–Over relocation to a new parking lot, brand County Authorities “compromised”
Hundreds of petty traders, mainly women, joined several commercial drivers in Kakata on January 23 to protest against the County Authorities’ decision to relocate the parking lot owned and controlled by the Federation of Road Transport Union of Liberia (FRTUL).
In a very uncompromising stance at the offices of Jerry Varnie and Emmanuel Goll, Superintendent of Margibi and City Mayor of Kakata, respectively, the protesters said they were not prepared to let go of the current parking lot for a new one, more so that the proposed parking lot is expected to be on a parcel of land owned by a strong private businessman, Sackie Flomo, who is said to wield significant influence in the county.
“Sackie Flomo will one day ask us to leave from that place. We are comfortable selling on the main road rather than going far away from central Kakata, where the zogos (criminals) always hijack, harass and steal from us,” said two ladies who spoke randomly as they awaited the arrival of Superintendent Varnie, who was said to have been in Monrovia at the time of the protest in Kakata.
Esther S. Michael, the spokesperson for the female petty traders, said they are comfortable selling around the FRTUL parking lot in Kakata because their goods are bought by passengers, passersby and other residents of Kakata rather than going far away from the main street of the city.
“Our City Mayor and the Superintendent are demanding that our drivers leave their own place they bought several years back to move to a place given by Sackie Flomo. We have joined them in this protest because Flomo Sackie cannot be trusted and the land he has given the drivers for the relocation of their parking is not safe,” Ms. Michael said.
She alleged that the deal between the City Mayor Emmanuel Goll and businessman Sackie Flomo is fraudulent and, as such, they (market women and men) will not sit to watch the drivers give in.
“Any time Sackie Flomo may choose to ask the drivers out of that place and we the sellers will suffer too. That area was once used temporarily by the FRTUL but on several occasions, we, the business people were harassed and our goods were stolen by criminals,” she said.
Ms. Michael added that if their goods are not bought they are in trouble with BRAC, a Bangladeshi NGO that gives out loans to them.
“We are doing the businesses just with the use of our own money, simply because we don’t have much. BRAC is our Western Union. BRAC is our Money Gram and our failure to live up to the contract we signed with them, we are in trouble,” she said.
She said there is a piece of land beside the market in Central Kakata, believed to be owned by the government that should be used for the new parking lot and a place to sell.
“Let them clean the dumpsite and build for us the new market and a parking lot for the FRTUL. That is our appeal,” Ms. Michael said.
She alleged that since Monday, January 20, 2020, Police have been very brutal on peaceful residents of Kakata who keep protesting against the County Authorities’ decision to relocate the Federation of Road Transport Union of Liberia (FRTUL) parking lot.
Meanwhile, Ms. Michael and her supporters presented to Koboi Weedor, the Administrative Assistant in the office of Superintendent Jerry Varnie, a four-count petition calling on his office to prevent the police from removing the drivers and the petty traders who sell at and around the parking lot.
The first count of the petition says: “We are unable to leave our present business places to relocate due to the current economic situation in the country.”
“We as marketers. Often wake up as early as 4:00 a.m. to go to the market and leave from there as late as 8:00 p.m. The criminal rate at Sackie Flomo’s business center is high and, as such, it will be difficult for us the women who are the main target for the criminals,” their petition said.
The protesters further noted that the County Authorities should allow the FRTUL retain the contested parking lot and send to Sackie Flomo’s parcel of land any other drivers’ union that has no parking terminal in Kakata.
Their fourth count mentioned that, should the government succeed in relocating the FRTUL parking lot to Sackie Flomo’s land, they, the market women who have received loans from BRAC, will experience a great setback in raising the money to settle the loans.
Also speaking, the president of the drivers union of the FRTUL in Kakata, Adolphus T. Fallah, said the Margibi County Authorities should stop playing with the livelihoods of the residents of the County.
“We have two unions in this county and they are the FRTUL and the United Drivers Union (UDU). Since Monday, the police have been harassing us. They have been using arms, threatening peaceful citizens,” Fallah alleged.
“We benefit from passengers and these marketers, too, benefit from the same passengers we bring from Monrovia and other parts of the country to Kakata City,” he said.
On the order of Superintendent Jerry Varnie, Administrative Assistant Koboi Weedor said the office of the Superintendent is working in collaboration with the office of the City Mayor to keep law and order and ensure that the city ordinances are obeyed.
“We are concerned about the safety of thousands of residents in this city. The main street where the FRTUL parking lot is located is congested and this is responsible for the many accidents that have led to the injuries and deaths of people,” Weedor said.
He said under no condition will the County Authorities of Margibi work against their own people, but there has to be a change and the willingness to accept some sacrifices if the City of Kakata would become a better place for all.
Emmanuel Goll, City Mayor of Kakata told the Daily Observer that the protesters’ claim that Mr. Sackie Flomo’s gift to the County Authorities is fraudulent is false.
“Here is the land deed. Here is a notarized agreement between Mr. Flomo and the County Authorities through my office. Everything we are doing here is legal and has no connection to individual manipulation,” Goll said.
He said the World bank neighborhood where Mr. Flomo has given the land for the FRTUL to relocate is not far away from central Kakata.
“It costs just L$20 from here to the place on a motorbike. It is a walking distance and the police are always around that place too,” he said.
He said he was shocked that the market women joined the protest when they were not asked to leave the current area in which they sell.
“Development comes with pain. We want to have a modern city. We want to curtail the accidents that occur here. The main street has to be de-congested in order to maintain the ordinances of the city,” Goll said.
He added that Senator Oscar Cooper has volunteered to build a modern market hall.