Liberians Express Disappointment in Failure to Commence Census Despite Declaring Holiday, But Govt Says It Was Politicized


GBARNGA, Bong County – After living in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County for 10 years, Philip Korkollie, 64, recently returned to his native Bong County keen to take part in a population census whose findings will influence the status of the centrally located county.

Report by Mae Azango and Selma Lomax

A census, as mandated within the Constitution, involves the complete enumeration of the population in a country. It generates a wealth of data, including numbers of people, their spatial distribution, age and sex structure, as well as their living conditions and other key socioeconomic characteristics. 

These data are critical for good governance, policy formulation, development planning, crisis prevention, mitigation and response, social welfare programmes and business market analyses, among others.

The government had called on all ministries and agencies of government, enterprises (large or small), the patriotism and loyalty of every citizen and to the goodwill of every foreign national as well as local government officials to assist the census authorities in explaining, influencing, and endorsing the participation of everybody in this massive, national undertaking, given the advantages and usefulness of the Census to the overall national socio-economic development of the country.

“I am not sure why, since this morning, my family have waited for the enumerators to count us but we have not seen them,” said Korkollie, who had sat at his Far East Community in Gbarnga all through on Friday waiting to be counted. “If they were short of people to employ or experiencing problem, the government shouldn’t have declared today they should have recruited more.”

On Friday, the Suakoko Market in Bong County was crowded as many residents appeared unaware about the “National Census Day” declared by the government. 

One marketer told FrontPageAfrica: 

“I wasn’t informed about this holiday that’s why I came out to sell. More awareness needs to be done about this Census,” he said.

‘Disappointed’ Liberians slam government

In Worwen Community on Capital by Pass in Monrovia, many residents, who are business people, were angry for sitting home and losing money, including an enumerator of LISGIS who should have been in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, but chose to stay home in protest. 

Chris J. Dolo Jr. a LISGIS enumerator of St. Peter’s Clever High Catholic School, Buchanan, said he did not go to work in Buchanan as a way of protest. 

 “LISGIS is supposed to pay my first my first ten days sitting fees. LISGIS was to give us US$50.00 as sitting fees and I haven’t  got mine yet.  We were 133 persons from Buchanan and 17,000 enumerators in total who were to commence the exercise, but up to now, we have not gotten any money yet. Those enumerators blocking roads in Buchanan are doing it in the interest of everybody, but my protest is to stay home unless LISGIS pays me. If we were to complete the entire work, the total money to pay each enumerator is US$ 320.00 and supervisors are supposed to be making US$370.00,” he said 

Marie Mayford, a business lady in Monrovia, said, “I usually go in town to sell and support myself but today I do not have any money to even start my day because I did not go to sell. I am feeling very bad because I am so broke right now. Even if I talk, government will not do anything about the situation, so all I can say is that maybe government has the reason why the LISGIS people did not come to count us. Next time, government should be sure, because they really stopped my hustle and many people from hustling today.”

Beware Peters,  a Liberian business man shared his disappointment with FrontPageAfrica:  “I am disappointed that I had to stay home hoping LISGIS people would come coming around to check us but up to now, we have not seen anybody, I do not know what the matter is. We want to know what is going from the government. By staying home, it affected me a greatly, because I usually go out to hustle for the family to eat and today I am not able to go anywhere, so my wife and children do not have food to eat. We are sitting home doing nothing, everywhere is closed, you can’t even do any turning around, so it is bad for we the hustlers. Therefore, we are asking the government when this census will take place. I heard from one of the workers that LISGIS refused to pay them and did not even give them food to eat. I think this Government is joking. We want the government to pay the people so the work can start.”

Rose Kanneh, is a hair braider, said: “I usually go to braid hair but I can’t go because no business open because of the holiday. I want the government to be sure next time before making announcement for people to leave their businesses and stay home, or next time people will not take the government serious if they announce anything.”

Emmanuel Ade White, street vender, told FrontPageAfrica: “I am feeling very bad because I stayed home today doing nothing. I do business as my legal hustling but today I cannot hustle because I was told LISGIS is counting citizens. Normal hustling is what we do to survive, so I was not able to go and hustle because businesses are closed and I can’t sell. Up to now we are not seeing anybody coming to count us. Next time Government should put things in place before announcing that people should stay.”

Diana S. Boyah, business woman. “Today I stayed home for nothing, how am I going to feed my children and be able to get money for their lunch on Monday to take to school? The business I am running is from ‘hand to mouth’ as we say in Liberia. Since I did not sell today, I still have to pay that money, so where do I get it from. I hear LISGIS doesn’t want to pay the workers their sitting fees, so they will not work and if they give them the Android tablets to work, they will seize it, because they have their family to feed. I do not blame LISGIS workers, because they are right to not go on the field to work, because they too have families to feed.”

Helen Suku, cosmetic seller, said “I sell body spray and perfume from government Ministries and on Friday is when my customers can pay my money for goods they took earlier, but now how will I collect me money for me and my children to survive? Now the government has made us to sit home and nobody is coming to count us, so I am feeling bad because I lose money. Right now I am very angry, so next time government should be sure before announcing it.”

Problems have dogged the exercise from the beginning, leading to a postponement and wrangling over the sitting fees that should have been paid to enumerators. 

And even when it all appeared set, the House of Representatives raised an objection, calling for the postponement of the Census.

‘Census is on Track,’ government and partners say

However, on Friday, under the signatures of Samuel D. Tweh, Jr., Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Niels Scott, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Bidisha Pillai, Resident Representative, UNFPA, Mr. Khwima Nthara, Country Manager, World Bank, the government and its international partners reaffirmed their continued commitment to the successful conduct of the ongoing 2022 National Population and Housing Census, which runs from 11 to 22 November, 2022.

The government, however, claimed start of the census has been politicized amid

calls by some elements within the country to boycott the Census.

“Despite some initial challenges, the Census is now on track and has commenced as of 11 November, 2022, adding that any further disruption would lead to delays in, or possible abortion, of the Census which will benefit no one,” the government and international partners said in a release.

“The Partners, led by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), are providing technical and financial support to the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, the agency of the Government with the authority to conduct Census taking, to ensure the census house listing an enumeration is completed within the timeframe of 11- 22 November 2022 as announced by the government.”