Fears are mounting among hundreds of residents occupying industrial parks in the Gardnersville Township of Montserrado County, following President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s latest warning that re-echoes government’s demolition plans of homes on industrial lands.
During a tour on Friday, 22 May at two separate factories – a biscuit producer Tiba Industrial Group and the Garson Steel which manufactures nail, President Sirleaf reminded residents that they will not be allowed to build on areas designated in the last ten years by government as industrial park.
Residents interviewed in the park admitted to reporters that new structures were being erected at places they had been asked not to build on; but they however insisted on appealing to President Sirleaf and her government not to remove them because they do not want to leave such “ideal area” to be sent on the highway.
But President Sirleaf was clear that the word should go out that further encroachment will not be allowed on the park that government has designated in the last ten years “that this now is the industrial park,” warning that “we ask you all to not build there because if you built there we’ll break it down.”
“…Many people have started to build in this area; the government has said … we will not bother those who came there during the period when they didn’t have a place to stay. But now this park where there was not encroachment, we will not allow any further encroachment,” President Sirleaf said.
As to how much time government will give before removing people who have recently begun building new structures on areas designated in the last ten years as industrial parks, President Sirlead said it will not take “months” to have them leave.
She said the Ministry of Public Works will look at the means and bounds, and signs will be put up to indicate that “this is government’s property.”
The Acting Chair for Clark Community in Chicken Soup Factory, Mr. Emmanuel H. Fallah argued that the community was established when President Sirleaf instructed the Park Manager, working along township commissioner to create a market place.
He claimed that “the commissioner at the time” allowed them to squat in the park when they were seeking place to reside, appealing that government should allow them remain there because the place is ideal.
Clark Community Chairlady Ma Sandra Uriah Cooper, suggested that government takes the factories along Bomi or Kakata Highway to reduce the population of Monrovia, though she says the community has been sued by National Investment Commission or NIC over similar situation since 2012.
“We will still appeal because this land belongs to government and we [make] the government,” she said.
Another resident of Chicken Soup Factory, Julius admitted that they were squatting in the community because from the onset, they were aware that the park was a government place and therefore, they are prepared to leave from there anytime.
“Nobody in any other means brought us here by document [or] by any other thing; we came here to squat,” he said, while appealing that government should have settlement with them when removing them.
But he alleged that an elderly man in Chicken Soup Factory (name withheld) claiming 250 acres of land has clandestinely been selling land to new comers, giving buyers deeds despite protests from community dwellers.
At the end of the tour, President Sirleaf told reporters she was very impressed by the effort made by Tiba Industrial Group and Garson Steel to move Liberia to another stage about government’s development agenda, commending particularly value -addition and jobs creation for young Liberian women and men that are engaged in different aspects of work at those factories.
Garson Steel manager Alfred B. King had said his company is producing over ten tons of nails a day, with hope of increasing production in the next three to four months to at least one container a day which he estimated to be about 27 tons.
President Sirleaf commended managements of the Factories and their shareholders, supporters, and government institutions that have worked with them, including the Ministry of Commerce, Labor, NIC and the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment or LBDI.
She encouraged local factory workers at the two places visited to be hard working and avoid getting into confusion with their managers, as government works to see the companies expand to employ more people. By Winston W. Parley – Edited by Jonathan Browne