Beyond levying fines

In Liberia, laws can be flagrantly violated, perpetrators made to pay fines and walk away. That’s the unfolding realities in the country, particularly in the business sector. And the facts would soon speak for themselves.

Some time ago, some unscrupulous business people at Fuani Brothers, importers of groceries on Bushrod Island in Monrovia were caught by inspectors from the Ministry of Commerce, selling carte of eggs for US$35 – US$40. The Commerce Ministry fined Fuani US$25,000, which was to be paid in government’s coffers. The company begged for mercy, but whether it paid the full amount as levied, is another question.

Next was Abi Jaoudi Supermarket, caught selling expired and rotten foods to the public. The entity was shut down by the Ministry of Commerce and fined US$75,000. Today, it is back in business after paying the fine.

Just last week, Diamond Food, another business entity involved in sale of poultry products, reportedly used formaldehyde to preserve chicken parts brought in the country for public consumption. Formaldehyde is a dangerous substance that is used in a mortuary to embalm dead bodies. We don’t know what fine was imposed by the government, if there were any.

Formaldehyde causes harmful effects in living people. According to research, if injected into a person, it can cause red blood cells to rupture, and lead to a condition called acidosis, in which a person has too much acid in their blood. Acidosis leads to numerous health problems, including organ dysfunction.

As the examples show, none of these perpetrators were sent to court or given hasher penalty for endangering Liberians’ lives and lives of other members of the public. They only paid fines from proceeds of unscrupulous business transactions that endanger lives and walked away.

If that is what laws on the book say about such transgression and other illegal business practices in the country, then it is about time we review our status and go beyond just levying fines. Unscrupulous business people, including both foreigners and Liberians should be prosecuted in court and if found guilty, sentenced to serve as deterrence.

The point is money or fines paid in government’s coffers cannot restore lives lost as a result of such wicked practices. Levying fines as the only penalty does not deter any unscrupulous business person, who wants to dupe the system and earn superfluous profit or profiteer.

Such weak standard has reduced our country to a dumping ground for products unfit for human consumption, but they still find their ways on shelves of business houses.

We need to strengthen laws on the book to adequately protect both present and future generations. Not only that, but by doing so, foreign business people would consider or deal with us as a serious country.


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