MONROVIA – In continuation of her nationwide tour, which began in Grand Gedeh County, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor took the second leg in Nimba County where she received a rousing welcome from the citizens and residents.
The VP’s tours are intended to have series of interactive sessions with citizens across the country.
Citizens of Nimba presented the traditional kola nut and proceeded to the Saclepea Town Hall where an indoor program was held.
She extolled the worth of the citizens of Nimba County, which she described as their spirit of hard work, progressivism and strong business acumen.
He challenged them to work towards turning these values into wealth that will benefit them and not just waiting for government to lead the way for them.
Vice President Taylor made the assertion on Friday, September 23, 2022 when she addressed hundreds of citizens in Saclepea, Nimba County during an interactive session with the local people.
The Vice President offered unreserved apology to the people who had a day before turned out in their numbers to welcome her but waited for endless hours up to the evening and could not make the trip due to the very deplorable road condition on her way from Grand Gedeh County.
She stressed that it was good she travelled the road to have a firsthand information and experience the untold human sufferings citizens go through on a regular basis.
“First of all, I want to say sorry for last night. We got through with Tappita and we sent our advanced team ahead but there was a truck stuck in the middle of the road. We had to get it out before we could leave,” she told her ordeal to the citizens.
She continued: “So I thought to find out who was on the road because as long as the preliminary things are being done, I think something has to be done. I think the Superintendent will have to be on the road to allow our people to go back and forth. It is too difficult for our people. For the fact the company already has the equipment; how much does it take to just grade the road so that the people will move easily. I think it is something that has to be considered so that the companies, the three companies on this road all the way from Ganta to Zwedru. In fact on the Grand Gedeh side, it is even worse. We left from Ganta around 7 0’ Clock and we got to zwedru almost 2’ O’Clock in the morning.”
VP Taylor said it was good she made the trip.
“We have to call some of the contractors that are here to put a grader on the road. I mean I felt too sorry, women and children were struck in the mud that they could not move,” she lamented the bad road condition.
After listening to the citizens with keen attention, the Vice President took to the podium amid cheers from the audience which comprised various groups, among them partisans of the ruling CDC, youth and women groups, traditional leaders, business owners, among others.
Responding to concerns of the locals, beginning with youth and women empowerment, Madam Howard Taylor said greater emphasis for empowerment should be placed on providing the means of generating income with special focus on agriculture value chain, especially processing of food as the best way to increase the value of the agricultural products from farms.
She said processing of agricultural products could be learned from simple skills garnered through TVET education which she identified as a bedrock of rapid socio-economic growth and development powered by a resilient citizenry, especially the youth and women.
The Vice President told the audience that she has always admired the products from the farmers from Nimba county, describing them as the best she has ever seen in the country.
She mentioned the Superintendent of Bong County whom she said can bear her witness of how she has always appreciated the quality of products from the Nimba farmers as can be seen in major markets in the country especially in Monrovia.
“So I want to make a suggestion,” the VP said. “With all the food coming from Nimba, our problem is we are not processing them. And if you want to make more money, processing is the best option. If you bring your bitter balls from the market, after three days they become rotten, but you will be surprised to note that anytime you travel, you find Liberian food on the shelf but very small in quantity. The first time I went and saw palm butter abroad in the can, I looked at it to ask where it was from, and I was told it was from Ghana.
“We could do better than what I saw. That is the processing I am talking about,” VP Taylor said.
Madam Howard Taylor said the TVET education in Liberia could be expanded and taken into consideration the requisite programs that will add value to the agriculture sector such as providing training and skills that will expose students to learn how to fabricate machinery for processing and preservation of agricultural products in order to increase the value of the products.
On the high cost of education that has made a good number of students to be out of school this academic year, VP Taylor expressed deep concern that such a situation will occur and lamented that this is happening at the time the government was trying to alleviate the plight of students and parents.
She recalled that government has been undertaking initiatives such as payment of WASSCE and tuition free education at the higher institutions of learning.
“This is unfortunate but then again it all boils down to the means of empowerment I was talking about,” she continued.
“When parents are productively engaged in a small way possible to raise income, they can be able to send their children to school with just minimum efforts to complement what the government is already doing, with the payment of WASSCE fees and the tuition free initiative at the higher institutions,” Chief Taylor further noted, adding: “The government is not relenting to provide the means to have school going children in schools because they are our future leaders.”
While speaking on the scarcity of teachers in the various public schools in the county, she said for Nimba County, a region blessed with so many educated people, the availability of teachers should not be any problem.
“The reason our parents send us to school is for us to come back and help,” she stressed.
“If people come from different parts of the country to teach here or work at the hospital, then the problem could be that we could not go home. It is not a bad idea to know where our children are learning. It is sad that we could not help ourselves. Government will do its own but citizens have to do theirs as well.”
She said it is unfortunate that a lot of students leaving high school every year end up entering higher institutions without the necessary career orientation and as the result of that they go into disciplines that offer them no opportunities for employment thereafter.
According to VP Taylor, every course in the university is important but not all courses offer the jobs one needs after your graduation.
“If there will be a vacancy for an accountant at Mittal Steel, it could be just one or two but going for disciplines that offer you skills enhances your chances of landing a job worth your education,” she urged the youth in attendance. “That is why we must put emphasis on skill acquisition through TVET education to solve the unemployment problems in the country.”
Interacting further with the Nimba citizens, Dr. Taylor said: “Under our decentralization policy, we are saying since the other place has a community college, we will want that the TVET institution be established on this side so that our young people will learn trades and skills that will help them find jobs and also be employer of labor”, Madam Taylor said and received standing ovation from the audience especially the youth.”
Touching on women empowerment, VP Taylor said the government is devising a new way to assist rural women who are interested in going into business but that this will not be through individuals.
She said it will require that the women to form groups through which funds will be channeled in the form of a revolving fund managed by the group where individuals will borrow from the fund that will be managed by themselves and with time each one in the group would benefit.
She said to make it successful, women have to design new ways of doing things, strive to be innovative as time is changing.
“We have to be thinking like the foreigners in our midst who come in this country without anything and in a short time, they are successful people,” the Liberian Vice President said.
“Like I was talking about processing products, you could learn how some Ghanaian women use innovation to package their products to increase their market values. You have to embrace change and apply new things to your businesses.”
In apparent reference to the Christian community who were asking for the construction of a Christian center, she said the construction of centers could be some form of innovative ways private individuals and institutions could invest to make money wherein the said center could be commercialized.
“There is nothing wrong with individuals or groups or institutions for that matter putting resources in the construction of town halls with various components such as shops , open halls , offices that could be rented out or people come for use and they pay.
“This is an innovative way to make money and empower yourselves. Not all the time the city hall will be free. At times the local government wants to use it at the same time a church or any other group will want it as well but when they are not allowed to use it because the government had planned a program around the same time and want to use it, people will have a misgiving that the government is not allowing them to use it.”
Earlier, following the formal welcome formalities by the city mayor of Saclepea city, various groups including youths, women, marketers, traditional rulers, etc. had spoken and presented various requests to the government through the vice president to assist them with their respective appeal.
The Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs for Operations, Mr. R. Matenokay Tingban, himself a citizen from Nimba County, accompanied the Vice President.
In his short remarks, he explained the rationale of the visit of the country’s Second Citizen was to provide the enabling environment for the citizens to freely interact with the government through the VP; to express their concerns and requests and jointly discuss the issues raised with the sole intention of providing solutions to them.
He said the VP, whom he described as a “woman of virtue, knowledge, foresight, experience, wisdom and education”, was in the right position to hold talks with the citizens and together they can make progress on whatever concerns they may have.
He said such engagements were necessary all the time because they are the right channels to bring government to the level of the people.
Chief Saye Barlon who spoke on behalf of the traditional rulers and elders wholeheartedly welcomed the VP and delegation.
He said though as traditional rulers they are not supposed to be involved in party politics, but nothing stops them from supporting any candidate of their choices and therefore they have made up their minds to support the re-election bid of President Weah a Madam Taylor.
Also speaking was Superintendent Nelson Korquoi. He thanked the Vice President for her visit and assured her of the warm hospitality from the citizens throughout her stay.
He made a summary of the requests from the people, among which was for the government to look at the poor state of infrastructure in the county such as schools , health centers, market building as well as youth and women empowerment etc.