Former NOCAL President Neyor Criticizes Public Officials for ‘Collaborating with Foreign Businesses to Exploit Liberia’s Natural Resources’

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Former NOCAL President Neyor Criticizes Public Officials for ‘Collaborating with Foreign Businesses to Exploit Liberia’s Natural Resources’
Former NOCAL President Neyor Criticizes Public Officials for ‘Collaborating with Foreign Businesses to Exploit Liberia’s Natural Resources’

Africa-Press – Liberia. Renowned Liberian energy expert Christopher Zeohn Neyor has taken issue with elected and appointed public officials for their consistent habit of establishing close relationships with owners of foreign businesses and companies to exploit Liberians of their natural resources.

Mr. Neyor is the former President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).

He observed that it is a sad story that the majority of the country’s elected and appointed officials are “friends” of businesses that do business in the county.”

He made these assertions when he served as guest speaker at a program making the induction of officers-elect of the Rivercess Citizens Union.

Mr. Neyor spoke on the topic: The Fundamental Requirement for County and National Development (with the subtopic The Role of Citizens in Good Governance.)

He said many elected officials establish relationships with these businesses along with officials of the national government to form an “exploitative syndicate that leaves the country and its people in continuous poverty.”

He noted that this “exploitative syndicate” continues to keep Liberia and its citizens backward in terms of infrastructure and socio-economic growth and development.

Least developed

Mr. Neyor stated that though Rivercess County mirrors the country in many respects, the county remains the least developed with not even a mile of paved road.

He added that schools and healthcare systems in the county do not leave much to be desired, though Rivercess is a resource rich county.

He said the resources of Rivercess County have been exploited and made others, including foreigners’ millionaires, while the living conditions of Liberians, who are the custodians of those natural resources, remain appalling.

This, Mr. Neyor maintained, has been continuing in the post-conflict nation from decade to decade.

Accumulating millions “We are endowed with forest, gold and other precious metals and minerals, oil, arable lands, the beauty of the Cestos River flowing into the Atlantic Ocean and a youthful population. For decades the resources of Rivercess have been exploited and made millions, if not billions, for others but the county lacks basic infrastructure and services. Year in and year out, the trees from Rivercess are cut, the logs hauled to port and exported with no significant benefit to the county.”

“Yes, we want investors in our county and in our country but investors that have our officials in their pockets to exploit our resources making millions for themselves with little benefit to the county (Rivercess) and its people is wrong.”

He pointed out that as a result of the exploitation of natural resources, Rivercess “is left holding the short end of the rope with damaged roads and degraded environment.”

“The roads to Cestos and to Morweh are barely passable during the dry season except when occasionally graded and almost impassable during the rainy season. This has been the story year in and year out. Senators and representatives are elected and replaced, appointed county officials come and go but the county remains backward with no sign of progress.”

He observed that a noted indicator that all of the post conflict developing countries have in common is the low level of wealth created and owned by citizens.

Mr. Neyor maintained that though many developing countries especially in Africa are endowed with tremendous natural resources, these resources are exploited by their often-corrupt governments in ways that others (including few in the government) are made wealthy except the citizens of those countries who are the collective owners of those resources.

In many cases, he furthered that the citizens are poorer and the surrounding environment more degraded than before the natural resources were exploited.

“A key development ingredient demonstrated across national borders and cultures is that governments do not create wealth but real wealth is created in a nation when its government provides the enabling environment for its citizens to create wealth through private sector initiatives. It is proven by many development economists that the level of stakes citizens have in the economy of a state is directly proportional to the level of political stability, social justice and peace.”

Resources for all

Quoting the 1986 Liberian constitution, Mr. Neyor indicated that all the natural resources of the country belong to the people.

But the government, as custodian of that which belongs to all Liberians, he added, has to ensure that the people derive maximum benefits from extraction of those resources.

“In fact the constitution demands that in asserting that as much as feasible the government must ensure the participation of the people in the exploitation of the country’s resources.”

“It is a sad story that those we put in charge of our resources continue to be horrible stewards. When we put into power those who criticize the poor governance and corruption of incumbents, they not only do the same but become worse. Where do we go from here?”

Recommendations

Mr. Neyor recommended that post-conflict Liberia must resort to people’s power within the allowance of our constitution to get Rivercess and other counties across Liberia, on a sensible course for development.

He said democracy, the government by, of and for the people must not end at the voting booth.

He noted that “We must have the willpower within the confines of our laws to hold the feet of elected and appointed officials to the fire.”

Mr. Neyor challenged citizens from Rivercess to begin this process by holding the new officers of the RCU accountable.

“An accountable RCU with full support of its membership can then hold the elected officials of the county accountable. An accountable and people-center Legislative Caucus can then hold appointed officials of the county and the central government to the fire.”

He emphasized that the government must not only be of and by us, but must be for us as well.

He said to carve a new path for county and national transformation; citizens can no longer be indifferent or sit on the fence.

Engaging leaders

Mr. Neyor stated that Liberians must engage their leader to change their counties and country for the better.

“There are constitutional provisions for petition and redress by the people that cannot be denied. This is the path we must take if we desire to see a better Liberia. Lastly, each and every one of us must become the change we want to see in RCU, in our community, in Rivercess and in Liberia. We lack the moral authority to hold the feet of our officials to the fire when we ourselves are involved in all sorts of impropriety. It is said the government reflects who the people are and that is why we must be the moral compass to hold those who manage our common resources accountable. Be the change.”

Call for accountability

In 2012, Mr. Neyor provided the amount of L$1M as microloan to empower citizens of Rivercess County. The money was the first payment of L$5M he pledged.

But the L$1M initiated disbursed was reportedly mismanaged by a committee setup to supervise the fund.

Mr. Neyor challenged the new leadership of RCU to ensure that those who spearheaded the loan scheme are held accountable.

“One clear example of the need to be the change we seek is the unaccountability of the One Million Liberian dollars I donated to set up a microloan program in Rivercess. That amount was the first installment of $LD 5 million I had pledged as a grant to provide needed credit to our market women and young entrepreneurs. A report was required to release the second million dollars but, until today, not even a one-pager has been received. Because those entrusted to manage the first million dollars fell short of expectation, the people of Rivercess lost an additional $LD 4 million of grant. This kind of behavior happens so often in our government causing our county to lose millions in opportunities.”

Mr. Neyor noted that citizens cannot hold their elected and appointed officials accountable if they failed to set a clear example by being a “moral compass” for others to follow.

He observed that the fundamental requirement for county and national development is the role citizens, good citizens, play in ensuring good governance.

Mr. Neyor further used the occasion to extend condolences to the families of citizens who lost their lives during the recent mudslide in Rivercess County.

Those inducted to steer the affairs of RCU include: Alfred Nyanaso (Chairman), Maxwell Nyounway (Vice Chair for Administration), Abel Zeegar (Vice Chair for Operations and Mobilization) and Ezekiel Weah (Secretary General).

Others are: Darlington Boyah (Assistant Secretary General), Daniel Karr (County Coordinator), Handful Logan (Financial Secretary) and Rita Brown (Treasurer).

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