Liberia: Sen. Henrique Tokpah Says Lawmakers Need More Than US$15k to Address “Heavy Burdens Confronting Their People”
MONROVIA – Bong County Senator Henrique Tokpa has justified the bold recipient of the US$15,000 provided by the Government of Liberia (GOL) to members of the 54th National Legislature in the midst of extreme hardship and difficulties confronting the vast majority of those who elected them at the helm of power.
Members of the 54th National Legislature recently received the first US$15,000 each from the government, out of a total of US#30,000 budgeted for “legislative engagement”.
They have been heavily criticized by their respective constituents for not prioritizing their needs in the midst of a shattered economy and the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.
But Speaking when he appeared as guest on the OK Morning Rush on OK FM99.5 on Wednesday, July 14, Senator Tokpa justified that lawmakers are consistently faced or engaged with multiple burdens by their various constituents on a daily basis.
He noted that due to those “heavy burdens” from their people including the payment of school fees, delivery and medical bills, rental bills, among others, legislators need more money to address them.
Senator Tokpa pointed out that though lawmakers do not make some of these promises to their respective constituents during electioneering or campaign period, the needs of those who elected them remain so “exorbitant”, making it difficult for lawmakers to shy away from.
He maintained that some of these citizens have no choice but to beg their lawmakers for assistance because, they do not have the opportunity to meet with or have access to the relevant members of the Executive branch of the government who are responsible to ensure the provision of some of these things they normally asked for.
He added that those criticizing lawmakers for receiving the US$15,000 are not entitled to it.
“That’s their opinion because right now, we undertake heavy burdens on our personal pockets. We hardly pay attention to our own families and children to pay their tuition. The burden in the county is so heavy to help people. Recently, I had to pay someone medical bills and someone wife was going deliver there was a serious complication”.
“All the time lawmakers experience this. Those heavy burdens weigh on you. So, you will need any help from anywhere especially if it is legitimate. I am not going to take anything under the table to do what I have to do”.
Senator Tokpa continued: “We never promised all these things but the needs of the people are so exorbitant. They don’t have access to the Ministers; we are in front them; we associate with them. If they are sick, they will come to us. It’s not like we promise to meet all their domestic burdens”.
He indicated that lawmakers are cognizant that the economy is “tough” due to the lack of companies and investments to create job opportunities for citizens, and as such, whatever little salary or benefit they legitimate received will be shared with their people.
Worsening education system
Speaking further, Senator Tokpa alarmed over the worsening and deplorable state of the country’s education system.
He disclosed that many public school teachers in Bong continue to render sacrificial services without being placed on the payroll of the Liberian government.
According to him, some of these teachers have also been retired by Education authorities without any prior notification provided them.
Senator Tokpa maintained some of these teachers had to transport themselves to withdraw their salaries from various banks just to find out that their names have been deleted from government’s payroll.
He noted that though government remains faced with financial constraints, the manner and form in which those teachers are being retired or taken off government’s payroll surreptitiously raises concerns.
Senator Tokpa termed the situation as “unfortunate and a huge problem in the school system” in Bong, noting that, steps are being taken by the county local authorities to address the situation.
Sitting on mud blocks
He added that students are constrained to sit on mud blocks and use their “thighs” to copy notes from the blackboard due to the lack of chairs in some of these public institutions.
“There is a huge problem with voluntary teachers who have not been paid. It’s unfortunate. Senator Moye and I had brought it on the floor and we are in contact with the Ministry of Education and Civil Service Agency to know why is it happening? Why are the teachers being retired not even to their knowledge? One of my visits in the county, I saw students mud blocks and as a teacher that’s an awful learning environment for students to be sitting on mud blocks and writing on their thighs”.
According to him, the situation currently exists in both lower and upper Bong.
He said as part of efforts to mitigate the situation; he has embarked on the construction of about 4000 chairs to distribute to these institutions.
The middle class
Senator Tokpa emphasized that if Liberia is to become a middle income country as compare to other countries across the African continent, more attention must be provided to the country’s educational sector.
He added that the development of any nation depends on education, especially at the tertiary level, and as such, he remains passionate to provide avenues for young Liberians to acquire knowledge.
He, however, promised to use his share of the US$15,000 given each Representative and Senator to provide support to the educational needs of the students in the county.