Today’s editorial is informed by a story carried in the June 19, 2019 edition of the Daily Observer headlined “UYPETDL Frowns on MCC’s New Waste Management Strategy”. According to the story written by Daily Observer business reporter David Yates, a local youth group has frowned on the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC)- for its newly introduced garbage collection policy which according to the head of the United Youth for Peace, Education, Transparency and Development in Liberia (UYPETDL)Timothy Kpeh is putting ordinary Liberians out of work.
The MCC has recently launched what it calls a new waste management initiative styled the “house-to-house garbage collection”. Sources say under the new “Weah for Clean City” initiative MCC garbage collectors will go from house to house daily to remove garbage for which residents will be required to pay a monthly fee of not less than 500 US dollars monthly.
According to MCC director-general for Service Programs Abraham Garneo, “waste has become a threat to the health and safety of the residents of Monrovia. If proper action is not taken another dangerous outbreak of a disease like the deadly Ebola virus could erupt”.
Continuing he says “Liberia cannot afford to remain dependent on the goodwill, gesture and sponsorship of other nations to manage waste in this country. We the people must take charge and handle our responsibilities as is properly done in other countries”, although he did not name any country. However, he stressed the following: “The City Government of Monrovia will use the city utility levy to support the Weah of Clean City Program and keep Monrovia safe clean and green”.
But, according to Timothy Kpeh, under the scheme ordinary Liberians involved in the garbage collection business stand most to lose because they are estopped from earning income through the collection of garbage from private homes and businesses. Although it is not known just about how many persons stand to lose income because of the new initiative, it is suspected that the number could run into four-digit figures.
Accordingly, residents in District #7, District #8, District #9 and District #10 in Montserrado County are now required to pay waste management fees to MCC to have its collectors remove garbage from private homes and businesses.
But UYPETDL executive director, Timothy Kpeh, insists the MCC’s initiative, known as the “house-to-house garbage collection”, is putting out of work more ordinary Liberians who are involved in the garbage collection business. With unemployment topping the 70 percent mark and still climbing, people, ordinary people that is, must virtually scrounge for a daily meal. Private garbage collection which does seem to provide an alternative for hundreds is now under threat by the new initiative.
Thus, residents from District #7, District #8, District #9 and District #10 in Montserrado County are now required to pay fees(undetermined) for the waste management team of MCC to dispose of their garbage. The initiative is under the auspices of the “Weah for Clean City” program and it has targeted 36,000 homes out of 85,000 in the 10 Electoral Districts which have already been marked with MCC identity labels.
But residents and businesses are already complaining about what they say is the astronomical sums being charged by the MCC. A local Fula business woman (name withheld), for example, told the Daily Observer that MCC inspectors had harassed her to pay the amount of US$1,800 (one thousand eight-hundred US dollars) for her small provision shop.
She was however spared further ordeal by another MCC official, apparently of a higher rank, who intervened on her behalf and told the inspectors that their fees were very exorbitant.
Even private homes are being charged up to US$500 and above as monthly MCC garbage collection fees under the Weah for Clean City initiative. But already residents are expressing opposition to the initiative mainly for the astronomical fees being charged and the lack of appropriate guarantees for residents whose compliance with the scheme is demanded.
Further, MCC sources suggest that stationary garbage collection bins at roadsides and in communities shall no longer be placed on a permanent basis but shall be placed at market places instead where they will be maintained and monitored daily. MCC has also not provided any form of indemnity to subscribers to the scheme in case of default or MCC’s failure and or inability to remove the garbage.
Moreover, MCC’s May 1, 2019 directive ordering city residents to forthwith cease or cancel all existing garbage collection contracts with private service providers is tantamount to breach of contractual obligations for which a resident or business entity could become liable and be sued. Truth be told, MCC lacks the capacity to effectively remove waste daily from public dumpsites let alone from homes and businesses.
Mountain-like heaps of garbage all around the City of Monrovia, especially at market places tells an all familiar story — the current MCC leadership lacks the capacity and more so the innovation to adequately address Monrovia’s sanitation and solid waste management problems not to speak of chronic and rising unemployment particularly amongst youths, a demographic to which the Mayor of Monrovia belongs.
Additionally, MCC directive ordering all Community Based Enterprises (CBEs) and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to immediately desist from waste/garbage collection from homes and businesses and turn same over to the MCC forthwith is most inappropriate, virtually indistinguishable from blackmail and makes nonsense of President Weah’s pledge to not allow Liberians become spectators in their own economy.
That is the point underscored by Timothy Kpeh who said, “while we understand the challenges faced by the waste management sector, we strongly believe that government should muster the needed political will and opportunities for Liberians in the private sector to freely participate”.
He said MCC has allegedly brought in some foreign companies, while stopping Liberian-owned businesses from freely operating under the MCC. MCC’s communication department has however rubbished the claims. This newspaper nonetheless holds the view that the MCC must rethink its solid waste management strategy sooner than later.
Monrovia is indeed filthy and Mayor Jefferson Koijee appears dumbstruck, overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of “Monrovia’s Pepper Kinjah”.