Monday, June 19, 2023, reminisced the days of the Liberian civil conflict when Liberians took delight gluing to radio, principally the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to get latest news on fighting between and amongst belligerent forces around the country. Many private and public officials, towns and communities paused Monday, June 19, 2023, to listen to two prominent defenders and spokespersons of the Weah Government—Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. and Commissioner General of the Liberia Maritime Authority—who underscored and divulged the progress and achievements of Government since 2018. Primarily held at the state-owned Liberia Broadcasting System, the interview was simulcast on over 30 national and community radio stations and nearly 15 online outlets. As Liberians home and abroad paused and listened to what was being said, both Tweah and Nagbe dug deep into the CDC Government’s development reservoir affecting all sectors, regions and counties. The Analyst reports.
For recording the highest National Pavement Ratio “according to international statistics” since the country gained independence in 1847, President George Manneh Weah is regarded as “the only leader who delivered more paved roads to the country having inherited a mere 745 kilometers of road constructed between past leaders and former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when she left power in 2018 and took the number to 1,327 kilometers, an addition of 627 kilometers which more than double the pavement ratio of 5.7%”.
The assertion was made by Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah Jr yesterday when he addressed Liberians on the successes of President George Manneh Weah via media interview hosted by the ELBC/LNTV and relayed by several radio stations in the country.
Kick starting the discussion, the Commissioner General of the Liberia Maritime Authority(LIMA) said there are some unfounded scripts and insinuations on a number of road projects being undertaken, some of which have been completed around the country by President Weah and for waiting dedication.
Nagbe specifically mentioned Senator Prince Yormie Johnson who is currently in Nimba County “misleading the people that major roads such as the Ganta to Saclepia, Sanniquellie to Lamco roads are projects of the past administration under Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf”, insisting that the Senator was being on scoring cheat propaganda which the people of Nimba will not accept.
“In 2013 when the owner of Mittal Steel came to Liberia, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appealed to him for the road and he accepted to do the road but it was until the ascendancy of President Weah that seriousness was attached to the construction of the road.
“I can remember the President instructing Minister Tweah to make advanced payment on the project so as not to further delay the project and the Senegalese company handling the project move on site to commence the project”, Nagbe said.
Making some clarifications as to the source of funding of the project, Nagbe said the funding of the project is from the share of the money meant for the government which was agreed upon in the Mineral Development Agreement(MDA) which ArcelorMittal is obliged to remit to the government. He said the government in its wisdom told the concessionaire that instead of remitting the money to the government’s coffer, it should be used to construct the road.
“Yes, the idea of the road was conceived in 2013 but the question is why was it not built since 2013? The fact is when the President took over, the management of ArcelorMittal met him and the President insisted that even if nothing else was done by the company, that road must be constructed at all cost”.
“So it was the action and the pressure from the president that the road was done”
On the Ganta to Saclepea road, Nagbe said he could remember that the groundbreaking of the road was done in December 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID but did not derail the project. He said it was part of the long stretch of Ganta to Zwedru Highway and when it eventually started, people in the Southeast of the country were protesting why it could not start from in the Southeast but in Nimba, which already has a number of road projects ongoing.
“The President told the people that doing the road in Sasstown or any part of Southeastern parts would have had very limited impact in terms of the number of people using the road and even starting it in Zwedru would have created a serious mobilization problem”, Nagbe said.
The LIMA boss who spoke extensively on the ongoing road project, apparently being a key player in the previous regime and had all the information on projects initiated by the government at the time, also found time to address the Lofa road issue, especially on who should take the credit.
He said he was aware of how the project was conceived and the commitment of the donors from the Middle East to undertake the project subject to the government fulfilling its own financial obligation after the donors had secured the funding. He said one of the conditions put forward by the donors was that the government should take responsibility for paying the resettlement benefits of owners of properties, farm lands among others will lose their possessions to the construction.
“We are aware of the funding from the Middle East to the previous government but it was due to the unlocking of the conditions by President Weah that the Lofa Road project took off. Government paid money to pay off the people whose properties were demolished or destroyed along the route”, he said.
For his part, Minister Tweah who said he was part of the authors of the constraint analysis on Liberia’s infrastructure, said President Weah attaches serious concern to fixing the roads as a way of fast tracking the general development of the country. He said emphases are being placed on building roads around corridors that bring further economic advancement of the people such as the location of massive agriculture and other major economic activities that go along it.
He said road connectivity is attached to other sectors of the economy like agriculture when some funds meant for the Ministry of Agriculture are being channeled to construction of feeder roads or farm to market roads to enable farmers bring their produce to market.
He said though funding remains a major challenge in the sector, the government is working with its development partners as well as the government finding a different and realistic funding window to step out the pace of road construction in the country.
He said funding for all the major roads in the Southeast has been sourced and just the matter of time to complete the process and the projects will commence.