Juju Crisis Leads to Closure of the Grand Bassa Community College

BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – Since the discovery of men suspected of casting spells at the entrance of the Grand Bassa Community College on April 30, classes have not taken place as faculty members, staff, and students have deserted the campus out of fear for their safety.

The acting president of the faculty and staff association, Octavian Ben, has told The Bush Chicken that they will not return to class until the county’s leadership acts to clean the campus through prayers, and dismiss Nathaniel Gbessagee, the college’s embattled president, who he believes is responsible for the suspected ritual.

Gbessagee was originally appointed by former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on April 25, 2017 to head the college. He was suspended by the Board of Trustees on November 20, 2017 for six months for financial improprieties.

Gbessagee had hired 44 additional workers at the college, increasing the college’s financial burden which resulted in delayed salary payments and subsequently, strikes by employees. Among those hired was his wife, who heads a department. Gbessagee also increased his salary from US$3,200 to US$5,000.

In his place, Samuel Reeves, Jr. had been acting as president since November. However, President George Weah reappointed Gbessagee on March 12, 2018, a move that has not been popular with the college’s staff.

Gbessagee’s reappointment has been condemned by some members of the faculty and staff, who have prevented him from taking over the college as president.

Recently, the county’s legislative caucus, the office of the superintendent, and the college’s Board of Trustees, signed a resolution to unfreeze the account of the college and for Gbessagee to briefly stay away from the college until he is inaugurated. However, Gbessagee has gone on a local radio talk show to say he was not consulted on that decision.

In a major press conference held on Thursday May 3, 2018, Grand Bassa’s Superintendent Janjay Baikpeh said the college’s board is the highest decision maker on matters relating to the school and its decision would stand. Baikpeh assured citizens of Grand Bassa that the situation at the Grand Bassa Community College would soon come to an end. However, the campus remains empty as no faculty and staff including students can be seen except security assigned at the college.

The college’s staff believe that Gbessagee was resorting to rituals as a way of strengthening his position as head of the college. Their proof is that Gbessagee ordered the private security company to release the two men suspected of conducting rituals at the campus’ entrance.

The human resource and marketing manager of Event Security Services Incorporated, David Prossor, told reporters that he had received several calls from Gbesaagee to release those arrested, on grounds that they were at the entrance of the college and not on the main campus when they were suspected of conducting the rituals.

“Dr. Gbessagee’s intervention presupposes that he might have sent them because for someone to be lying down to their house and when people arrested to order their release, anyone can think that way but for what they did, the public will judge us,” Prossor said in an interview at the college’s campus.

Gbessagee has admitted that he ordered the release of the two men because the general supervisor of the security firm, Sam Dehkpah, had told him that the men, Jacob Anderson and Alexander Zeon, appeared to be praying at the college’s entrance.

But Prossor said the shift supervisor had told him that the men were caught digging under the gate of the college and had yellow, red, and green candles along with several smaller bottles, matches, a bible, and a knife. Prossor said Zeon had immediately called Gbessagee when they were apprehended, prompting the college president to ask for the release of the men.

Whatever the case, the campus remains empty and classes have not been taking place.

Since the establishment of the Grand Bassa Community College in 2008, it has been engulfed in a variety of crisis. In the past, a financial crisis led the college’s first president, Levi Zangar, to be dismissed.

Featured photo by Sampson David

Sampson David

Sampson G. David is a journalist with over eight years of experience. He is a deputy manager at the Diahn-Blae Community Radio Station, a correspondent of the Liberia Broadcasting System, and a sophomore student at Starz College of Science and Technology, studying Management Information Systems.

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