By Samuel G. Dweh
Crowds of traders at the intersection of Mechlin and Water streets in Monrovia yesterday, February 22, welcomed the new Inspector General (IG) of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Patrick T. Sudue, with heroic chants as he marched towards a spillage of sewage that had erupted in the middle of Water Street. “Welcome, police boss! Welcome, police boss…!” some of the traders shouted and others sang, “No hands for the IGP? No hands for the IGP?”
In local parlance, the ‘hands’ for someone means ‘applause.’
The LNP boss had come with the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation’s waste collection tanker marked GSA-LWSC 05-5, with plate number (LB) 0767.
The stench from the sewage filled the air. “Remove those barricades!” the IGP shouted to some of the men with him, pointing to two ropes tied around a heap of what appeared to be fecal matter that had erupted through the sewage manhole in the middle of the street. The guys rushed toward the ropes and cut them.
As the men worked, the Inspector General told this reporter that he was acting on a plea from the chairman of the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL) to have the sewage unclogged and the area cleaned.
“Mr. Presely Tenwah of PATEL called me yesterday, told me about feces pumping out of the ground in a market area and begged me to assist him on its clearance,” he said.
As to why he personally showed up at the spot of the hazardous spill, instead of giving orders to some of the many junior officers of the LNP, the IGP responded that he came because he is “a servant of the people.”
While the LWSC workers were desludging the manhole by pumping the excess sewage into the tanker, the LNP boss gave some money to one of the men and another amount to the driver of the tanker.
“For your cold water,” he said, and marched out of the throng of traders and passersby who had stopped to watch the scene. The gesture sparked a rush of excitement among the young traders.
“That’s sixty U.S. dollars!” a male trader exclaimed to his colleagues. PATEL’s chairman, Tenwah, told this reporter that some officials of his institution had informed him about the sewage problem four days prior to the day the IGP followed him there.
Tenwah said the sewage problem in a market area worries him “because I am a leader in the business community.”
None of the men clearing the sewage had a nose-mask, including one who identified himself as Joe Davies, 22, an employer of the LW&SC.
“I’m used to it now; I’ve been doing this since I joined Water and Sewer in 2013,” he said.
Many traders had been conducting their daily activities, including sometimes eating, in the nauseating scent of the feces.
One of them, Mercy Miatta Mulbah, 23, whose shower slippers table was a few yards away from the sewage problem, said she and other traders cannot abandon their wares when they are eating because, “When you leave your market table to eat at another place, somebody will steal your market.”
The rope-barricade was erected by some young traders as a means of calling the government’s attention to the feces, some of them disclosed.
“I was one of those who blocked the road,” Edwin Kollie, 39, whose made-in-Ghana slippers table was situated just a few feet from the sewage eruption, said. “If we had not done that, the government would continue ignoring this. Government officials pass through pupu water here every day.”
Two days prior to Sudue’s visit to the scene, some police officers came in a police car to pass but met the barricade, said a trader who sells imported sneakers.
“They came down with pistols but we dared them to cut the rope,” he said.
The presence of spilled sewage in market areas in many parts of the nation’s capital, Monrovia, has been a recurrent scene since the exit of Madam Mary Broh, Acting Mayor of the City of Monrovia.