Township Hosting Liberia’s Power Plant Losing Jobs As ‘Sex, Extortion’ Allegations Swirl
Harrisburg, Montserrado County– Scores of residents of Harrisburg have been turned down by sub-contracting companies hired by the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) to operate the Mount Coffee Hydro, the township commissioner has alleged.
Report By Edwin G. Genoway, Jr (00231886458910)[email protected]
Commissioner Viola Bridges claims that her refusal to accept “sexual gesture” from Emmanuel Lawrence, LEC Deputy Project Manager, is causing the problem.
But Mr Lawrence has refused to comment on the allegation, threatening a lawsuit against the commissioner.
On the other hand, commissioner Bridges has also been accused of “extorting money” from youths of the area to negotiate for jobs with the subcontractors operating the hydro.
More Subcontractors, Less Jobs
LEC subcontracted several companies including Voith Hydro GmbH & Co. KG, a German company, Dawnus International Ltd. of the United Kingdom, Andritz Hydro GmbH of Austria to carry out the Rehabilitation, Design, Supply and installation of Hydraulic Steelworks and Auxiliary Systems.
A Liberia-based Joint Venture of Pan African Engineering Group, Sigma Group Inc., and Mamba Point Hotel for Contract 5, Camp Construction Works and Provision of Camp Services are also performing some subcontracts.
All of these companies being operated in the Mount Coffee area of Montserrado County. Liberians were to be hired by the companies, especially residents of Harrisburg Township, where Madam Bridges is the commissioner.
The Commissioner says only eight out of over 150,00 youths have been employed by the subcontractors.
Some residents called on the LEC to intervene “because the action of its Deputy Project manager could leave them with no option but stage a violent protest that could stall the ongoing projects that are being implemented by LEC”.
The residents are concern that despite the huge jobs in their area, they are yet to benefit. They are also worried about the influence of the LEC project manager on the contractors.
A resident only identified as Kollie said when they seek daily contacts from the contractors, they are often told by the contractors that only lists sent by Mr Lawrence will be preferred.
“Let the government intervene in this situation before it goes out of hand so that our partners cannot leave the project,” Kollie said.
‘Bad Blood; Sexual Allegations’
Eager to reduce the unemployment rate in Harrisburg, Commissioner Bridges claims she solicited names of young people of the township to advocate on their behalf.
But she alleges that due to the “bad blood” with the LEC Deputy Project Manager Lawrence have reduced the youth chances of being hired.
She alleges that Mr Lawerence had expressed a love interest for her but she turned him down.
Alleges Bridges: “To admit in 2017 and 2018 the LEC Project Manager, Emmanuel Lawrence approach me for sex, he wanted me and I refused because of this he has refused to honour the listing I submitted to him for employment, I was not alone when he approached me, he even told me to use the back gate of his house and enter his room.”
The Township Commissioner, who was appointed by President George M. Weah, further alleged that the Lawrence had allegedly had sexual intercourse with many of the young girls that were seeking employment during the construction of the Hydro.
Madam Bridges also pointed out that when the information reached her, she decided to intervene but the LEC project manager always told her “to get off the project site” because she has nothing to do with the employment of the people in the area.
“Mr Lawrence has a list that he is working with, and all those people on his list are from Monrovia and other places; he has instructed the security officers at the main entrance to use his so-called list that he claimed to have been solicited by the chiefs, elders and others from the seventeen communities in the area,” she claims.
‘Not Speaking On the Matter’
When Mr Lawrence was contacted to respond to the allegations, he told reporters that had been advised by his lawyers “not to speak on the matter”.
He added that his lawyers were preparing to file a lawsuit against Commissioner Bridges for damages.
When Mr. Lawrence was again contacted by FPA via telephone, he (Lawrence) connected Commissioner Viola Bridges without the reporter’s consent and the township commissioner was heard affirming that she made the allegations against him and was prepared to go to court.
Unlike the “sexual harassment allegation” against the LEC official, the Harrisburg Township Commissioner claims that Lawrence is always interfering in the business of the township which she believed has been hindering the employment of the youths of the area.
Claims and Counter-Claims
The situation has caused serious division among residents of the Harrisburg, with some residents supporting the LEC Project Manager while others are backing the Township Commissioner.
Meanwhile, some of the youths in the community pointed accusing fingers at the commissioner, accusing her of extorting money from them in the tune of US$15 per person, in return for a job.
Joe Dennis is one of those accusing Commissioner Bridges of extorting money for jobs.
“She took my money, she charged me US$15 but I never had US so I paid in Liberian dollars and I paid LD$1200,” Dennis claims.
Jerry Nelson also made a similar accusation, claiming that despite paying the bribe to the commissioner he’s yet to get the job.
“For me, I need for her to give my money back since she can’t give me the job, she took LD$1200 from me and other young people in the township, it is the same amount of money taken from every one of us by the commissioner,” Nelson alleges.
Most of the residents also accused both Lawrence and Viola of causing serious embarrassment for the youths of the township due to their tension that has erupted.
Some are also accusing the Township Commissioner and the Land Commissioner of selling the land belonging to those who were relocated before the commencement of the rehabilitation of the hydro.
But Commissioner Bridges denied the allegations, claiming that she did not sell the land that belongs to the township.
“I did not sell any land and no one can stand before me and say I sold land belonging to the community or the township all of the allegations are lies,” she noted.