Liberia: President Weah’s Private Projects Loading Faster Than Government’s
Robertsfield Highway – A FrontPageAfrica investigation has found that several personal properties linked to President George Manneh Weah are being rushed to completion at rapid speeds in comparison to a number of projects the president has broken ground for since assuming the mantle of authority of the country.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
Over the past few weeks, FrontPageAfrica has been visiting several projects tied to the president as well as those trumpeted by the administration has part of its pro-poor agenda.
46-Unit Project Under Construction
In one of those areas, located in the fast-growing Baptist Seminary community off the Robertsfield Higway, a monstrousity of a building complex is moving faster than residents here can imagine.
Faster than the ministerial complex currently under construction, the yet-to- constructed Bali Island and the controversial Military Hospital.
No one knows for sure what it is, but the building first believed to be the dream home of President George Manneh Weah is growing into something else.
Ironically, a little over seven months ago, the space now housing this monstrous complex was an open field where local young boys played football on a regular basis. Today, the field is no more.
The structure has so many emerging features and extentions which prompted FrontPageAfrica to investigate.
FrontPageAfrica had previously reported that the property was the President’s dream house but has now learned that the property is turning out to be a potential business property set on approximately five acres and upon completion would be a 46-unit building complex.
Next door outside the massive fence of the complex is a recently-completed church said to be constructed for one of the President’s spiritual advisors.
‘City of Hope’ Ruled Out at Seminary Community
Both President Weah’s office and the office of the First Lady have declined comment when we sought inquiries but residents near this community located adjacent from the Baptist Seminary say, the President has visited the site on a couple of occasions.
Construction workers on project appear guarded when a visitor sought some answers recently but one acknowledged that the President has been on the site a few times to observe the progress of the construction.
There have been some speculations that the complex may be the site of First Lady Clar Weah’s City of Hope where she hopes to provide a haven for stray youths and the elderly but when contacted recently, a spokesperson for the first lady’s office said the Seminary project is not the First Lady’s City of Hope.
The First Lady told a recent interview with a New York Based Jamaican community television that she envisions a multi-tier education, health multi-generational shelter that will cater to young people and seniors.
The First Lady said: “My biggest project I want to do is open a community I’ll name, City of Hope and that city of hope will consist of a home for children, a school for those children, for the girls that are in the streets of Liberia, I want to take them off, so I’ll also provide a home for them, I’ll provide a vocational center within this community for them and whatever facility just to make their lives better. So, this is what I’m working on at the moment.”
FrontPageAfrica has been informed that the complex in the seminary community is not that.
President Weah has come under fire over the secrecy surrounding his assets. The President appeared recently to be bowing to pressure when a statement from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) declared that it had received the declaration of personal interests, income, assets and liabilities forms from the President. However, the GAC said it was turning over the filings to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission(LACC) which has not yet made the filings public.
Previously Declared Assets
FrontPageAfrica has filed a Freedom of Information request with both the GAC and LACC in hopes of gaining access to the information filed by the President. The entire process for FOI takes between 30 to sixty days.
Scrutiny of the President’s assets have been limited to 2005 when he made his first run for the Presidency which puts his overall income per annum at US$335,000.00 on properties in Liberia and the United States.
According to that declaration, Mr. Weah earned US$60,000 from his supermarket in Florida, USA; US$250,000 from real estate in the USA and US$25,000.00 from his real estate in Liberia.
Mr. Weah in 2005 declared that his combined assets both in Liberia and the USA were more US$2.8 million. His residence in Florida, USA was said to worth US$1.5 million, while his Supermarket in Miami, Florida was said to worth US$1.2 million. However, documents obtained by FrontPageAfrica indicate that the Florida supermarket – Flavors West Indian Supermarket and Restaurant – which is registered in his wife’s name has been inactive.
Mr. Weah’s two residences in Liberia were said to be valued US$250,000, with the one in which he currently resides as President in the ELWA Rehab Road area outside Monrovia being put at US$100,000.
In addition to the Baptist Seminary Community, President Weah recently completed the revamp of his Jamaica Resort, also located off the Robertsfield Highway and demolished his residence on 9 th Street in Sinkor. That property, according to his 2005 filing was valued at US$150,000. It is said to be reconstructed into a hotel with contruction also moving at an insurmountable speed.
The President in his 2005 filing failed to state his bank balances.
When he filed again in 2014 during his run for the Montserrado County Senatorial elections, he reported a a monthly income of somewhere around US$15,000. His total worth as Senator for the three years is estimated to be US$540,000.
’14 Hospital Slowed, No Word on Bali Island
The rapid rise of several of the President’s private projects come as some are beginning to raise concerns regarding the slow pace of the projects he has already broken grounds for.
In March, the President broke grounds for a 200-bedroom military hospital in Schiefflin, Margibi County near the Edward Binyah Kesselly Military Barracks in Schiefflin, Margibi County.
The new hospital to be named and styled: the: “14 Military Hospital”, when completed will be equipped with the most modern facilities, and will be staffed by highly trained medical personnel.
The groundbreaking followed a promise the president made during the observance of Armed Forces Day in February.
While many hailed the President at the time for his pledge and commitment to ensure the building of an army of professionally-trained soldiers, some critics panned the president for not investing more in existing health facilities.
Similarly, the President came under fire for his proposal of a new city of Monrovia at Bali Island.
In March, the President toured the Bali Island situated in the middle of the Mesurado River. The river flows through Monrovia and is crossed by the Gabriel J. Tucker Bridge, built in the 1970s.
During that tour, the president expressed an intention to transform Bali Island into the new Monrovia, commencing with the construction of a state-of-the-art International Conference Center and other standardized structures. The President said the 4000-seat Conference Hall will be named after the late Indian Prime Minister, Mahatma Gandhi, while its construction will be funded by the Government of India.
In March, the government of India expressed a willingness to credit the Weah administration US$144 million to kick its development programs.
During that pledge, India also conveyed to President Weah its decision to build a large convention center to be named after Mahatma Gandhi as part of its grant-in-aid programmes offer of development assistance to Liberia to the tune of US$2million as grand-in-aid for health sector projects reiterated India’s willingness to revive allocation of a line of credit worth US$144 million.
Of that money, FrontPageAfrica has learned India is reportedly willing to dole out about US$10 million for the convention center. However, due to the concerns over the chosen site of the project, experts put the cost for feasibility and environmental study for the Bali area in the millions.
The Ramsar Convention to which Liberia is signatory and receives funding, has warned that the Bali area is an environmental hazard and marked as forbidden. Bali is among four other areas being earmarked as forbidden: Gbedin Wetlands in Nimba, Kpatawee Wetlands in Bong County, Marshall Wetlands in Margibi County and the Mesurado Wetlands are the others.
The area, according to the Convention, provides a favorable habitat and feeding grounds for several species of birds including the African spoonbill Platalea alba, common Pratincole Glareola nuchaltis and Curlew Numenius arquata. “It also hosts the vulnerable African dwarf crocodile, the Nile crocodile and the African sharp-nosed crocodile and plays an important role in shoreline stabilization and sediment trapping.
The site is currently used for fuel wood collection, as a dumping site, for car washing, and fishing, with fish and crustaceans sold to the population of Monrovia. An additional threat comes from unregulated fishing, as well as from pollution from the industries around the site, including an oil refinery and paint factories. No management plan currently exists, but there are plans to put it under a protected area management network once it has been successfully designated as a Ramsar site.”
Amid the concerns, the Ministry of Public Works recently requested the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) to issue environmental certificate to allow the go ahead of the CDC government project but sources say the EPA has requested government to conduct an environmental assessment on the land. “We cannot politicize environmental issues; we need to know if the area is suitable for the project,” our source said.
Public Works Minister Mabutu Nyepan told FrontPageAfrica recently that his Ministry is pursuing all the processes that are required by law and consistent with international best practices to ensure the utilization on Bali Island for infrastructure development purposes. “As a government, we are confident that these processes when pursued, will lead us to using the island without any alarm from any institution,” he said.
With so many projects on the books by the Weah-led government, supporters of the administration have been posting a number of diagrams on social media depicting projects said to be in the works – or on the horizon. While actual work on projects like the Kesselly Boulevard, the army hospital and others are far from reaching foundation level, critics and some international stakeholders continue to raise alarm over the fast pace of the president’s private projects, especially amid the dark clouds hoovering over the mystery surrounding his personal worth and assets which some of his supporters put at US$90 million; numbers far exceeding what the President has actually declared on paper – at least twice- since his entry into rugged terrain of Liberian politics, raising more questions than answers and more uncertainty over the president’s wealth.