The Electoral District #4 of Grand Bassa County, precisely Jobga Clan was the scene of anarchies and total chaos between residents and officers of the Liberia National Police’s elite Emergency Response Unit (ERU) after the residents reportedly resisted a surveying of their land for the usage of the Equatorial Palm Oil, a concession company.
The tussles which lasted for two days (from Wednesday to Thursday) last week, left several residents wounded and others detained. The police are still deployed in the area to restore calm.
It took the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Christina Tah, Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly, Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth, a representative of the National Investment Commission as well as lawmakers of Grand Bassa County to restore fragile peace between the management of the company and the residents of Jogba Clan. On Saturday, the residents approximately 300 of them marched on the port city of Buchanan to express their dissatisfaction to government.
The residents through their spokesman, Mr. Moses Wee narrated that government had signed a concession agreement with the management of the EPO, giving out 34,500 acres of land within New Cess in 2008, but the said amount of land could not come from New Cess Clan so the management, assisted by government surveyors encroached on two different areas, including Jobga and Kpoewin, something Mr. Wee claimed was not part of the contract.
The site currently occupied by the company was once operated by the Liberia International Company (LIBINCO) or Palm Bay, but was given to the Equatorial Palm Oil Company in 2008 through ratification by Liberian Legislature.
The spokesman claimed that they were arrested and beaten in the district by the police and company’s security personnel for attempting to walk from the district to Buchanan to exercise their constitutional rights in orderly and peacefully assembling to register their grievances to their leaders.
According to him, the residents were left out of the concession agreement between the government and the county, which he described as complete deception, and that such action of the government will be resisted in every manner and form.
“The government has failed to provide us protection as enshrine under Article 11 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution. We, the people of District of # 4 embraced development; but the company has beyond its traditional limit (New Cess) entered Kpoewin and Jobga Clans; the zoes or traditional leaders will decide the fate of the threatened eviction matter”, he added.
He urged that a team of surveyors under the supervision of an independent body be mandated to re-survey the areas in which the company has its standing and felled palm trees.
Mr. Wee recommended that the virgin land presently cleared by the company be left alone and that the company stops to where it’s standing and felled palm trees are left to be used by the dwellers for farmers, adding that the police deployed in the district for the sole purpose of the unwanted survey be withdrawn without day.
He lamented that they as dwellers will not engage in any dialogue with the company on its plans to expand further on their land. Responding to the aggrieved citizens on behalf of the President, Justice Minister Tah promised that the government will swiftly act on their demand today at which time she would have consulted with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on the matter.
She then frowned on the citizens for taking the law into their hands and for disrespecting their national leaders, including the superintendent, representatives and senators.
The Attorney General appealed to them to allow the survey to establish which land will be used by the company for its operations and that government will closely work with the company to ensure that the traditional shrines, cemeteries and other strategic areas are protected.