Thank you, members of the Fourth Estate, for responding to our invitation.
We have invited you today in fulfilment of your sacred duty to serve as a useful link between the public and the state machinery. It is also of compelling interest to us, members of the opposition community, to ensure that the excesses of government are kept in check in order to ensure that the benefits of democracy are delivered to our people. It is the realization of this that we have invited your presence to this press conference.
On the heels of critical national events and continued hardship being suffered by the Liberian people around the country, such as the rice shortage and the poor process of conducting our National Census, we continue to witness other acts of poor leadership, irresponsible behaviour, lack of concern, impunity and wanton misuse of our finances on the part of the President in the midst of hardship on our people.
As I speak to you, President Weah has left the country and will be away for the next seven weeks without any tangible explanation to the Liberian people for such a long stay abroad, visiting countries and meetings to which other government officials could have represented the country. It is needless to say that his long stay away from the country with no tangible reason is unprecedented in the history of the Liberian presidency. Of course, we are aware that president Weah’s presence and absence are the same, but at least with minimum effect on our financial resources.
So, it is fair to say that Liberia continues to drift like a rudderless ship on the open seas without a captain.
Fellow Citizens, Liberia’s major problem right now is the lack of leadership. The country is on autopilot and lacks direction because there is no trusted leadership to move the nation in the transformative direction that it deserves.
My Fellow Liberians, as noted earlier, the National Housing and Population Census preparation has been marred by controversies, characterized by outright corruption and lack of well-defined policies. Recently, we witnessed the hauling and pulling in a saga of stealing of money intended for the Census by corrupt officials at the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), the government agency responsible for collecting national data and conducting the National Census. Imagine the Census, which by law must be conducted every ten years, has not been conducted since 2008. The census should have been conducted in 2018, but the Weah/CDC-led government was not prepared to do so, and seem not prepared for it to be done.
After many delays, the National Census was scheduled to begin last Friday, November 11, 2022, a day that was declared a national holiday. At least two important questions come to mind:
(1) Is LISGIS really ready to conduct a comprehensive National Census?
(2) Are the Cdcian staff who was hurriedly recruited and claimed trained able to efficiently and effectively collect the critical national data needed to set benchmarks and policies that will transform the development of the country?
Fellow Citizens, the haphazard partisan training, which was also marred by dissatisfaction, demonstrations and protests across the nation, points to the fact that the CDC-led Government has not realized the seriousness and critical nature of our National Census, as without these realistic empirical data, all planning for the country will be based on falsehood lacking the basis to make critical national developmental decisions.
It is not surprising that before the actual counting of citizens begins, it is already allegedly reported on the eve of the Census that the Deputy Director-General for Statistics and Data-Processing of LISGIS, G. Alex M. Williams, (now dismissed) has predicted that the National Census exercise will be a ‘flop,’ and a banner headline on one of our local newspapers has screamed out: Enumerators to boycott the census. The question then is, what action does the president contemplate against the Board Chair of LISGIS, Finance Minister Samuel Tweh and others implicated in this census saga? Was it not the advice of Mr. Tweh to the President that everything about the census was on course that prompted the declaration, by the President, of a Census Holiday on Friday, November 11, 2022? So, what are we to believe here, that the President is serious? Certainly not!
Because the acts of gross mismanagement and unaccountability of budgetary funds at LISGIS, I believe such corrupt acts have undermined the process that is very crucial to the nation and to our partners for national development purposes. However, while I doubt that the process of counting citizens around the country will be done efficiently, we want to encourage citizens to cooperate when it happens that they can be counted.