CALDWELL, Montserrado – Ahead of the by-election in Montserrado’s 15th district, several residents in the district have named the lack of electricity, safe drinking water, roads, security and equipped schools as priority areas that must be addressed through their new representative.
Citizens of the district will go to the polls on July 2 this year to elect a replacement for fallen representative, Adolph Lawrence, who died in a tragic motor accident on the Robertsfield Highway in late March this year.
The district residents said even though they regret the death of Lawrence, his representation did not attract the needed development to all parts of the district.
Ibrahim Nyei, a classroom teacher who lives in Caldwell, said residents of the district continue to be in perpetual darkness, even though the district plays host to the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant that is providing electricity to Monrovia.
He wants the incoming representative to prioritize advocacy with the Liberia Electricity Corporation for it to extend electricity supply to the district.
In December 2018, aggrieved residents of Caldwell set up roadblocks to demand electricity. They complained that they were paying too much to private electricity suppliers while high-voltage wires from the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant passed through their communities to serve other areas.
The situation became tense when police were called in to bring the situation under control and protestors started throwing stones at the officers, who responded by shooting tear gas into the air.
LEC already has a project in place to extend electricity to residents of the 15th district and to Bomi and Grand Cape Mount. However, the project to build the infrastructure had been suspended in 2018 by the World Bank because of the lack of an environmental social impact assessment permit from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The project has now resumed and LEC said when completed, it will benefit communities such as Chicken Soup Factory, Johnsonville, LPRC Community, New Georgia, Chocolate City, Iron Factory, Barnersville Old Field, Caldwell, Doe Community, Virginia, and Brewerville. The utility company also expects an additional 33,000 new customers to be connected to the electricity grid as a result.
Besides electricity, Nyei, the classroom teacher from Caldwell, said he wants additional schools constructed by the Ministry of Education to cater to the growing numbers of students in the district.
“These are some of the basic social services that need to be restored to our district and Caldwell in particular. We have not seen any of them. So, these are some of the things we want our lawmaker to be elected to think about,” Nyei said.
The National Elections Commission recently released a provisional list of candidates it said are qualified to contest the seat. The list contained seven candidates, including Abu Kamara of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, Telia Urey of All Liberian People Party, Kelvin Bayoh, an independent candidate, and Erasmus Fahnbulleh of the Vision for Liberia Transformation Party.
Others are Bishop Frank, an independent candidate, Lamenu Kamara of the True Whig Party, and Amos Tubor of the Coalition for Liberia’s Progress Party.
Haji Harris, a mother of 12 and a petty trader of charcoal in Logan Town, told The Bush Chicken on Wednesday that she wants these candidates to address the limited security presence in the community that is giving rise to increased armed robberies and other criminal activities.
She wants an incoming representative that will push for more budgetary allotment to the Liberia National Police to increase its manpower and night patrols in the community to curb the heightened criminal activities in Logan Town.
“Sometimes when we bring our charcoal in the night to offload and keep it in the warehouse, we see people with cutlasses, charging us and taking away our money and other properties,” Harris said.
She said criminals recently broke into her warehouse and made away with 30 bags of coal, creating a financial setback for her and her family. Harris said her husband is currently jobless and she is the only source of income for her family.
Rebecca Joshua, another charcoal dealer, spoke of the impact of the high foreign exchange rate, the lack of public latrine facilities, and limited roads as major issues that should be addressed by a new representative, as they work with other members of the legislature.
“The U.S. rate is high; it is making the prices of everything to go up high. We want the lawmakers to help the president to see how to reduce the rate so that things can be easy again,” Joshua explained.
Unlike Ibrahim Nyei who said he is voting Telia Urey, Joshua and Harris are undecided voters; they said most candidates have promised to better conditions for them in the district in time past, but those candidates have failed to deliver on their promises. The two women said they are still assessing the candidates and will make their final decisions with “the help of God.”
As for Jerry Bondo, a mechanic and dealer of used spare parts for vehicles, his choice for a representative for the district is Abu Kamara.
The insufficient sources of safe drinking water in the district, limited schools, and the high exchange rate are among Bondo’s concerns that need to be tackled by his new representative.
“I will want my new representative and senator to work together and make a law that will make the country to use one currency to stop the hardship that is coming as a result of the exchange rate,” Bondo told The Bush Chicken at his Caldwell’s shop on Wednesday.
He complained of the drastic decline in generating revenue from his business because of the exchange rate.
Momentum for the by-elections in the district is high; supporters of the different candidates were seen Wednesday campaigning and distributing flyers and erecting billboards at different points. Some were also paying loud campaign songs in vehicles, moving from one community to another.
Featured photo by Moses Bailey