By Alex Yomah
Scores of Liberian citizens under the banner “ Aggrieved beaches and waterways project workers” on Monday, June 15, 2020 took to the streets of Monrovia in demand of 21 month’s salaries that allegedly owed them by the Liberian government.
The aggrieved citizens who were seen marching through the principal streets of Monrovia with placards, inscriptions some of which said, “ We didn’t elect you to treat us like this-pay our 21 months salary” chanted anti-government slogan on Capitol By-pass and other corners of Monrovia.
The protesters, predominant of whom came from West Point, New Kru Town and other waterways communities and districts, attacked the Monrovia City Corporation Mayor, Jefferson Koijee who had gone to restore calm amongst them.
Attempts made by Koijee to appease the aggrieved workers was met by the angry protesters with anti-government slogan, while others threw jibes and booed the Mayor with allegations among many claims, that he[Mayor] also lied to them when he was asked to intervene.
One of the aggrieved protesters, Philip Smith, who was seen shedding tears in the downpour of rain due to the frustration and humiliation, explained his ordeal that he was doing that because he never expected of him today as a result of the government’s failure to pay his just salary.
Mr. Smith, who led a group of protesters chanting anti-government slogan in an interview with this paper said; “We will not listen the Lord Mayor to abort this protest because he lacks the moral rectitude to calm us”.
“We don’t want to listen to Koijee; we only want to see President Weah because Jeff Koijee and Zeogar all lied to us,” he said.
Smith alleged that Koijee put 6,000 people on the streets to do Covid-19 awareness, contact tracing and to date, the people have not taken pay for three months- “what is the moral he has to stop us from protesting when 6,000 workers are also planning to protest for their pay?”
Smith said prior to the protest , the group’s leadership engaged the Minister of Youths and Sports, Zeogar Wilson who is the custodian of this project on several occasions expressing disenchantment and plans to protest but, Minister Zeogar refused to listen instead, succeeded in separating them when he reportedly put aside few handful of CDCians not to protest, despite the 21 months’ pay owed them.
According to the protester, before taking the streets, “We engaged Mulbah Morlu; we engaged community leaders, and we engaged stakeholders of the party, including Representatives of the various parties of CDC to no avail”.
“We wrote the Ministry of Finance; we wrote the President’s office, the Ministry of Justice , the European Union and all embassies in Liberia telling them about our plight for government to give our money but they paid deaf ears to us,” he said.
Addressing the media in Monrovia by their leadership, the protesters expressed displeasure in the Weah-Taylor’s Administration especially Minister Zeogar Wilson and Monrovia City Mayor. The group claimed that the two men, despite repeated calls to them, failed to intervene.
Meanwhile; despite the serious embarrassment on Koijee by the protesters he still persisted in convincing them to remain calm.
Koijee who was blocked by the protesters to move from the downpour of rain managed to succeed in encouraging the leadership to present their petition to him [Koijee] so that he can onward present it to President Weah. He appreciated the protesters for their peaceful assembly, while assuring that their petition will be presented to Pres. George Weah for amicable redress shortly.
Meanwhile, addressing a team of reporters hours after the aggrieved Beaches and Waterways workers protest action, the Ministry of Youth and Sport (MYS) Minister, Zoegar Wilson admitted that the government through the MYS has accumulatively owed the aggrieved workers 21-month salaries and arrears, while accusing the project two regional coordinators, George Young and Edwin Kanneh for fraudulently increasing workers on the program’s payroll.
The country’s MYS Minister attributed the accumulative 21-month salary owed to financial and administrative improprieties, particularly against the two regional coordinators, George Young and Edwin Kanneh as well as the lack of funding by national government towards the program.
According to the MYS’s boss, prior to the aggrieved workers’ protest action, his office received several complaints from workers of the project alarming of the flooding of the payroll, the illegal creation of communities for the purpose of padding the payroll, and the illegal cutting of workers’ salaries among others – stating that based on the numerous complaints, an investigation was immediately launched which proved that the two regional coordinators, Mr. Young and Kanneh added about 2,183,000 unapproved workers on the project’s pay roll.
He further stated that amidst the huge discrepancies by their regional coordinators, they made available in the 2019/2020 budget year the sum of US$500,000 and some funding from the MYS budget – was able to do 9-month payments from November and December 2017, January, February and April of 2018, January and February 2019, as well as March and April of 2020, alluding, “In order to remedy the situation, we and the government have suggested to the Beaches and Waterways aggrieved workers a four-month arrears and salaries payment in the coming days, which they also agreed to.”