President George Weah has committed a lump sum amount for the burial of victims from the sunken marine vessel, Niko Ivanka, which resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen passengers on July 17.
The MV Niko Ivanka, before sailing with 29 passengers on board that day, was deemed unfit for sea travel by the Liberia Maritime Authority but the detention warning was ignored by an employee of the National Port Authority.
However, since the unfortunate accident happened a month ago, it was on August 17, that the President decided to console the shipwreck victims’ families by pledging US$100,000 for burial.
The President’s move also comes after he visited sites of the recent fire disasters, which occurred on Water Street, Central Monrovia and at the C.H. Rennie Hospital in Kakata, not just to assess the damages but to also commit the effort of his government to rebuild.
The Monrovia fire occurred after a fuel truck failed on upper Buchanan Street/Front Street and tumbled down a steep slope to Water Street and burst into flames destroying properties and businesses.
While the President responded swiftly to victims of the fire disaster, particularly business owners from the Front Street fire accident, it has taken about a month for him to publicly acknowledge the victims of the Niko Ivanka disaster.
At the end of an emergency disaster management meeting on August 17, a month after the shipwreck accident had occurred, President George Weah then instructed the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to provide US$100,000 for the burials of victims of the Niko Ivanka tragedy.
However, President Weah ended without any commitment from the President to visit the victims’ families to see the struggle some of them are going through. Rather, he instructed the relevant government authorities “to ensure that no vessel sails on Liberian waters without meeting international safety requirements.”
According to a statement from the Executive Mansion, “the President of the Republic is moving swiftly to address the devastating impacts of recent tragedies that hit the country.”
The statement added that the President “lamented the sporadic tragedies that have befallen Liberia in recent times, calling for swift action including the enforcement of policies that ensure compliance to save lives and properties.”
MV Niko Ivanka
The Niko Ivanka vessel set sail from the Freeport of Monrovia on July 17 but sank after a few hours. With 29 people on board, 12 were rescued while the rest perished. Corpses of most of the missing persons have not been found except five.
The Liberian-made ship was commissioned in 2018, and in a space of two years, it sank off the coast of Marshall City, about six nautical miles. It used to regularly sail between the Free Port of Monrovia and the Port of Harper with cargo. The capsized ship was permitted to only carry cargo, not passengers.
And after a prolonged period of red flags, the Liberia Maritime Authority on April 28, 2021, placed a detention notice on the ship, deeming it “not fit to go to sea.”
But that order did not deter one of the port workers, who allegedly released the vessel to sail with 29 passengers on board.
According to the NPA, the vessel was released unilaterally by the port’s pier supervisor, George McCay, thereby leaving management in the dark about his action.
“The Investigation discovered that George works as an agent of the sunken vessel, a conflict of interest situation which prompted him to take the decision without the approval of the Port Authority,” says NPA spokesperson Malcolm Scott recently.
Survivors of the Niko Ivanka had described their experience from the sunken vessel as a “horrifying” experience. They reported that about two hours after leaving, the ship began to take in water but, despite the sign, the captain insisted on sailing on the high sea.
According to them, the captain and his crew were the first to jump off the ship as it began to sink.
Meanwhile, the President has announced that he would lead government humanitarian efforts to help people and businesses affected by fire disasters.
The Liberian Leader also said his government would rebuild the C.H. Rennie Hospital in Kakata Margibi County, which was gutted by fire on Sunday, August 15, 2021.
The Liberian Chief Executive also frowned at unscrupulous citizens who reportedly went on a looting spree when C.H. Rennie was on fire. He mandated the joint security headed by the Liberia National Police to begin searching homes and other facilities in Margibi to retrieve materials and properties of the hospital that might have been looted.