US$60m Ministerial Complex Project: A Golden Opportunity Being Abused
In the presence of President Ellen Johnson0Sirleaf, along with a few top officials of hers on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia, a multi-million agreement between the Governments of Liberia and People’s Republic of China for the construction of a ministerial complex. The construction of the US$60m complex, which would host at least ten ministries and agencies when constructed, according to Ambassador Zhao Jianhua of China, was the result of a request by President Sirleaf to his government and would be a lasting symbol of the friendship between Liberia and China.
The ministerial complex, the second largest building constructed by the Chinese in Africa next to the headquarters of the African Union or AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, would also close the chapter on the inconvenience suffered by the government as a tenant, as well as open a new chapter on the respectability and cost-saving of being a landlord, according to Foreign Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan during the September 11, 2012 impressive signing ceremony in Monrovia.
As part of the agreement, the Liberian Government was to only make available the ‘land’ for the construction, which should have been executed in three and a half years as per the signing of the agreement because the Chinese Government was already to make the money immediately available. Initial attempts by the Liberian authorities to take away a piece of the land owned by the Sudan Interior Mission/ELWA on the Robertsfield Highway in Paynesville may not have materialized due to improper arrangements/negotiations.
When Liberians thought that their government would have been very proactive in “just fulfilling its part of the agreement” since our Chinese friends were make the offer in its entirety, perhaps the pursuance of some financial interest on the part of a few public officials dashed their hope and aspirations.
Since the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Information, announced months ago that “it was considering other alternatives for the construction site”, after stiff resistance in 2012 by citizens to its initial decision to demolish the incomplete Defense Ministry structure in Cong Town, through the intervention of the Supreme Court of Liberia, the administration appears not to be giving such a national Endeavour any attention.
Either little or just nothing has been heard about the commencement of the construction of the multi-million dollar ministerial complex up to now, further sending a message to the minds of many well-meaning Liberians that public officials or whatever technical committee made up of public officials to ensure that the land is available may just not doing justice to President Sirleaf and the people of Liberia, probably because they did not succeed in executing the incomplete defense ministry complex in Cong Town for US$4m.
The conspicuous silence of the Liberian Administration on the status of such multi-million dollars project-whether or not something is being done behind the scene- may even be suggesting its unpreparedness, unserious and inability to make use of the “imminent domain” it has in accordance with the laws of Liberia. Whether or not one attributes the delays to fear, embarrassment or other motives on the part of the Government of Liberia to secure a site to jump-start the project, a decision now is a must before it gets too late.
In such decision-making, it is still important consider the Peace Island Community, which many believe, is an ideal location for the construction of the Ministerial Complex. Toward this end, the issue of compensation and resettlement of the inhabitants of the Island must be given a very serious priority, even though they acknowledge that their settlement on the island was with the acquiescence of the Government of Liberia without deeds.
If possible, the US$4m ear-marked earlier for the demolition of the incomplete new Defence Ministry complex could be used to compensate and resettle residents of the Peace Island Community devoid of all of the un-necessary “technicalities”-an approach, we believe, the Peace Island Community dwellers would welcome and appreciate wholeheartedly.
Except for other ulterior motives, there is still a workable future for the construction project, which we do believe, would be a beautifying venture for the capital, Monrovia. And if the presidential technical committee, which we hope is still constituted, means well for such national undertaking, it must now advise the President of Liberia on this approach, because the commencement of the project is not only long-over-due, but also at risk.
Regarding the incomplete bullet-proof incomplete new Defence Ministry complex, it would be foolhardy to even think about recommending its demolition; since its intended purpose was for national security, it could, then, be transformed for use by the Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, National Fire Service and a few other security apparatus to rescue government from the huge and inflated rental costs of private buildings housing these institutions.
In the minds of many Liberians, the presence of the ministerial complex on Peace Island, a new Justice Ministry Complex opposite the island, as well as another boulevard to link Tubman Boulevard with Somalia Drive/Jacob Town in Paynesville would further beautify the city and reduce the huge city traffic.
In view of the foregoing, one can only hope that the administration of President Sirleaf will break its conspicuous silence on “what’s really going on,” regarding the status of the construction of the ministerial complex- the US$60 ‘golden offer’ from Government of the People’s Republic of China. Realistically, delaying such a vibrant project is an opportunity being abused.