In recent times, there are mounting public outcries about some unscrupulous individuals looting the newly installed streets lights in Monrovia and its immediate environs. Up to press time, no report of the arrest and subsequent prosecution of anyone or groups that are suspected to be involved in such act of illegality and economic sabotage.
In 2012, former Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods expressed his disappointment over the way newly constructed state facilities were being vandalized or looted allegedly by some unscrupulous people during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
At that time, those non-patriotic citizens and criminals took away some pillars and metal steels including electrical wires constructed on the newly rebuilt ‘Waterside’ bridge which is lying over the Mesurrado river. The materials were removed against the development initiatives of the government, something the then minister condemned in the strongest terms.
Again, as the George Weah administration strives to harness development, the looting scheme has resurfaced with the newly installed streets lights being carried away by criminal minded individuals. These hooligans are now removing screws and metals that are barracking the poles for selfish gains.
To put it succinctly, criminals are busy undermining the efforts of the state as it was done during the administration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Although it has not been proven as to whether or not such brazen act of stealing from the state is the work of some unscrupulous scrape dealers and their foot-soldiers or marauding criminal gangs, such behavior uncivilized and totally unacceptable.
However, Liberia’s past interim administrations issued permits to some Liberians who pleaded with the erstwhile interim regimes to dispose of metal materials and abandoned damaged vehicles from the principal streets and residential areas after the country’s back-to-back and decade-long civil war.
Indeed, the scrape operational permits were not meant for any scrape dealers to vandalize state facilities. This is why we think that the legitimate leadership of the Crape Dealers Association of Liberia needs to be concerned and to collaborate with the Liberian government in identifying those who are involved in such act of criminality for possible prosecution within the ambit of the laws of the country.
Reports say the scrape business started when the late Dr. Nathaniel Richardson’s Geo Services pleaded with the defunct interim administration of the late Professor David Kpomakpor to remove certain abandoned metals from Bong Mines after the civil war.
Such business, it is gathered has enormous financial benefits, and as a result, more local and international scrape dealers have joined the enterprise. To make it abundantly clear, we are not in any way implying that members of the Scrape Dealers Association are the ones looting the street lights. Our cardinal concern is for the dealers association to team up with the Liberian government in arresting this ugly situation which is counter-productive to the nation’s reconstruction process.
Even though the scrap permit is meant for Liberians but Nigerians and Indians are now leading this scrape business and it has become a so-called bigtime venture, and has even extended to rural Liberia where major former concession facilities have been completely vandalized.
The continue ‘looting’ or vandalizing of the former Bong Mining Company (BMC) in lower Bong County, Liberian Mining Company(LMC) in Gbarpolu County, LAMCO in Yekepa, Nimba county among other infrastructures has made Liberia’s recovery programs very expensive for the post-conflict nation. The country’s main power facilities at White Plant, were also casualty of this systematic vandalism. It climbed the cost of the rehabilitation project to over US$200M, thus putting the country in huge financial squeeze to restore electricity.
It can be recalled that in 1999, former President Charles Taylor banned all scrape operations due to uncontrollable looting of major facilities by some unidentified unscrupulous scrape dealers, but following Taylor resignation, former interim Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant lifted the ban and since then looters are shielding behind scrapes to vandalize the country in the name ‘scrape selling’ and damaging new developmental facilities and infrastructures at the expense of the country.
The so-called scrape dealers have diverted from the permitted operations of taking away old and abandoned metal steel particles from the principal streets and in residential communities to vandalizing newly built road guides, bridge poles, electrical poles and wires, sewer tank covers, and among several others, which we think contravene the intent of scrape operations.
While we encourage jobs creation and employment of Liberians, we believe that some unscrupulous scrape dealers have gone beyond their scope of business by systematically looting state facilities especially these newly constructed developmental facilities, which is creating more economic problems and sending ugly omens to the country’s international partners who are collaborating with government to rehabilitate and develop Liberia.
To safe guide these ongoing development projects, we are of the view that the George Weah-led administration must take measures that would stop people from looting these facilities by firstly banning all scrape operations in Liberia.
Halting scrape operations temporarily, we believe would enhance security intelligence in determining who are the real looters of these newly constructed streets lights or any facilities mainly the newly built ones.
Without taking any proactive corrective measure, we are afraid that the situation may go out of hand as the government would continue to cry out and its efforts will also be veined as lootings would continue unabated.
What revenue scrape selling is bringing to the national budget, anyway for which the country is being vandalized?