A bill seeking to split Bong County into Upper and Bong Range Counties has been introduced in the Senate. Bong County is home to several ethnic groups. They include Kpelle, Mano, Bassa and Mandingo amongst which, the Kpelle constitutes the single largest group. It is a bill driven by greed and selfishness which will ultimately tend to undermine unity in Bong county. Under the Constitution, legislative power is vested in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
As enshrined in Article 34, the Senate in conjunction with the House is to act on the impeachment bill with the Senate sitting as jury after the preparation of an impeachment bill by the House. Senator Henry Yallah, the main brain behind the division of Bong, is quoted by our Senate correspondent, J. Burgess Carter, as saying, “The Kpelle are decent people, our conflict doesn’t last because we understand each other very well; our issue is not dividing us, and there is no seed of conflict except for us [politicians] who want to use that land and population in one bulk for power.
In fact, reconciliation will be moving smoothly.” If, as Senator Yallah claims, “there is no seed of conflict between and amongst the people of Bong County except for politicians who want to use the land and population together for power”, this newspaper is thus constrained to ask Senator Yallah just who are those politicians he has referred to? Is it for example the fault of the people of upper Bong County that they remain mired in poverty just as their counterparts in Lower Bong and the rest of the country?
Residents of Gbarpolu’s Gaingolala District, bordering Bong County Sanoyea District, have no motor roads in the entire district. The Bong County Technical College for example, whose construction should have been long completed to serve the needs of the ever growing population of Bong County, remains uncompleted to date despite substantial sums allocated for the purpose. Funds intended for the college have disappeared into the pockets of officials including Senators and Representatives, some of who have been linked to the misappropriation of those funds.
For the record, Senator Yallah served as Chairman of the Bong County Legislative Caucus from 2015 to early 2017. Under his watch as Chairman Thousands of dollars, representing about two-thirds of the construction costs were paid to a Chinese contractor for the purpose. Senator Yallah has yet to provide explanations as to why the Bong County Technical College is yet to be completed, particularly in view of the fact that he (Senator Yallah ) is reported to have negotiated and signed the extra US$3 million dollar addendum to the contract.
The contract for the construction of the college was signed on October 13, 2010 for a two-storey academic and administrative building of Dolokelen Gboveh Community College. According to audit reports, conducted by the Internal Audit Agency(IAA) even before the contractor had completed some required work on the building, an addendum was prepared to the contract which increased the cost from the initial US$3,210,150 to an astounding US$7 million, but the college still remains uncompleted today.
While the contractor was yet to perform some of the required work on the building and the county administration also defaulting on payment terms, a massive addendum to the contract was negotiated and signed on October 13, 2015; about five years after the signing of the initial contract. The addendum to the contract increased the contract amount to a whopping US$7 million, adding an additional US$3,210,150 to the initial contract amount. Current House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, former Montserrado County representative Kettehkumehn Murray and former House Speaker Alex Tyler were reported by the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) to be holding shares in the Chinese company contracted to undertake the construction of the college.
Just how have the people of upper Bong County, most of whom are mired in abject poverty, marginalized the people of Lower Bong County who are equally mired in abject poverty, is the question that Senator Yallah needs to answer; for his postulations are certainly not supported by facts. One issue being raised by the so-called advocates for the creation of a Bong Range county is that development is concentrated in upper Bong as compared to the lower region.
The Cuttington University and the Phebe Hospital usually referenced by the advocates for division were established not by the discretion of people of upper Bong, but through negotiations with the central government. How then do they become factors for marginalization? The Senator’s advocacy for division of Bong County while keeping his lips shut on the misappropriation that occurred under his watch, of funds intended for the construction of the Bong County Technical College is a mere sham intended to deflect criticism of his stewardship as chairman of the Bong Legislative caucus and evade calls for accountability.
What has he done to advance the interests of people of upper Bong let alone to speak of Lower Bong. What development for example have county officials of River Gee, Grand Kru, Rivercess and Gbarpolu carried to those counties since they became counties? Have the people of those counties not remained mired in chronic and abject poverty? This creation of new counties has only imposed salary and benefit burdens on national government as scores of officials doing nothing impactful are on payroll earning “free money”.
We only hope and pray that the Legislature will reject Senator Yallah’s proposed bill as such will only tend to fuel division and create feelings of animosity which will benefit no one but a few greedy individuals.. Finally, Senator Yallah must realize that he and others will have to account for what amounts to virtual theft of funds intended for the construction of the Bong County Technical College not withstanding his misguided and selfish advocacy for the division of Bong County.