— Information Minister Nagbe threatens action against anyone, including government officials, who “talk nonsense”; promises similar action against media that publish said “nonsense”
Information Minister Eugene Nagbe has threatened that the Government of Liberia will arrest anyone who makes a “reckless” public statements to politicize the current coronavirus situation in the country.
In a furious statement at the opening of the Government of Liberia’s first major joint press conference on the coronavirus pandemic, Minister Nagbe, who was not definite to name anyone involved with making a “Reckless” statement, said that there will be “no more free talk” and dared anyone to do so.
“No more free talk—and I dare that individual to come back on the radio and television to give misinformation. If you are crazy, carry your nonsense elsewhere. Politics time will come, but not now. Wait for the October election,” he added.
Min. Nagbe’s tirade came two days after Montserrado County District #10 Representative, Yekeh Kolubah, made a public suggestion that President George Weah should be tested for reportedly coming in contact with the suspended Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Nathaniel Blama, who health officials say was tested positive for COVID-19 two days after his return from Europe.
According to Rep. Kolubah, the President should be tested because he was one of the several government officials that came in contact with Blama during a meeting held at the President’s private Jamaica Resort.
“When he [Nathaniel Blama] came, he needed to brief the President. They had a meeting at the Jamaica Resort. So, the President needs to be tested and if he is positive, he needs to be quarantined,” Rep. Kolubah insisted. “We are talking about the Liberian people’s lives and not government officials anymore. So, there should be no pick and choose.”
According to Min. Nagbe, the fight against coronavirus is a shared responsibility that requires all hands on deck and “not a situation where someone will play politics with.”
“If he says such a thing, we will grab him, put him in jail and prosecute him under the law. It is dangerous to make a statement just because you can talk in a silly manner; and, people listen to you means you should continue talking nonsense? We will grab you, and punish you in keeping with the law,” Min. Nagbe added.
If Minister Nagbe’s threatening statement is in reference to Representative Kolubah’s earlier statement calling on the President to be tested, critics would contend that similar statement was made by Representative Acarous Gray and some members of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) years back when they accused former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of importing Ebola to make money to the detriment of the Liberian people. During that time of their comments on radio and television, there were no arrests or threats against any of them for such a remark.
“Today, the government has decided to go after anyone who deliberately misinforms the public, no matter whatever branch of government you are in,” he said, adding, “Nobody is above the law. So speaking foolishly is not free anymore. There will be a consequence of a foolish statement.”
To the media, the Information Minister said: “anyone who grants his or her platform to a crazy person to talk nonsense during this critical time, the person will be equally charged like that crazy person.”
“So for small-minded people who preach politics in the midst of calamity, come and talk nonsense. And to you, the media, don’t encourage crazy people to talk on your radio, let them carry their craziness different place,” Min. Nagbe further said.
Meanwhile, Minister Nagbe has disclosed that the government will not hesitate to arrest and dismiss any official of government who is caught breaching the government’s health protocols, whether at the airport or any other workplace.
The government spokesman further disclosed that the government has reinforced a “previous presidential mandate that restricts the airport VIP Lounge treatment only to the President, Vice President, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Senate Pro Tempore, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“There will be no access to and from the VIP Lounge by any other official of government besides those named. The security apparatus has been asked to enforce that. We will leave no stone unturned and we are not complacent, but resilient,” said Minister Nagbe.
The Information Minister’s statement threatening the arrest and dismissal of government officials for breach of health protocols comes after President George Weah suspended EPA Director Nathaniel Blama for allegedly breaching health protocols at the RIA upon his return from Switzerland.