A professional environmental group is urging President George Weah to reinstate the suspended Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Nathaniel Blama.
The group, Union of Certified Environmental Professionals of Liberia (UCEPL), said Dr. Blama has worked tirelessly to make the agency more vibrant and has positioned it into the international limelight. As such, they say, there is no need to reinvent the wheel of leadership at the entity.
“On behalf of the UCEPL, we present compliments and respectfully appeal to you to reinstate Hon. Nathaniel T. Blama, Sr.” the group said in a statement signed by its president, Dweh Siehwloh Boley.
UCEPL is an independent group established in 2012 in accordance with Part III Section 10 of the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia. The group works in partnership with the EPA and other governmental agencies, private sector, civil society, and international institutions to integrate economic development and sustainable environmental practices in Liberia.
Boley said that the EPA is a specialized agency and needs technocrats and experienced professionals like Dr. Blama to lead it in the right direction. “He has done a lot to bring the EPA to a place of recognition. He has really built upon what his predecessor did. The pieces of evidence to these effects are visible, both locally and internationally,” said Boley.
It has been well over two months now since President Weah suspended the EPA boss for time indefinite for what he (Weah) called “Repeatedly violating prescribed health protocols and endangering public health.”
The Executive Mansion said that Blama evaded established health protocols set up at the Roberts International Airport and refused to adhere to medical advice when a team visited his home.
The suspension came hours after being announced as Liberia’s first COVID-19 confirmed case, upon arriving from Green Climate Fund board meeting in Switzerland.
The UCPEL head said the EPA boss was not suspended because of incompetence or derelict in the execution of his duties as Executive Director of the EPA. “On the contrary, he contracted the Coronavirus while on official duties in the interest of our beloved Country. We want the President to give him a second chance,” Boley noted.
Social media became inundated immediately with reactions over the EPA’s boss’s alleged actions that precipitated the President’s decision against him. Some began bashing him for “posturing and big-shots-mentality” allegedly exhibited at the RIA.
Others, however, believed that the disciplinary action by the President was a bit hasty, given the life-threatening nature of Mr. Blama’s medical condition at the time and should not have compounded his situation—probably exacerbating his already traumatic condition.
The media and communications specialist at the agency, Danise Love Dennis, was also not spared in the saga as she was also suspended for time indefinite by the acting EPA authorities. She was reportedly suspended for posting a statement in defense of Blama on the EPA Facebook Page without authorization.
President Acted in Good faith
Those who had expected the suspended EPA boss to be furious over the action of the President were disappointed as Blama, immediately upon his discharge from the treatment unit, told newsmen that the President’s decision was in good faith. He, however, stated that some of the information at the time was distorted.
“At the time and given the situation, everybody was out of play. I didn’t feel any indifference; I think the President acted wisely to put me out of play. If it were you in that position, it would be a hot seat, it would be a hot decision because if people are coming to you and making you feel that one of your senior officials has disrespected a mandate that you gave, you would feel disrespected, too.
“So, I’m not particularly angry. I think the President acted wisely. Over time the truth was revealed, I was exonerated so I don’t feel bad. I always say this to my staff and to my friends; I don’t feel bad when people misrepresent me,” he said.
Liberia has made a lot of strides under Blama’s leadership at the EPA. Through him, The Government of Liberia took major steps in attracting donor supports to address environmental and climate change challenges, improve the quality of living for Liberians, and give a boost to the economy.
His innovative leadership led to Liberia ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change in June 2018—a feat that was described as a ‘milestone achievement’ that will help foster low-carbon climate-resilient development in the country.
“Dr. Blama’s leadership ensured that the EPA joined forces with the UNDP to facilitate the Paris Agreement ratification process in the country,” a renowned environmentalist told the Daily Observer.
He said the ratification brought the country one step closer to reaching its goals for low-carbon, climate-resilient development.
Under his watch, the country also hosted the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Informal Board Meeting early this year. The meeting was aimed at sharpening the board’s vision and strategic priorities to deliver a greater impact in support of climate action in the developing countries it serves. The meeting was the first of its kind in West Africa and the second on the continent.
“As the world’s largest fund dedicated to empowering countries to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to climate change, GCF drives climate finance to where it is needed most. This was the kind of serious-minded group Blama attracted to this country. This is no politics, but Nathaniel is the best person for this job. He does not only have the expertise but he also has the contacts. We hope he goes back to work very soon,” a member of UCEPL said.
The GCF meeting, held February 5-7, also offered a perfect opportunity for Liberia to engage with World Bank, UNDP, African Development Bank, European Union, IFAD, and other development partners onhow to scale up Climate Action in Liberia consistent with UN Secretary-General call for ambition climate Action to support vulnerable people and communities
Dr. Blama’s lobbying power also culminated in the approval of a whopping US$100 million in loans for three resilient projects submitted by country at an earlier GCF board meeting in South Korea.
“The funding will be used to implement three projects on the climate information system, integrated agricultural eco-tourism and Monrovia’s metropolitan climate resilience, respectively. The third project, costing approximately $40 million, aims to address the problem of coastal erosion in the community of West Point, a coastal slum community in Monrovia,” a top technician at the EPA, who asked not to be named, said.
“These are some of the things that the ED has been doing here. We should not allow his efforts to go in vain, as bringing new people on board will create some problems in accessing this funding from our partners. Blama is doing a tremendous job here and we want him to continue. We are therefore begging the President to have him reinstated,” the technician said.