Former River Cess Officials Acknowledge Link to Missing Construction Equipment

YARPAH TOWN, River Cess – Two former government officials in River Cess have acknowledged their involvement with missing construction equipment, but say they received no money to have the equipment removed from the county.

The machine had been parked between two towns in Central River Cess District for more than six years, but it was recently taken from the spot.

The commissioner of the township of Yarpah, Sampson Mellish, had earlier called on a local River Cess radio station to alert listeners that the machine had been taken from the spot by unknown persons.

Two days later, The Bush Chicken discovered a document signed by former lawmaker Victor Wilson of the 51st National Legislature, former county inspector A. Trokon Browne, and Stephen Menyon. The document waived the rights to the machine to one Henry Z. Washington.

Washington is the road construction manager of Chen Liberia Enterprise, the company that is rehabilitating a 73-kilometers stretch of the One House-Yarpah Town road.

According to the document, the three men authorized Washington “to take as trash, the motor- grader No. 14 that has obstructed the smooth grading of and cleaning of the portion of same road under your construction contract so as to continue the entry grading of said road.”

The document said the machine had occupied the road for “25 and some more years.”

However, the machine, which belongs to the community, had only been out of use since 2009, when it broke down. Because it has been in an isolated area, the starter had been stolen.

Before the discovery of the document providing proof that the men had gave the equipment away, community members had already been pointing fingers at the former officials.

In separate telephone interviews, both Wilson and Browne admitted giving the machine to manager of the company, but they said they received no money for the transaction.

In a telephone interview, Wilson said the manager of Chen Liberia Enterprise said the old machine was hindering the construction on the road and it needed to be removed in order to get the work done.

“I told Mr. Chein, if that frame is hindering your work, get it off the road and pass,” Wilson said. “Mr. Chein then came back to me and said, ‘It looks like I got interest in that machine.’ I then told him to take it.”

According to Wilson, Mr. Chein requested for a legal document that will enable him transport the machine to Monrovia without police harassment.

“That how I asked the magistrate to do an affidavit of waiver, which I took to Browne to sign as an authority,” Wilson said. “But we didn’t take a dime from the man. I have told him to bring back the machine.”

When asked why he did not inform the community before giving the machine away as he claims, Wilson said, “Because to me, what is not relevant, is not relevant at all.”

Wilson said he does not regret his actions, neither does he owe anyone an apology for giving away “an old machine.”

Washington told The Bush Chicken that his company was asked to do some work in the community in exchange of the machine.

“They [Wilson and Browne] asked to do a football field and a road leading to the church,” Washington said. “But we didn’t pay any money for the machine.”

Washington said he was not sure when he could transport the equipment back to River Cess as the transporting equipment he uses is no longer functional.

Featured photo by Eric Oa Doue. The original featured photo was changed as a result of a decision by the Liberia Media Council after Victor Wilson filed a defamation lawsuit in court against The Bush Chicken’s Eric Doue. The council mediated the case, ruling that Wilson should drop the charges and that the article’s featured photo reflect the actual equipment in question.

Eric Doue

Eric Opa Doue is a co-founder of Echo Radio Station, which does a series of programs in Bassa, Kru, and simple Liberian English. Under his leadership, Echo Radio was selected as one of the Moody Radio global partners for training opportunities in 2013 and 2014. Eric was one of a handful of reporters who received training from Internews in 2015 on humanitarian reporting during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He holds a diploma in Journalism, from the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

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