Disagreement Ensues over Nimba County Yellow Machines Issue

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The decision by the Nimba County Project Management Committee with the acquiescence of Senator Prince Johnson and a few lawmakers to lend the county’s road-building equipment to the Ministry of Public Works to rehabilitate the stretch of road from Saclepea to Tappita and by extension Gbolor Diala seems not to be meeting the taste of some lawmakers and other prominent citizens of the county.

It may be recalled that on September 18, 2021, the Ministry of Public Works launched a quick impact road project for the rehabilitation of Saclepea - Tappita to reduce the stress and constraint associated with traveling on that road.

However, while this development may be welcoming, some of Nimba lawmakers, mainly District #8 Larry P. Younquoi, seems to be annoyed by the decision to lend the road-building equipment to the Ministry of Public Works that should have its own equipment across the country to maintain all primary roads.

In Rep. Younquoi’s argument, he complained that the Ministry of Public Works embark on maintaining the primary road from Saclepea to Gblor Diala near the Cestos River without the approval of the Nimba Legislative Caucus.

“It is my understanding that the Acting Minister of Public Works, Ruth Coker Collins, broke ground for said work in Saclepea City today after she received, at least, 4 pieces of the County Road Works Machines from the PMC and the County Superintendent,” he recalled.

In his dissenting views about the decision being made to borrow the equipment to the government for that Primary Road, the Nimba lawmaker said, “Fellow compatriots, I like to bring to your attention that such act is anti-peace as the entirety of the Caucus, which is the chief decision-making body of the County, is not aware of this.  

“Let all peace-loving citizens advise whoever is behind this to desist as it shows disrespect to the rest of the Caucus members. It also has the proclivity to, once again, cause conflict in the leadership of the County, especially within the Caucus,” he added.

Younquoi in his contentions indicated that while the proposal for the arrangement of the machines was in the hands of District #9 Rep.Johnson Gwaikolo, the groundbreaking ceremony for the rehabilitation was already taking place in Saclepea on September 16 and that the document was already being signed by Senator Prince Johnson, the county’s political godfather whose prominence and political hegemony came as a result of his war role during Liberia’s civil crisis.

Younquoi added that people in the affected areas of ArcelorMittal’s operations have deplorable road conditions and are facing constraints bringing their farm produce to the market.

He believes that these people and all other people of Nimba who should benefit from the machines that took over US$4 million from their social development funds must have access to the machines instead of the government that has budgeted for Public Works and must-have the equipment all over the country for such intervention.

In consonance with Younquoi, defeated Nimba senatorial candidate, Edith Gongloe-Weh, says the machines that were bought while she served as Superintendent of the County were meant for farm-to-market roads and not primary roads. 

Gongloe-Weh, like Rep. Younquoi, is of the view that the Ministry of Public Works before the war had its sub-offices across the country where machines were parked and made an intervention during the rainy season. Madam Gongloe-Weh wonders who takes the credit for the rehabilitation work that has been launched when the county’s equipment had been used under the control of the Ministry of Public Works that has no equipment in the county to maintain a road that the government is responsible for.

Another lawmaker, Dorwohn Twain Gleekia of District #6 dissented with the two persons and disclosed that all the Caucus members agreed once to allow the machines to make this intervention.

According to Rep. Gleekia, the government had informed them that it was about to commence pavement of the road from Ganta to Gbolor Diala and that it had no extra budget for rehabilitation of the road and therefore the county’s machines should be used for that purpose. While arguments and counterarguments continue to ensue, the agreement has been reached with provisions made regarding the maintenance of the machines.

In the memorandum of understanding, Acting Minister of Public Works, Ruth Coker Collins said the government will provide US$43,000, spare parts and lubricants, while Nimba County will provide its road-building equipment and the manpower for the work.

Minister Collins said the rehabilitation work is expected to last for at least 20 days, beginning September 18, the very day the groundbreaking took place. She assured further that the government is working out modalities to begin the construction of the stretch of road from Ganta to Tappita by December this year. However, to keep the road pliable, Minister Collins said the government needed to make a quick intervention to enhance the movement of goods and services.

Prior to leaving office, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration secured US$200 million for that corridor, and in her remarks during the groundbreaking, Minister Collins reiterated that the government has received a grant from the World Bank to begin pavement of the road this dry season.

The road connecting Saclepea and Tappita has become very deplorable in recent times, leaving many cars plying the route to detour as far as Blehwalay around the Ivorian border and getting on the road near the Cestor River bridge. The inflow of patients at the Jackson F. Doe Referral Hospital in Tappita has also been low due to deplorable road conditions, mainly between Graie and Tappita. 

Over the past years, the machines have been down, but the Project Management Team has told the people of Nimba that 19 of the 22 pieces have been repaired and are ready for use.

The current PMC team was elected in a controversial election last year in Nimba County Council Sitting, where three members of Nimba Legislative Caucus, Rep. Larry Younquoi, Rep. Prince Tokpah, and Rep. Sam Kogar took an exception to the form and manner in which the election was conducted.