EPA terms businessman as defiant
The Supreme Court over the weekend placed a stay order on a planned demolition exercise of a recently constructed filling station property of businessman George Bobby Kailondo on the Samuel K. Doe (SKD) Boulevard. The demolition exercise, which should have taken place on Saturday, June 23, was to be carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for what it termed as blatant violations of its order by businessman Kailondo.
It, however, took the intervention of the high court, which is the final arbiter of justice in the country, to give a lifeline to the property as a task-force comprising men from the EPA, Liberia National Police (LNP), Ministry of Public Works (MPW) and others were already poised to carry out the demolition exercise.
According to the EPA’s Executive Director Nathaniel Blama, the EPA and its collaborating partners had finalized preparation for the exercise when he received a writ of prohibition from the Supreme Court but will wait till the outcome from the cited conference.
“We had planned demolition of some illegal structures erected on the Mesurado Wetlands along the SKD Boulevard near the Police Academy Junction in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
“One of the structures includes a gas station built by Mr. George B. Kailondo in complete violation of the environmental laws of Liberia. But the exercise will be halted for now because of the Court writ,” he said at a press conference on Friday.
Executive Director Blama noted that with complete disregard to the international convention and the Environmental Protection and Management Law of 2003 of Liberia, Mr. Kailondo built on waterways and in the wetlands—ignoring several warnings from the EPA and the Ministry of Public Works.
On Friday June 23, the EPA wanted to demolish the station, which the EPA says has blocked waterways and is contributing to the flooding in the community, after the proprietor (Kailondo) ignored several halt notices from the EPA.
Blama indicated that Kailondo has been very disrespectful to the laws of Liberia and it is comical that he would run to the court to benefit from the laws that he does not regard.
On September 17, 2015, Kailondo was sent a letter instructing him that the EPA could not give him the go-ahead (or grant him permit) to carry-out the construction exercise.
“He was also written on February 3, 2017, asking him to halt all activities pertaining to the ongoing construction of the gas station,” said Blama. “Weeks later on February 23, 2017, we communicated with the businessman and provided him a 30-day period to embark on the demolition process as the date of receipt of said notice.”
In spite of all of the notices served him, Mr. Kailondo defied and ignored the EPA’s warnings and completed the construction of the Filling Station at a designated RAMSAR site under the International Convention on Wetlands.
The area is one of few Ramsar Sites in the country. These wetland designated areas are of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
The Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, and came into force in 1975. It provides for national action and international cooperation regarding the conservation of wetlands, and wise sustainable use of their resources.
But Kailondo’s defiant action contravenes the above law, according to EPA director Blama, and is punishable by penalties including but not limited to fines of up to US$50,000, closure, imprisonment and/or criminal prosecution, where applicable, under the laws of Liberia.
“It is in view of the above that the EPA placed an immediate halt to the operations of the filling station and in 30 days [resolved] to demolish the facility to reclaim the site,” Blama noted.
He indicated that Mr. Kailondo’s action is injuring the environment. However, sources are indicating that Mr. Kailondo is trying to buy time that would allow him to recover at least a portion of his expenses on the filling station. He is reported to have informed the Court that he took loans to have the station constructed and it would be a heavy loss if the property is demolished at this early stage.