depends on neighboring Ivory Coast for business transactions due to her distance from Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.

Following a referendum in February 1857 the Republic of Maryland joined Liberia as Maryland County on 6 April 1857.Citizens, business men and women in the county say they prefer going to Ivory Coast to purchase goods in order earn little profit than coming to Monrovia due to hike in transport fares.

Present fare from Maryland to Monrovia is between 7,500 and 8,000 Liberian dollars per passenger due to the road condition and increase in prices of gasoline and fuel oil.

Many persons who can afford to travel by means of air travel pay about US$150.00 per trip via the James Spriggs Payne Airfield in Monrovia. Flight schedules are Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Citizens in the southeast are anxiously awaiting the government’s plan to construct roads to connect counties in the region, which would provide relief to their long standing road challenge.

By George K. Momo/ Maryland-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Prelate urges youth to engender self-confidence

The Bishop of the Tabernacle of Praise Church International based in North Carolina, the United States of America urges young people in Liberia to engender a spirit of self-confidence and self-esteem if they should achieve their goals.

Addressing the 2nd National Youth and Young Adult Summit of the Tabernacle of Praise Association of Churches and the Kingdom Covenant Ministries International at the Christ Missionary Assembly in the Monrovia suburb of Duala, Bushrod Island, Bishop Alfred Jackson encourages young people not to settle for second best regardless of their current situation.

He admonishes young Liberians to strive for excellence even in difficult situations and times in order to achieve their desire goals, noting “Everyone in his or her lifetime faces challenges and difficulties.”

For his part, the Bishop of the Tabernacle of Praise Association of Churches here, Jackson Weah, calls on parents to instill discipline and other morals in their children to enable them to positively impact the society. “Parents are to build a sense of morality in their children”, he stresses.

Bishop Weah also admonishes parents and guardians to motivate children in developing their full potentials.Meanwhile, the National Director for the Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Amos Sawboh says the Youth Summit, which is aimed at providing mentorship to young people of the ministry will help them make positive life’s decisions.

Sawboh calls on his fellow youths to practicalize whatever mentorship impacted into them during the week-long summit in order to positively impact the church, community and society.

--Editing by Jonathan Browne

Cooper Farm regrets 3 deaths on Bomi highway

The Chief Executive Officer and founder of Cooper Rubber Company expresses regret over a road accident along the Bomi County highway, resulting to three deaths.

CEO James E. Cooper says the Cooper Rubber Company family is deeply saddened by the lost of three passengers when a pickup belonging to the company collided head-on with a commercial vehicle enroute to Monrovia from Bo Waterside on Saturday, 14 July along the Bomi highway in Western Liberia, leading to loss of lives.

Addressing reporters late Sunday, July 15, Mr. Cooper notes that accident is something that normally happens, and people should stop comments that could deepen wounds of the bereaved families.

“Thanks God for the lives of those persons that survived that tragic accident, including my son James, who was driving from Monrovia to the farm, before his car collided with the passenger car”, he expresses.

He discloses that five other persons admitted in hospital for minor injuries have been released.CEO Cooper says the purpose of the news conference was to provide clarity on the accident as it has been widely speculated that something suspicious was behind the accident involving his son that led to three deaths.

“You know when people start to do something that other people tried doing and did not succeed, they will make everything possible to bring down others that made it; that’s the case I’m having with this company.”

According to him, several prominent individuals had started the rubber business, but did not succeed, so he suspects they will make everything possible to bring him down.

“But we want to express our deepest sympathy to the bereaved families, and the medical team at JFK that helped to save the lives of those persons that survived, and we want to assure the families that we will be responsible for their medication.”

Officers of the Liberia National Police detachment in Dewein district, Bomi County are investigating cause of the accident, which occurred barely a week after another road accident transpired in Central Liberia, leading to deaths.

By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

LIMPAC boosts students’ enrollment at UL

In continuous effort to supporting human capacity development here, the Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center or LIMPAC at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning contributes more than 2 Million Liberian dollars to financial aid schemes of the University of Liberia Student Union or ULSU and other campus-based organizations at the state-owned University for the ensuing 2018/2019 academic period.

According to a press release, the contribution was made recently in checks payable to the University of Liberia in favor of scholarship and financial aid listings of ULSU and two other campus-based organizations.

LIMPAC Executive Director Del-Francis Wreh, thanks the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel D. Tweah, who chairs the board of the organization, for approving increment in the support to ULSU from 500,000 Liberian dollars in the past semester to 1,350,000 Liberian dollars, which he notes, demonstrates his true desire toward the pro-poor agenda of the Government of Liberia.

Mr. Wreh emphasizes that the support is intended to benefit several hundred economically challenged students in demonstration of government’s relentless commitment to supporting their educational pursuit.

He welcomes recent reforms by ULSU to periodically publish names of donors and beneficiaries of the program to ensure accountability and transparency.He also calls on other campus-based organizations at the UL with similar financial aid schemes to adopt the transparency initiatives of ULSU in ensuring that only truly economically challenged scholars and students benefit from the exercise so that scholar is left behind.

During the presentation, Mr. Wreh assures the ULSU leadership of Minister Tweah’s expressed desire and commitment to institutionalize Government’s support to the financial aid programs at the University of Liberia through the National Budget as it strives to improve the economy to reduce hardship faced by students, parents and sponsors.

The Executive Director promises to collaborate with ULSU, especially the Economic Students Association within the areas of joint research, primary data collection and validation and internship programs for graduating seniors, among others. Press Release

Villagers live in fear

Residents of Kohnta in Zota District, Bong County are said to be living in fear following the mysterious disappearance of two persons since the beginning of this year.

Kohnta is amongst several towns and villages in Zota that are in the remote part of Bong County with a population of more than one thousand inhabitants.In January this year, a thirty six year old man identified as Loitormue Baidia went missing and was later found dead and nicked with white chuck on his neck.

Although none of his body parts were extracted, fear still engulfed the entire Barclay clan. The locals believe the victim was murdered for ritualistic but that his body parts may not have been extracted probably because he (victim) did not meet the ritual killer’s standard.

As if that was not enough to instill fear in the locals, a lady from the same village was murdered over the weekend. The victim identified as Gorpu Nyonkor was found dead between Kpamue and Kohnta, this time with body with parts missing.According to our Bong County Correspondent, this second murder has terrified the locals more than ever.

Mr. Nagbah Flomo, the General Town Chief told our Correspondent that they are now afraid to even go to their various farms, adding “we do not want to be killed by those unknown guys.”

Mr. Flomo said right now they are more concern about the safety of women and children living in the village. He said they have planned to establish a community policing team in the area to protect residents of the town beginning Wednesday July 18, 2018.

“I am really sure that when we establish the Community Security, things will be fine because our Men will be taking tour around the entire Clan to arrest strange individuals” Mr. Flomo adds.

When quizzed by our Correspondent whether they have informed the police about the issue, the Kohnta General Town Chief said they have made several efforts calling on the local community radio stations to have the public inform, but have not written a complain directly to the Police.

From Kohnta to Belifinai, the District’s headquarters is about 20miles, but the area is inaccessible to vehicle due to the road condition.Our Bong County Correspondent says family members of one of the victims (Loitormue Baidia), are finding it very difficult to move on since the death of their father.

Victim Baidia who was found dead in January, was responsible to feel his five children, his wife Korto Baidia and his sightless Mother Kebbeh Vukoue.His Wife Korto who spoke to NewDawn, called on the Liberian government, Humanitarian or Philanthropist groups to go to their aid especially for the provision of food.

“We were unable to complete the farm my Husband started because of lack of help, nothing we could do but just to leave the entire thing” Madam Baidia told our Correspondent.According to her, some citizens of the town started helping them when her Husband died but since January, those helps have ceased.

By: Joseph Titus Yekeryan in Bong County-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

Senatorial Candidate warns VP Taylor

A Bong County Senatorial Candidate Fairnoh Theo Gbilah has warned Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor not to use the Vice Presidential motorcade for campaign activities.

Over the weekend, while in the county, Vice President Taylor was all over in vote reach parts of the county campaigning for Jorquelleh District # 3 Josiah Marvin Cole ahead of the Senatorial by-election.

Mr. Gbilah said since the Vice President has allegedly refused to remain neutral in the election, there is a need for her to stop using government’s vehicles to campaign for Mr. Cole.

He said any attempt for the Vice President to keep using the government vehicles for campaign, has the propensity to bring serious misunderstanding in the County.

“We expected the Vice President to remain neutral in this entire election because we are all her children. But she doesn’t want to do that so there is no need for her to be using government proprieties to campaign for someone” Mr. Gbilah added.

Bong and Montserrado Counties are expected to go to the poll on July 31, 2018 to elect new senators to replace President George Weah and Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor. Both were elected in the 2017 general elections as President and Vice President respectively.

The National Elections Commission NEC has qualified five persons in the county to contest. They include Business Man turned Politician Orando Zarwolo, Former Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Henrique Flomo Tokpa, Mr. Prince Toger Kollie, Former Official of the Liberia National Disaster Management Team Fairnoh Theo Gbilah and Jorquelleh District # 3 Representative Josiah Marvin Cole.

The campaign seems to be between Representative Josiah Marvin Cole and the four Candidates three of whom have been criticizing Representative Josiah Marvin Cole of having a Representative position and at the same time contesting for the vacant seat at the Senate.

While one sitting Lawmaker is contesting the Senatorial seat in Bong County, two Lawmakers are contesting in Montserrado County to replace President George Weah.

It is believed that VP Taylor is heavily campaigning for Representative Josiah Marvin Cole because she wants the District # 3 Lawmaker to back her interest at the House of Senate.

Prior to the opening of campaign, Vice President Taylor had earlier promised to ensure that Mr. Cole becomes victorious in the by-election.She made reference to past elections, including 2005 where she contested and won, 2014 and 2017 adding that she has never lost election and will not campaign for any one and lost.

VP Taylor campaigned for her office chief of staff Edward Karfiah in 2011 and he won the election and at the same time campaigned for Rep. Marvin Cole in 2017.

-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

Weah addresses nation today

Liberia’s President George Manneh Weah is due to address the nation today Monday, 16 July in the wake of worsening economic hardship and inflation, about six months into his government.

In just about six months under his administration which began on 22 January this year, Liberia has seen its highest rise in foreign exchange with the depreciating local currency dramatically falling to the United States Dollar at the rate of LRD162 to US$1.00.

The economic situation here has left many in the public as well as officials to call on government to consider a single currency or withdrawing of the new Liberian Dollars banknotes from the market.

It has also resulted to blame games over the past months, with some of President Weah’s officials squarely blaming the past administration of former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf, while others suggest that new ideas be put to work to take the country beyond its current state.

Mr. Weah might announce new government decisions today that might touch on the economy including prices, counterfeits, border security and transportation, among many other issues here.

In addition to a debate between him and his predecessor Mrs. Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf over what was kept in national reserves, Mr. Weah’s administration is confronted by a troubling printing of counterfeit Liberian Dollars in millions by a criminal syndicate.

President Weah’s address might touch on new security measures on border security too, given recent revelation by police chief Col. Patrick Sudue that to get men to adequately man the borders, you will be talking about probably half of the police force because the borders are porous amidst influx of counterfeit Liberian Dollars here.

Much of these counterfeit banknotes are printed in big bills of the new money printed nearing the end of Mrs. Sirleaf’s administration.Some Fulanis and Nigerians are said to be leading culprits of smuggling these counterfeits banknotes into the country through the porous borders before dumping them in the markets through exchange of high rates to extract the few US Dollars.

Prices of goods and services have more than tripled here, and transportation too remains unregulated by authorities due to a sharp increase in the prices of gas and fuel.

President Weah might announce his government’s decision on unfavorable customs issues and taxes at the ports here which local businesses say have pushed some of them to cross their imports through ports in neighboring countries before using land transport to enter Liberia with their goods.

Ahead of his address to the nation today, Mr. Weah vowed over the weekend that his government is working to change and make Liberia a better place to live, but expressed concern that this is a country where politics wants to supersede good governance.

“There is a good news in the making for Liberians; when that good news is presented to the public, those who are doubting the performance of [my] government will not have the time to criticize the workings of the government again,” he said last week.

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

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