GANTA, Nimba – Several young people have been protesting in Ganta in an effort to have the street lights in the city and other major Nimba cities restored.
Operating under the banner of Youth in Action for Peace, Development, and Justice-Liberia the group is also calling for the government to revisit the contract between the government and Jungle Energy Power, the company that operates the electricity grid in much of Nimba.
According to Anthony Menlor, the executive director of the group, the private company has a social corporate responsibility to the people of Nimba as a service provider. Therefore, he said the government should review the agreement to ensure that it benefits the people.
“In the letter we wrote to the speaker, we told the speaker that the agreement between JEP [Jungle Energy Power] and the Government of Liberia needs to be revised and repealed,” Menlor said, in reference to a letter addressed to the speaker of the House of Representatives. “So, the protest is not just against JEP.”
In a phone interview with The Bush Chicken, Menlor said his group launched a peaceful protest called “Bring Back Our Street Lights” when their appeal to seek an audience with the management of Jungle Energy went fruitless.
He said their first protest in Ganta ocurred on June 11, coinciding with the president’s first official visit to Nimba, where he had come to break grounds for the commencement of the construction of roads leading from Ganta to Zwedru and Ganta to Yekepa.
“We were marching peacefully behind the president with our posters in our hands to draw the attention of the president to what is happening in Nimba,” Menlor said.
The protest resulted in three members of the group being detained by the Liberian National Police in Ganta, including Menlor. They were later released and Menlor has vowed that being arrested will not deter the group from its aims.
“Our advocacy is for the benefit of the people, so if we will die in jail, we are ready to die,” he said. “But that will not stop us from our advocacy for the people.”
Nonfunctional street lights have long been an issue in Ganta. In late 2017, the former mayor, Benjamin Dokpa, asked Jungle Energy to restore the street lights. However, Dokpa notified the public that the CEO of the company, Floyd Tomah, had told him that if the streets lights are to be restored, the city must be ready to pay for them.
Tomah has said that running the street lights across the county on the expense of the company would be too costly to undertake. He said the government owes a debt of over US$1 million to its Ivorian counterpart, which supplies the power as part of the West African Power Pool project. Because of that debt, Tomah said he is focused on raising the necessary funds.
“If we start to make profit [after the payments], I think we can be able to have the street lights back on and working,” Tomah had earlier stated.
The “Bring Back Our Street Lights” campaign has attracted attention from some members of the Nimba County Legislative Caucus. Rep. Roger Domah of Nimba’s seventh district recently wrote his colleagues at the House of Representatives to notify the Jungle Energy management and the Liberia Electricity Corporation to provide details surrounding the electricity arrangement in Nimba.
However, Rep. Samuel G. Kogar of Nimba’s fifth district has pleaded with his colleagues to have the matter addressed within the county’s legislative caucus, and if it cannot be resolved, to discuss with the national body.
Meanwhile, Menlor says if his group’s demands are not met by the end of the month, members will travel to Monrovia to protest at the office of President George Weah.
“We will be visiting him at his office for three days—his citizens will be there on hunger strike for three days, until he can look into our plight.”
Featured photo courtesy of Adebayor Anthony Menlor