Public Works Minister Threatens Zonal Regulations Violators With Lawsuit

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Following days of continued rainfall around Monrovia that led to severe flooding, Public Works Minister Mobutu Nyenpan has threatened lawsuits against builders found in violation of the country’s zonal regulations.

The National Disaster Management Agency has said that 28,755 residents were seriously affected by floods in 25 communities across Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Bassa, with many of those people rendered homeless.

While touring several affected communities, the public works minister attributed much of the flooding to violations of the country’s zonal regulations by people who he said build structures in waterways and alleys.

“There is a need for the demolition of structures situated in waterways and alleys,” Nyenpan said, as he cautioned residents to avoid building in such areas.

Residents outside Monrovia affected by the floods. Photo: Zeze Ballah

“The Public Works Ministry will take drastic actions aimed at preventing such situations,” he said.

It is unclear what specific actions the ministry plans to take to address these issues. Throughout Liberia, construction is largely unregulated, with structures sprouting up spontaneously. Few contractors follow government regulations, in part, because they are not enforced, but also because even officials in the zoning office of the Ministry of Public Works do not know the precise regulations. Additionally, regulations are not made available to the general public. The ministry’s website contains no information about zoning regulations.

Across Monrovia, there are marks made by the Ministry of Public Works on structures that are presumably in violation of various zoning laws; however, these structures are almost never demolished.

Liberia has in place a law that governs what types of structures can be built in various areas. That law, the Zoning Act of 1958, provides eight different classes of districts which can determine how land can be used in Monrovia (four residential classes, three business classes, and one industrial class).

The Zoning Act is supposed to accompany a zoning map which should specify which parcels of land should be restricted to each class. For a government agency that has made numerous past public statements encouraging the public to respect zoning laws, it is notable that Liberia essentially does not have a zoning map, as several officials at the Ministry of Public Works acknowledge they no longer have a copy of the map. Officials within the ministry use their personal knowledge to determine the locations of different zoning classes.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah   

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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