By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (P NW)
On last Friday, this paper carried a front page headline, captioned: “GASOLINE IN TOWN…MORE EXPECTRED THIS WEEKEND,” in which it quoted the Information Minister, Len Eugene Nagbe, of stating at the MICAT’s regular press briefing last Thursday that the Government of Liberia along with licensed gasoline importers was doing everything to ensure that several thousands of gasoline on tankers are brought into the country between Friday and Sunday of the same week from a neighboring country.
Addressing the MICAT’s regular Thursday press briefing in Monrovia, Minister Nagbe, among many things, expressed that the government regrets the situation of the gasoline shortage in the country but, was exerting all efforts in ensuring that it was resolved.
Apparently, coming in defense of Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh’s earlier statement that enough gasoline was in the country and that there that been no shortage at the time instead it was an artificial scheme, Minister Nagbe said that, that was because of the data given to him by the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC).
He said Minister Tarpeh cannot be accused of misleading the public but he assured that President George Weah had constituted a taskforce to investigate the matter and that the committee is expected to report to the office of the President this week Wednesday for prompt action.
The MICAT boss added that as a government who was voted to fix the many problems that had existed for decades, it should not give any excuses, emphasizing “It is our duty as government to provide the ambling environment for all citizens irrespective of your political affiliations therefore; we will fix this gasoline problem with immediate urgency.”
Meanwhile, Minister Nagbe also said that the government was expecting a ship with at least 12,300 metric tons of gasoline to be docked at the National Port Authority (NPA) at the just ended weekend which would have immediately been distributed to filling stations across the country and that it was also arranging with a ship from Lome, Togo for additional petroleum products which is expected in country within five days as of the date announced.
He said the products which were expected in the country at most on Sunday, February 16, would have served as a reserve in order to avoid the recurrence of the gasoline crisis that harshly hit the country few weeks ago. “Though we will still maintain the parallel systems for importers to import petroleum products but, we, as a government will be the guarantor to ensure that fuel will be in the country for every six months in terms of emergency and we will also establish a national reserve for all commodities that are essential to the citizens,” the MICAT boss averred.
Seeing this disclosure by the Chief Spokesperson of the government and in view of the tension building up because of the gas shortage, the editorial staff of this paper decided to make this its front page lead story; in other words, as its main story in the day’s publication. It was mainly intended to reduce tension and also to build hope in the people who were being frustrated having face undue difficulties because of the shortage of the said product.
Regrettably and disappointingly, this paper has come to realize that the promise or disclosure by the Minister that a quantity of the product was due last Thursday, is untrue and as there is absolutely “no showing,” as we say in law, of any such product arrival on the market as promised or stated by the Minister.
Indeed, this is unfair to us because our headline was so affirmative and that was because it came from the Minister, the government’s assigned spokesperson. And so to gather that this is not true is also embarrassing to us as a credible media institution.
However, as Managing Editor, I should have myself to blame as the one in the driver’s seat because some of the editors suggested that this headline goes with a “question mark” as this was not the first time that the government has given such assurance about the arrival of the product on the market, but I insisted, only to find out the CONTRARY.
In the first story with similar headline, the assurance came from the Ministry of Commerce, reportedly based on data from the Liberian Petroleum, Refining Company (LPRC). Days later, it was learned that this was not true. This led to lawmakers citing those authorities for ‘lying” to the Liberian people.
For me, as a student of Mass Communication, if this would be the MODUS OPERENDI of the government in interacting with the public through the media on such matter, this would definitely bring about serious confidence crisis or mistrust, whereby people would not believe whatever the government would say on issues of national concern.
In all fairness, whenever the issues of confidence, trust and believability become a problem, this does not augur well in building a symbiotic relationship between the people and their leaders. This is not circumscribed to national government only, but in all organizations. But in the case of a national government, it should be more serious because of its obligation to the people.
In other words, if the people cannot have confidence and trust in their leaders, this would be a recipe for not moving from backwaters to prosperity. Furthermore, this would be an antithesis to development and progress, and an attitude that is contrary to the PRO-POOR AGENDA FOR PROSPERITY AND DEVELOPPMENT.
As it is said that, “Experience Is The Best Teacher, so would it be with us whenever the government says something on national issue. This would be handled or received with high degree of skepticisms, misgivings and disbeliefs.
As I close, let me apologize to the reading public who has confidence in us, (The INQUIRER), for falling prey to these issues of lies from some higher ups in the government regarding this pervasive commodity. Even yesterday, this paper observed the visible shortage of gasoline at many of the filling stations.
As the Latin phrase says,“ ERRARE HUMANUM EST,” meaning “to err is human.” With God above, never again, will we fall prey to this. Like the late musician Prince Nicole said, let the government “Nil be Nil and Yes be Yes.”
I Rest My Case