The Ministry of Finance & Development Planning has secured more than US$70 million as initial funding for the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway project, Foreign Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan has disclosed.
For that development, citizens of Lofa County, through their Superintendent, Paramount Chiefs and lawmakers, have expressed their gratitude to the Government of Liberia (GOL) and the visiting Saudi and Kuwaiti team, who have gone to appraise the project.
Lofa County Superintendent, George Dunor, told government officials and the visiting delegation that every Lofa citizen was happy to receive the guests who had come to do the road assessment.
He stated that citizens have yearned for many years for the pavement of the main road leading to the county.
He and others spoke Friday, September 4, at the Joseph Franklin Walker (St Paul River) Bridge where the delegation had gathered with the citizens.
As the Lofaians’ tradition dictates, Supt. Dunor and others presented white kola nuts, a white chicken and a sheep to the visiting Kuwaitis and Saudis.
The road, he said is very important because Lofa used to be referred to as the nation’s ‘bread basket’. This is no longer the case due to the very deplorable condition of the road as farmers and marketers are not able to transport their products to the larger markets.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Lofa County Legislative Caucus, Representative Moses Kollie, said when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf campaigned for her second term, they told the voters in Lofa County that they should vote for her as she would work hard for the pavement of the road.
Representative Mariama Fofana added, “When this road is paved, it is going to have a major impact on the lives of everyone, especially ordinary Lofa citizens.”
The 280-km road begins in Gbarnga, Bong County and ends in Mendikorma, Lofa County.
Representing the officials of Bong County, including their lawmakers, Supt. Selena Polson Mappy said good road network has been a very huge challenge for this government. She told the visitors: “Your coming here today has raised the hopes of our people. You are coming to bring relief to us.”
For his part, Public Works Minister W. Gyude Moore reiterated that to connect all the counties’ capitals with two-lane paved roads, the government will need US$2.2 billion.
Because the Liberian government doesn’t have that amount of money, according to Min. Moore, at the onset of the regime, they decided to only pave three major roads that will connect the entire country.
He disclosed that, at the moment, the government is doing the road from Fish Town in River Gee County to Harper, Maryland County as part of the Tappita to Harper road project. He further stated that by September 2016, the Monrovia to Ganta road will be done, adding: “It makes sense now to begin the Gbarnga to Mendikorma road.”
Min. Moore, whose agency will be tasked with implementing the project, further stated that the presence of the investors was to continue a process, including the first feasibility study that was done of the same road. “Now they have come to do an assessment and discuss the technical details with us. When that part of the process is finished, we will do the best that we can, keeping within our own rules and their lending organizations to execute the road project on time.”
The Minister, however, stressed: “But the people of Lofa can be assured that this road, from Gbarnga to Mendikorma, will be paved.”
Earlier, Min. Moore praised Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, whom the people of Lofa refer to as their “Big Uncle,” for his involvement in the project.
According to him, the Vice President, who was set to make the trip had to change at the 11th hour, due to a call by President Sirleaf for him (VP) to attend a very important meeting.
The investors’ team leaders, Dr. Hisham Gaafar, Project Manager, Kuwaiti Fund and Mr. Mourad Bouaouina, OFID, spoke of their happiness for the warm gesture the people of Lofa showed them when they arrived at the bridge, which forms the boundary between Lofa and Bong.
Specifically, Dr. Gaafar said they were glad to provide assistance and the road will provide ease to get to all the health and other important facilities along it.
Also speaking, Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan said when he was Minister of Finance; he made several trips to Kuwait to discuss the cancellation of debts to initiate discussions with Kuwait Fund for Development for the pavement of the road. He, too, lauded the efforts of the
Vice President for his (VP’s) push for the project.
The Foreign Minister also thanked Finance and Development Minister Amara Konneh for exerting all efforts at getting the project on track.
“We are here today, because the Ministry of Finance under his leadership, has managed to put together a consortium of lenders, who have committed some of the money. It’s a huge sum of money that will be needed for phases one and two,” he stated.
He urged both Bong and Lofa citizens to cooperate with implementers when the project starts as properties directly in the work way would have be demolished, destroyed or uprooted.
Last May, Vice President Boakai disclosed that pavement of the road would begin next dry season and stated that the feasibility studies on the road have long been done and that its funding was provided by Kuwait.
He further stated that the entire road project will cost the Liberian government more than US$300 million. “That’s not money we have lying anywhere around here. But from the last discussion we had, it has become a priority road. So the President, Finance and Public Works Ministers and the Deputy Minister in the Office of the President who is responsible for coordinating all these kinds of projects, and I decided that come this dry season, we are going to make sure that the Gbarnga-Mendikorma road starts,” the VP stated.