Building on other people’s property, in streets and alleys throughout the country or on lands belonging to government is a very common thing in Liberia.
For example, a certain prominent Liberian, especially during the Taylor administration, built a huge concrete house on someone else’s property. But while he was yet digging his foundation, people came to him and advised him to stop, because the land belonged to an older Liberian with many children. But this Taylor official refused to listen and continued until he completed his huge one story structure. Now the matter is in court and the family is insisting that he ‘carry’ his house since they do not want it—they only want their land. This precisely is the theme of this Editorial—Dishonesty and Indiscipline Lead to Disaster and Tears.
Even the Daily Observer, believe it or not, has itself become a victim of this. Before we acquired our new Paynesville property, our bankers required a complete survey of the premises. We did, and all the neighbors confirmed the seller’s ownership of the land. There were woodworkers (mostly carpenters) occupying part of the premises, who paid the caretaker ‘something’ monthly.
When the Daily Observer moved on the premises, the woodworkers continued to occupy the unused part of the land. Then they surreptitiously (secretly, stealthily) built a concrete structure on the land and installed a machine in it. When they were asked who gave them the permission, they replied, “a man behind the property.” We called the Police, and the woodworkers admitted their wrong, begged and apologized. The Police Officer told them NOT to operate that machine until they had settled with the Observer management, and they respectfully agreed.
But that is how people get into trouble—trouble entirely of their own making; and when the day of reckoning comes, they lose everything they had built without authority, sometimes even their belongings, and begin to cry. Who is to blame but themselves?
Is that not what happened recently to the squatters in Fendall and to those in Point Four on Bushrod Island on Monday?
We all know that we Liberians are a very undisciplined people. That is why we have serious difficulties at work, whether in a public or private sector. We have heard many lamentations about Liberian contractors who have gotten paid to construct people’s buildings, but failed to perform. What should have taken a few months takes years; and sometimes the project is never completed.
Look at how many of our people working for government perform on the job. In all too many GOL offices the workers demand “lunch” or “cold water” before they can push a piece of paper from one desk to another. That is why there is so much corruption in government. And the foreign businessmen know this only too well, and that is why most of them have no respect for Liberians. These business people know that all GOL people want is money and the business people can get anything they want.
Our indiscipline is endemic (common, widespread) and we carry it everywhere. Do we know how many Liberian accountants and lawyers, in positions of responsibility even in the United States, have fallen from grace to grass because of dishonesty and indiscipline?
Why put up a structure of whatever kind, even a mat or zinc one, in an alley or a street, when you know fully well it is wrong? Why build on someone else’s property when you know it will, sooner or later, come back to bite you?
They say fences make good neighbors. How true! For if one builds a fine home on, say, an acre of land, or even on a lot, and leaves some space, without fencing it, then leaves the country for an indefinite period, when he/she returns people would have built on the vacant places and insist that they “bought it” from somebody. Somebody who? When the squatter knew fully well he or she was building on someone else’s land.
That is what happened to the people in Fendall, to those near the old premises of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, to those in Point Four and even to those who built on the Ducor Intercontinental Hotel land on Snapper Hill.
And when the government deems it necessary to develop the alleys, streets and highways in the middle of which people have built, they cry foul, demanding “compensation” and “relocation”. They also demand time to move—time that will never be enough!
We hope that the people of Point Four will understand that Mary Broh is only doing her job. And we all know that she is a woman of ACTION, who takes NO NONSENSE from anyone.
Our people have got to learn to be honest and disciplined, otherwise they (indeed we) will always be in trouble.