Showing Leadership In Catastrophe -Speaker Koffa Empathizes With Other Fire Victims -Says Growing Fire Pandemic Wakeup Call for Action

MONROVIA: Ruinous fire incidents in the country, particularly in the first quarter of this year, has been a cause for concern amongst citizens. In fact, while others, mainly the Christian community, are resorting to divine intervention, holding tarries and fast-and-prayer sessions, some are petitioning “Old Men Musas” or “Molley Men” to check it out in their mirrors to see if the rampancy and calamitous nature of the situation in the country has anything to do with some curse upon the nation as a result of the advent of the Boakai administration, as others think. Amid all the uproar and apprehensions, there is one fact: dreadful fire outbreaks are not stopping at all; they are spreading at epidemic proportion from one home to another, from ordinary citizens to the elite. The latest victim is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jonathan Fonati Koffa, whose plush residence in one of the country’s elite communities fell to the fire pandemic. As The Analyst reports, the House Speaker is not letting the disaster wane his spirit, as he has been reacting to the situation with a lion’s heart, and with empathy for those who had suffered it before him.

The roaming fire monster charring and decimating private and public properties and leaving dozens of Liberia homeless has got a new prey. He is third in Liberia’s constitutional or political succession, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, J. Fonati Koffa.

The unfortunate incident took place Sunday evening, nearly completely bringing down his arguably gorgeous residence near the homes of President Joseph N. Boakai and former President George Manneh Weah.

Since late last year and up to the end of the first quarter of the year, dozens of Liberians have suffered fire disasters, some losing their lives and all their properties.

In the space of two months, Speaker Koffa is the second lawmaker to fall prey to the roaming fire pandemic, the first being Montserrado County Senator Saah H. Joseph who reportedly escaped the version of the devastating fire incident at the skin of his teeth.

Eyewitnesses say the Grand Kru representative also barely survived the fire incident, torpedoed out of the house in underwear, meaning not a pin he would get out with.

Firefighters were two hours late when they arrived at the home of the Speaker.

Despite the setback occasioned by the fire outbreak that gutted his house, the House Speaker put up a stoic stand yesterday, Monday, April 15, 2024, to speak on his ordeal.

He told newsmen he and his family were temporarily homeless, and was not inclined to give premature credence to conspiracy theories in the public sphere about the incident.

“I do not want to overly speculate but will wait for the outcome of the investigation,” he said during a press conference yesterday in answering a reporter’s question based on rumors that it could have been an arson attack.

Perhaps in an attempt to empathize with hundreds of underprivileged people who also suffered fire incidents in the country and while sending the blame squarely on the ruling elite, including himself, Mr. Koffa drew in a line from President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address.

“If a free society cannot protect the many that are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich,” he said, and added: “We are officially homeless, the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, Blessed be his name.”

Giving a bit of details on what happened, the House Speaker said: “Unfortunately, last night, my family and I experienced a devastating fire incident at our home. In the past few months, many Liberians have been experiencing devastating fire, some have lost their lives but fortunately nothing happened to any of my family members. I am grateful to God for that.”

He continued: “These incidents are not confined to certain group or certain class of people. Until we fix our broken system, until we do those things necessary to help our people, we cannot save ourselves.”

Rounds of Emotional Support

Mr. Koffa told the press that he has been receiving tremendous support from people of different backgrounds since the incident occurred.

He said President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, upon hearing about the disaster, called him from Bomi County where he had gone and they spoke for about 20 minutes. He also divulged that the First lady, Mrs. Boakai, called and spoke to him and his wife, Mrs. Koffa.

Speaker Koffa also said former President Weah was one of the first dignitaries who came around physically to identify with him.

According to him, the former president offered the Koffa family a house which is just nearby in the neighborhood.

“My special heartfelt thanks go to former President George Weah, who not only willingly gave his home to us temporarily along with three suitcases of clothes so that “we can manage and get to do what we have to do.”

Speaker Koffa said a throng of his colleagues were in their numbers, along with ordinary Liberians, arrived at his residence when fire was raging.

“We had a quorum last night when more than 37 lawmakers appeared at the scene to identify with us,” he further said.

“These incidents are not confined to certain group or certain class of people; until we fix our broken the system, until we do those things necessary to help our people, we cannot save ourselves”.

As a self-consolation and a way to console other victims of fire, he said life was more important than material things lost in the inferno.

Representative Koffa said: “Those are material things. They will be replaced. But thank God that there was no life was lost”.

He also spoke of goodwill messages that came from the ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, Madam Josephine Nkrumah and other diplomats accredited near the capitol who were equally touched about the incident.

The Speaker said when the incident occurred, his security told him to move into safety with his family and they obliged without taking anything else from the house and that even the T-Shirt he had on as the fire was blazing was given to him by a neighbor.

The Speaker rejected insinuations in other quarters that his house was gutted by fire due to substandard wire used in the house.

He told reporters the cause of the fire is still unknown and that a friend of his, who is an insurance investigator based in the United States of America, would be travelling down to Liberia to assist with investigation just as the Liberia National Fire Service has commenced investigation to unravel the cause of the fire outbreak.

Responding to a follow up question whether there could be a link with some individuals who may not be happy with the way the Speaker guided the process for the Resolution on the War and Economic Crimes, Speaker Koffa said while he did not want to speculate on such, if that could be the handiwork of people who may be after him then that is not the right option.

“Well, I don’t know and I don’t want to overly speculate on things. Nothing will stop this Legislature from doing the Liberian people’s work or doing what we believe in our own conscience we should do on behalf of our people,” he said.

“Now, if you want to stop us from doing that by burning people’s houses, that is not the solution. So, I do not want to speculate on this kind of thing. The investigation is on to determine what went wrong,” Speaker Koffa said.

He however said there have been some threats since the crusade for the establishment of WECC but “I have not confided in anyone about receiving threatening messages. Yes, I have received threats but I don’t think I have confided in anyone.”

Speaker Koffa also used the occasion to highlight the importance of strengthening the fire service agency to deliver time tested services to the people.

“I am not a fire professional,” he said, “but the response time to come to my house was about two hours. They came unprepared, though they were gallant to do the job as they could.”

He also paid tribute to the fire team from the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), which he said also did extremely well.

“There was another private service. Hon. Musa Hassan Bility had a private service that did extremely well. These two groups, though they came late, they did extremely well,” he admitted.

“I think we need to have a professional system on how we arrange response time to fire in our various neighborhoods,” he further noted. “Maybe, we need to do a study to develop that kind of system that can be able to respond to fire incidents on time. We need to have a plan backed by professionals on how to solve these things.”

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