SANNIQUELLIE, Nimba â€“ Rep. Samuel G. Kogar is fighting to clarify media reports about how he entered the country through Buutuo, along Liberiaâ€™s border with Ivory Coast, on March 24 as he returned from Ghana amid halted flights and closed borders.
Kogar, who represents Nimbaâ€™s fifth district, clarified that he and Rep. Francis Dopoh of River Geeâ€™s third district decided to use the Buutuo point of entry after Ivorian authorities closed their borders as part of their Coronavirus containment plan.
Many local radio stations in Nimba had been reporting that the two lawmakers illegally entered the country and violated health protocols instituted to contain COVID-19.
Morris Markar, a reporter for Buutuoâ€™s Radio BKS, said he had witnessed the two lawmakersâ€™ arrival. He described a scene where Kogar was greeted by a large crowd that escorted him to the town from the border.
Additionally, Markar reported that he saw supporters of the Nimba lawmaker riding three on a motorcycle, contrary to the Ministry of Healthâ€™s advice of no more than two to a bike.
Such reports have gone viral on Facebook among Nimba residents, as many are accusing the two lawmakers of escaping entering the country through Roberts International Airport for fear of being thoroughly screened and quarantined.
The concerns come as greater public scrutiny is being turned towards government officials who have been skirting rules meant to control the spread of the virus in Liberia. The countryâ€™s first confirmed Coronavirus case came when the executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Nathaniel Blama. President George Weah told the nation that Blama had evaded the health mandate that would have quarantined him by force for 14 days.
On community radio stations across the county, callers have been advocating for the two lawmakers to be placed under mandatory quarantine. Rep. Dopoh, however, has since left for Monrovia.
On Wednesday, Kogar told Radio Nimba that earlier plans to travel by air from Ghana were thwarted when the flight on which he and Dopoh were traveling experienced mechanical problems 45 minutes after takeoff, which forced the pilot to request to land on emergency in Accra.
He said he and Dopoh decided to travel by road from Ghana because the country announced that it would shut all borders on March 30. Kogar explained that in Ivory Coast, the two lawmakers were escorted by Ivorian security personnel to the Liberian border, where they rode a ferry to enter Buutuo, a town within the district he represents.
Kogar said he departed on March 16 for Ghana, noting that he and Dopoh had traveled with four other representatives to Ghana to assess the work of APM Terminals at the Tema Port.
â€œWe were to depart Ghana on the 30th of March but we were forced to leave after the Ghanaian president announced that he was closing all of his borders on the same day we planned to leave,â€ Kogar said.
â€œSome of our colleagues left on Saturday and Dopoh, [Rep. Rustlyn] Dennis, and I left by air on Sunday. Unfortunately, 45 minutes after takeoff, the pilot realized that the plane had problems and requested for an emergency landing in Accra. Because of what we experienced with the first plane and the lack of sufficient money to overstay in Ghana, we decided [on] traveling by road to Liberia through Ivory Coast. We slept in Abidjan and on Monday morning I called the head of the region and explained our problem to him.â€
Dopoh said when the Ivorian authorities realized they were senior Liberian government officials, they provided security escort.
â€œWe did not enter Liberia illegally, as these guys are reporting,â€ Kogar insisted, adding that he submitted to the Liberia Immigration Service assigned at the Buutuo entry point and followed all preventive measures put in place by the government. He refuted the widely reported claims that he was escorted by a large crowd.
However, Kogar disclosed that there were no health workers assigned at the Buutuo border to screen them, but he said he would be self-quarantining for the next 14 days. The Nimba lawmaker said he was in contact with health authorities who are advising him on what to do to keep safe.
Featured photo by Arrington Ballah