Nimba County Senator Thomas Grupee said he has discovered what looks like a conspiracy in the Senate to divide the county, owing to “cheap propaganda” that the Gbi and Doru District is marginalized and not developed, and should therefore be annexed by Rivercess County.
Senator Grupee spoke to reporters in Ganta on Saturday, October 1, naming River Cess County Senator Francis Paye of being the one behind the move to divide Nimba County under the pretext that residents of Gbi and Doru have petitioned the Senate to have the district be taken over by Rivercess County.
According to Senator Grupee, Senators from Nimba County are yet to see the said petition, adding that “the Senate Plenary is continuing to enforce the idea to the extent that it has set up a committee to look into the matter and bring their findings back to the Senate by January next year.”
He said two years ago, residents of Gbi and Doru petitioned President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, complaining about being “marginalized” by the Nimba County authority, but that a copy of the petition secretly surfaced at the Senate as though some of his colleagues were acting on the content, wanting to see Nimba County divided.
“[If] most of the citizens from the district are not aware of the petition, then how did it get to the Senate?” Grupee wondered.
Senator Grupee has meanwhile called on the Senate to discontinue the matter and see reason for unifying citizens, rather than pursuing division, adding, “There is no part of Liberia that is well developed than the others.”
The citizens of Gbi and Doru district, through their commissioner David Toe, informed the Daily Observer of their dissatisfaction with the behaviors of Senator Paye and some officials from Rivercess county, who they claimed were trying to create animosity or bring division within Nimba, “for their own selfish gain.”
Commissioner Toe said during the course of the 2014 Special Senatorial Election, Francis Paye went to Gbi and Doru and asked the citizens to vote for him, promising that if he wins, he will advocate for the district to be annexed to Rivercess.
Toe said it was because of this promise that Senator Paye unilaterally petitioned the Senate to grant the district a statutory status to have their own representative at the Lower House in future elections.
“It is based on the promise that Senator Paye continues to press for the annexation of Gbi and Doru District to Rivercess, but the chiefs and elders in the district are not aware of any of the petition, which he said was done to convince citizens from Gbi and Doru residing in Monrovia,” said Toe.
River Cess Senator Paye does not seem to deny the allegation against him.
“Let Thomas say whatever he wants to say and you can go ahead and publish what he has said,” Sen. Paye told the Daily Observer via a phone interview yesterday. “I don’t have time for what Thomas has to say; he is a Senator, but the people in the disputed district know what they want. I am a Senator and traditional leader of my people, so I don’t have to respond to every little statement.”
River Cess has only two electorial districts, compared to Nimba County with nine electoral districts. The ninth district is Gbi and Doru, which is a forest-rich region where farming, hunting and timber are the leading business activities. Gbi and Doru District lies at the southern tip of the county, bordering River Cess.
Aside, Nimba benefits from the County Development Fund (CDF) which is determined to a large extent by each county’s population. Nimba also benefits from Arcelor-Mittal’s Social Development Fund to the tone of US$1.5 million annually. It therefore appears there may be more to gain by River Cess annexing Gbi and Doru District. River Cess County has only 2 seats in the House of Representatives. An annexed or new district will give them a third, while at the same time, potentially increasing the county’s CDF allotment.