Trust Not Their High-Sounding Pledges, for They Will Not Do for Us What They Cannot Do for Themselves

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Barely a week since the Daily Observer in its August 6, 2020 editorial drew attention to predatory arrangements and practices in Liberia’s fishing sector, under the headline, “LIBERIA CANNOT CONTINUE TO A “HOBO JOE”, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”, the Environmental Justice Foundation( EJF) has expressed concern over what it has described as an upsurge in illegal fishing activities in Liberian territorial waters which, according to the organization, is encouraged and abetted by the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NFAA) under the leadership of Madame Emma Metieh Glassco.

According to the EJF, the arrival in country recently of six (6) Chinese-owned Super Trawlers capable of raking over 12,000 tons of fish a year has sparked outrage amongst local artisanal fishermen who fear that their livelihood and access to food (fish) will be threatened by the activities of these vessels.

Liberia is already locked into a fishing development arrangement with the European Union (EU) that provides EU fishing trawlers mainly from Spain and France to harvest tuna species in Liberian territorial waters. Alongside this arrangement is that reached with the Senegalese government that will allow over 300 Senegalese fishing boats to fish in Liberian territorial waters all at the detriment of local artisanal fishermen.

Now with the arrival of these Chinese owned Super Trawlers, the supply of fish on the local markets is more likely than not to be reduced further as is being experienced currently where the price of fish on the local market has gone up and where availability can be in short supply many a time.

What all this suggests is that the country’s future is again being mortgaged by unscrupulous public officials whose insatiable appetites for money and their greedy quest for wealth knows no limits. And it appears that it is being encouraged from the very top.

Given the lack of transparency in these arrangements, the public is left to speculate on who are those officials behind this latest scheme to allow Chinese Super Tankers to fish in Liberian waters. Whether this was achieved through an Executive Order or through the passage of legislation remains unclear.

However, the NFAA has remained mum on the issue. Whatever the case, the public has a right to know about these arrangements that the NFAA is making at the detriment of the Liberian people. But the Legislature has the duty and responsibility to at least ask questions and, if they are not doing so, then the Liberian people deserve some explanations for such inaction and remiss of duty.

What this means is that rather than having fish on the dinner tables of Liberian families at very reasonable and affordable prices, the fish is now finding its way to European and Asian markets for higher value and for which in return, Liberia receives little or nothing.

Considering the harsh reaction of President Weah and his Minister of State Nathaniel McGill to the EPA Managing Director’s signing of a US$20 million contract with an environmental group, the public is inclined to think that similar action or at least attention should be drawn to the NFAA and its head who have signed these agreements beginning with the arrangement with the Senegalese government and now with the obscure owners (possibly criminals) of the Chinese Super Trawlers.

Are the signatures of the Justice and Finance Ministers affixed to the Senegalese and Chinese Super Trawler contracts, for instance, and why have the details not been publicly disclosed? If the signatures of both Ministers are indeed affixed, then the next question is whether those agreements have been ratified by the Legislature. If not, what is the Legislature doing about it — nothing?

But the Liberian people deserve better. Corruption in Liberia currently can be likened to what used to be called in Liberian football parlance, “last five minutes, you miss the ball don’t miss the bone”, meaning anything goes to stop your opponent even if it means the breaking the leg of an opponent. It is a moment of desperation so to speak.

And our public officials are doing everything to reinforce that impression. Everybody appears to be hustling and are doing so without any regards for rules. Today’s prosperous investor could be tomorrow’s bankrupt businessman; and so it goes.

Why has National Housing Authority head Cecelia Cuffy Brown’s recent signing of a housing concession with a Burkinabé company received no reproach from government although the signatures of the Ministers of State and Finance are not affixed to the contract? This is another typical example of playing without rules.

President Trump’s nominee, Michael McCarthy, to replace outgone US Ambassador Christine Elder, has reportedly told Congress that he plans to tackle corruption as a major priority if confirmed. This statement suggests that the US government is indeed aware of the pervasive levels of corruption in Liberia under this government

Welcome news indeed, but can those words be trusted in light of recent experience involving the missing L$16 billion and the US$25 million infusion? USAID hired Kroll to investigate the case of the missing L$16 billion and the corruptly handled US$25 million infusion exercise but produced a report which fell short of public expectations to name those officials involved in the scam.

Instead, Kroll attributed it to lapses even after CBL Governor Patray denied access to Kroll to do a physical count of money held in its vaults.

In view of this, Ambassador McCarthy’s statement should be taken with a pinch of salt. They will do for us what they cannot do for themselves. Were Liberians not told the US would support the implementation of TRC recommendations on the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court? Can the Ambassador begin by revisiting the Kroll report? Doubtful!

Also, have the killers, known to US authorities, of the 5 American nuns been brought to justice, even though US forces have since taken out the likes of Osama Bin Ladin, Al Baghdadi and others?

Perhaps in their consideration the lives of the 5 nuns do not matter. Any wonder why?

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