A Charge for Liberia Maritime Commissioner Eugene Nagbe

Liberia Maritime Commissioner Eugene Nagbe

It is now nearly a fortnight since the tragic sinking of the Ivanka that led to the loss of 18 precious lives. According to sources, this vessel, built here in Liberia, had been declared unseaworthy by Maritime authorities as well as by the Liberia National Coast Guard and the National Port Authority. Despite the fact that the vessel was declared unfit to take to sea, it nevertheless did.

It sailed from the Freeport of Monrovia enroute to Harper Maryland County. It carried aboard an assortment of cargo and 26 passengers and crew. But a few miles from Buchanan, the vessel began to take on water and sank within a few minutes. 

The Liberia Maritime Authority promised a full investigation to uncover how and under what circumstances the vessel was allowed to set sail. That pronouncement was made a fortnight ago but up to present the public remains uninformed about progress being made in the investigation. The public deserves to know whether the investigation has gone cold or whether it has been waylaid by vested interests.

The public also deserves to know why the Ministry of Education has been conspicuously silent, especially in view of its fiduciary responsibility apropos to the WAEC local office. Has the WAEC regional headquarters been apprised of developments by the Ministry of Education given the disruptive impact of the incident that led to the nationwide postponement of the exams?

Additionally, what compensation, if any, has the WAEC and Ministry of Education provided to the families of those who lost their lives in the incident? These are all burning questions on the minds of anxious and grieving relatives seeking answers and or closure. And the responsible authorities have a compelling duty to respond to such public concerns by providing answers.

But most troubling of all these concerns is the fear that Police have not brought any criminal charges against neither the owners nor the operators of the vessel, let alone NPA and Maritime officials who may have colluded to permit a totally unseaworthy vessel to leave the Freeport of Monrovia laden with passengers and cargo.

According to informed sources, the owners of the vessel are alleged to have paid handsome bribes to NPA and Maritime officials to allow the vessel to leave the Freeport for Harper Maryland. How could they have not been aware of the risks and dangers involved in allowing such a vessel to set sail when, by their own assessment, the vessel was declared unfit and unseaworthy?

Those officials ought to realize or should be made to realize that their action has caused extreme grief and distress to several families. The least they could do to assuage their pain is to tell them the truth. It is painful enough to lose a relative in a tragic accident but it is even more painful when the body of the deceased cannot be found to be given an appropriate and befitting burial.

For its part, what can the Ministry of Education say to families of those staffers who lost their lives as a result of poor decision making, poor oversight and the lack of foresight? What have they done to assuage their pain and anxiety? 

And just when will the investigation promised by Maritime Commissioner Eugene Nagbe be concluded and results revealed to the public? Commissioner Nagbe ought to equally be aware that families are grieving and need closure on this matter. The longer it takes the deeper the pain it inflicts and he should be conscious of this.

In recent times, there have been a series of incidents including extra-judicial killings, to which the Government of Liberia (GoL) has reacted by pledging full and transparent investigations. For example, most recently was the killing of Executive Protection Services (EPS) agent Melvin Early. An investigation was promised but since then, no results have been announced. And this has been more than six (6) months ago.

As to whether the investigation into the sinking of the Ivanka will suffer a similar fate may be too early to tell. However, judging from past experience, public fears about the investigation becoming waylaid by vested interests may not be far-fetched after all. 

This is why it is important that the relevant authorities dispel such public fears, not by making lofty pronouncements but by meeting with the families of the deceased and providing with truthful accounts of what actually happened and what is being done to give them relief as well as to bring to book those found criminally liable for the tragic accident.

This is a charge for Maritime Commissioner Eugene Nagbe!