President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed frustration and disappointment in the Nimba Legislative Caucus for abandoning the dedication last weekend of the judicial complex built in Sanniquellie by the Government of Liberia. The judicial complex will accommodate the county’s 8th Judicial Circuit Court and other subordinate courts as well as the Magisterial Court. The home of the resident judge in the county and offices of other functionaries are also located in the complex. The President in her statement at the dedication ceremony last Saturday said, “It is frustrating that members of the Nimba Legislative Caucus and all of those aspiring for political positions in Nimba are not here. They should be here because they will benefit from the quality of justice that will be rendered here.”
President Sirleaf further stressed that the presence of the complex is important because human rights reports had on many occasions blamed Liberia for inadequate facilities for the court system, slackening the speedy trial of cases. The Supreme Court is overburdened by a huge number of cases and the President believes the erection of what she described as “a magnificent judicial complex” in Nimba will help ease the burden.
In separate responses, several members of the Nimba Legislative Caucus gave various excuses for their absence from the dedication. Senator Prince Johnson, however, was unapologetic and accusatory in his response on a local radio station in Ganta. He said, “The President has her own frustration with members of the caucus for not attending,” adding that he has his own frustrations with the President. Senator Johnson cited the delay in the pavement of the Ganta-Yekepa Highway as one point of his frustration. He further accused the President of not giving his school a subsidy from government’s coffers although he has on many occasions talked to the President to help him with a subsidy to run his school in Monrovia and to complete the one he is currently undertaking in Ganta. But she has not responded, he said.
Since Senator Johnson received President Sirleaf, U.S. billionaire George Soros, and the Queen of Jordan in Ganta in 2007 at the dedication of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) and the graduation of trainees of the Bangladeshi Friendship Vocational Training Center, he has not been present in the county to receive the President on the many other visits she has made to Nimba. Among the visits were the celebration of Independence Day in 2010, during which the Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital was dedicated; the dedication of the Gbarnga-Ganta Highway in March 2016; and during her last nationwide tour, when she stopped in Nimba in February this year.
Representative Larry P. Younquoi of District #8 apologized and admitted that the caucus was informed in a written letter about the dedication of the judicial complex, but he could not be present because members of his campaign team were meeting him that day. Representative Garrison Yealue of District #4 responded that he did not know about the dedication and therefore could not be present. Representative Matinokay R. Tingba of District #9 said though he was campaigning in his district, he did not receive any information about the dedication. He also expressed concern over the delay in paving the road from Ganta to Yekepa. Representative Sam Kogar also said he was not informed about the time of the dedication and therefore could not attend. Efforts by this newspaper to obtain the responses of other Nimba lawmakers for their failure to show up for the dedication proved futile as some did not answer their phone, and some were switched off.
On a local radio talk show hosted by community radio journalist Joseph Kerkula on Monday night, callers volunteered diverse views regarding the failure of members the legislative caucus to attend the dedication ceremony. Some callers said members of the caucus did not have a legitimate excuse to give as all their excuses were centered on their selfish interests. Others, who sounded to be in support of Senator Johnson, said the road project is crucial to the county and that is what they want President Sirleaf to address. Others were heard arguing that since Nimba is where much of the resources building Liberia come from, building the complex in Nimba is the county’s entitlement and not a favor.
Some analysts, however, called and acknowledged that in the successive terms of her presidency, Nimba County has benefited to a higher extent than all the other counties in Liberia. Major national projects named on the radio show include the modern Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital, the cross-border electricity project, the Red Light-Ganta Road and the newly dedicated judicial complex. They also cited the building of many schools including the Nimba Community College (NCCC) and the allotment of social development funds to the county as other achievements for which to laud the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration.