As the management of Cocopa Plantation completes the final payoff of aggrieved workers under the management of the Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI), which is almost at the point of closing, many are wondering whether the nightmare at the plantation is finally over.
On Thursday, December 1, the Managing Director of Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and also Chief Executive Officer of NRI, Harrison Karnwea, told reporters in Ganta that the payoff process at the plantation was almost over.
He said that upon the completion of the payoff, the company will begin the process of recruiting so as to immediately begin work at the deserted plantation.
“We are completing the payoff exercise and immediately after the exercise we will start with the process of recruiting a minimum size of workforce to begin work,” he said.
Mr. Karnwea in a happy mood said the company will take care of all the damages at the plantation, upon resumption of work. “When I first took in charge of the plantation in the ‘90s, nothing was there to refer to as an office or place to dwell and we were able to restore everything that was looted from the concession.”
While the Cocopa Plantation is being revived, there are no facilities in operation; neither schools nor medical facilities, are open at present. Nearly all the facilities at the plantation were looted or vandalized by angry workers, which rendered the concession area a ghost town.
But, Mr. Karnwea assured the public that everything will be restored as soon as the recruitment exercise is over, and said school will resume by next academic year.
The Cocopa nightmare began in March this year, when the workers refused to work and started blocking roads in demand of salaries and other benefits.
The trouble continued until October when the Government of Liberia deployed armed police at the plantation to calm down the situation, after all the facilities had been looted or vandalized by either the aggrieved workers or unidntified persons.
The Cocopa Plantation had about 1200 employees, 400 of which were tappers, while the majority worked in other departments which the management could not maintain, especially as rubber prices fell.
Mr. Karnwea said the money to pay off the employees was provided by the present management, the NRI and added that the company will be recruiting about 430 persons, including staff and tappers and skilled workers, until things can improve.
However, another problem: those that were retired are yet to be settled according to their pension. But Mr. Karnwea said it will be taken care of by the government; for now, they are concentrating on workers.