Rep. Jurry Rallies Support for Census ‘Postponement’

The lawmaker, P. Mike Jurry of Maryland County District #1

... “Liberia is one of the wettest countries in the world, with the heaviest rainfall occurring from May to October. The country’s average annual rainfall is relatively high, nearly exceeding 2,500 millimeters (mm),”  the lawmaker said. “Rainfall is highest along the coast but decreases towards Liberia’s interior plateaus and low mountains, where average rainfall reaches approximately 2,030 mm per year.”

A lawmaker from Maryland County has begun rallying his colleagues to shoot down the conduct of the 2022 census this year, citing the October rainy season as an obstructive factor.

The lawmaker, P. Mike Jurry of Maryland County District #1, is expecting to see his motion for reconsideration, which calls on lawmakers to change their thoughts on having the census conducted this year, voted on today.

The motion is however expected to be shot down as many lawmakers, the Daily Observer has been told, would not change their decision to concur with the Senate to conduct the country’s first digital Census from October 24 to November 7, 2022.

But this has not changed Jurry’s core argument that the census needs to be postponed, believing that if the census goes ahead on its proposed date, it would be unrealistic to count everyone in Liberia, affecting the “results”.

Jurry, in his communication, which is expected to be debated today, begged his colleagues to reconsider their decision, considering that October is "during the rainy season," which might impact the smooth movement of the census enumerators as well as public participation.

“Liberia is one of the wettest countries in the world, with the heaviest rainfall occurring from May to October. The country’s average annual rainfall is relatively high, nearly exceeding 2,500 millimeters (mm),”  the lawmaker said. “Rainfall is highest along the coast but decreases towards Liberia’s interior plateaus and low mountains, where average rainfall reaches approximately 2,030 mm per year.”

“Southern areas of the country receive rain year-round, while the rest of the country experiences two seasons due to the West African Monsoon. The wet season typically occurs in the summer months between May and November, with average temperatures of 25°C.”

“Beginning November, the rain starts to subside and ushers in the dry season. Conduct of the census in October, which is the peak of the rainy season, has the propensity for the best results not to be obtained due to the following reasons: All the rivers definitely overflow their banks and movements to cross anywhere and everywhere over the rivers become highly risky.  There are no bridges on most rivers at crossing points on rivers in southeast Liberia and thus, enumerators not being able to cross the rivers will become deterrents to obtaining optimal results of the census.”

The Maryland County lawmaker’s argument had been an issue the Senate considered when it voted in June to postpone the October 2022 national housing and population census to March 2023. 

The issue of the October rains was something that influenced the Senate decision then but, in a reverse vote last week, the plan was reversed. 

This was a result of a leaked communication from the Census Steering Committee, which was backed by President George Weah, that the government was going to lose US$8.8 million if the census were to be postponed as planned by the Senate.

The letter noted that postponement would have caused the government to also seek the support of donor partners who are heavily funding the conduct of this year's census. 

“US$8,809,000 would be lost if the census is postponed, current donor partners may also find it difficult to bridge this gap if the census is held beyond October, which would jeopardize its conduct,” reads the leaked letter, which the Daily Observer has confirmed is authentic. “The Steering Committee observed that further postponement from October 2022, would have far-reaching consequences for the census project.”

“If the census is postponed to March 2023, the obligatory payments to census staff would be US$695,500. If the census is conducted in November 2022, staff costs would be significantly reduced to US$139,100, and if conducted in December 2022, the cost would be USS278,200.”

“Also, the Government of Ghana loaned Liberia 21,000 electronic data collection tablets and accessories, which are to be returned at the end of October 2022,” the letter said. “If the census is not conducted in October, Liberia would have to purchase its own electronic tablets at US$5,355,000. The delay associated with the long procurement lead time would also constrain census implementation.” 

However, Jurry, while coming across the Committee warning, noted that the monetary loss would not measure the long-term damage the census data will cause if it goes ahead.

He argued that the October census data would be unrealistic to meet the objective reasonableness of counting everyone in Liberia, citing the issue of hard-to-reach rural Liberians who will have limited movement due to the heavy downpour of rains, which means they would not get to get to assembly points to participate in the census. 

“The tablets and power banks from Ghana will be at risk during the peak of the rainy season. Any damage of the tablets and power banks due to exposure to rain will be a subsequent cost for the government to settle. Census enumerators will encounter all of the aforementioned challenges and thus the peak of the rainy season (October to the first week of November) will be a deterrent to obtaining optimal census results.”

The Maryland County lawmaker noted that the southeastern road networks, which are among the country’s major highways, lie in deplorable states and are nearly impassable. 

He noted that the conduct of the census in October, which is the peak of the rainy season, when the roads are impassable, “would impact the results obtained from the region as there will be limited free movement of vehicles and personnel to southeastern parts of the country and other regions of the country.”

“To deploy manpower and logistical support for the census will be challenging during the peak of the rainy season. International observers and other civil society organizations will have a serious challenge to monitor and track the census process.”

“From the information mentioned above about the nation’s rainfall data, to clear all reasonable doubts, to avoid imaginary doubts, to ensure data quality and data credibility, and to obtain optimal results of the conduct of the 2022 census from October 24 – November 7, 2022, I request that the census date be changed now to a more most suitable time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jurry has disclosed that he is not against the census but wants to capture its full objectives, which cannot be realized due to the rainy season, thus affecting the data needed to assess the socio-economic needs of the country and its population.