By George H. Nubo
|Nubo makes a point to President Sirleaf|
On August 6, 2014, President Sirleaf of Liberia imposed a state of emergency to help in the fight against the Ebola menace. The belated action was taken months after the plague surfaced in Liberia. Though the action is long overdue, many Liberians and friends of Liberia welcome it. Observers believe that if the state of emergency is planned and executed correctly, Liberia could, sooner than later, declare victory against the plague. The state of emergency can affect certain rights and freedoms of the citizenry.
Article 86 of the Liberian Constitution gives the president the authority to declare a state of emergency and there-under suspend certain constitutional rights and freedoms of the people of Liberia. During the period, the constitution cannot be suspended nor amended. The legislature is to remain in session for the entire duration of the state of emergency. The president is required to present the proclamation and measures (action plan) to the legislature for endorsement. The legislators have the authorities to endorse or revoke the state of emergency or modify the measures, if needs be.
What is absent in the proclamation of the state of emergency are the MEASURES: actions that would propel us to defeat the Ebola menace. It is unfortunate that since President Sirleaf proclaimed the state of emergency, she has not come up with any action plan, apart from amassing members of the Armed Forces of Liberia at checkpoints to stop people from the affected areas from entering Monrovia. If no comprehensive action plan is put in place, Ebola will continue to spread regardless of the barricades erected by the army against the free movement of Liberians. The government needs to inform the people. It is their right to know what the government has in store for them for the three months.
According the constitution, the president has up seven days to carve and present the measures to the legislature. But this is not the case: the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate have already endorsed the imposition without requiring the “measures” as stipulated in the Liberian Constitution. This was a big surprise, when I learnt that the legislature had endorsed the state of emergency without the requisite measures. One would, however, argue that considering the level of fatalities in the country as a result of the plague, the action of the legislature is understandable. But the legislature must always follow the constitution in order to make a certain measure legal.
So this has to be done correctly because it is the constructional rights of the people of Liberia to know. Since the publication of the imposition of the state of emergency, there has been a flurry of questions concerning the planks within the action plan, if there is any:
Will the measures or action plan include efforts to purchase crematory equipment for each county, if not each district?
I am very much aware of the statement made by the Assistant Ministry of Health, Tolbert Nyenswah, concerning cremation of Ebola victims. Mr. Nyenswah said that cremation is un-African. Not only that, he said that burying Ebola victims in the swamp does not pose threat to the lives of the dwellers. Yes, he made these comments after the Government of India donated a crematory equipment to the Government of Liberia. The donor of the crematory equipment can draw inference that Ministry of Health of Liberia does not appreciate their assistance to Liberia. The statement can also turn off some international partners who were considering donating crematory equipment to Liberia. President Sirleaf has been mute on the statements, neither has there been any action taken against Mr. Nyenswah for the reckless statements. This sends a wrong message to countries that are standing on line to help Liberia.
What will happen to government officials who are not currently in the country? Will there be deadline for them to return?
On Monday, about a week after the president declared a state of emergency, the president suspended all foreign travels by government officials and mandated the officials who are currently out of the country to return home within seven days. Failure to comply means job abandonment. This is good, but does the president have the will power to enforce it?
I applaud this because Maryland County, for example, is currently without its leaders. The county has virtually come to a standstill because its leadership is currently out of the county. The superintendent of the county is in the United States, and so is the Chief Medical Officer of the county. As we know, Ebola does not wait for anybody. Even the development superintendent of the county has just returned to Harper, from Monrovia. Besides, nothing is set up in the county in anticipation of the deadly menace. There is no action plan, neither is there any place set up to quarantine Ebola patients, in case the plague surfaces in the county. I hope the leaders will comply with the president order. I also hope that, this time around, the president has the willpower to do what she says.
Government officials don’t miss any foreign trip because of the attendant travel benefits. Just recently I read a quip by Mo Ibrahim concerning the globetrotting of President Sirleaf. Now that traveling is suspended, will the benefits be used to fight the Ebola virus? The curtailment will pump lot of money into the Ebola funds.
Will the officials of government and public corporations lead by examples?
Will they tax themselves, like in Sierra Leone, in this national effort to combat the virus in the country? Funds raised could be deposited into the Ebola Trust Fund. Has the government taken a careful look at the article written by Ruel Dempster in The Perspective and question asked by J. Wehtee Wion at the town-hall meeting when the V.P visited the USA? Will the government publish the 20 million dollars mini budget?
The Ebola does not fire warning shots before it strikes. Will the government set up quarantine centers in each county, including those counties that are not yet affected? Quarantine centers must be set up and ambulances for each healthcare center be purchased. One ambulance per district is at least a minimum necessity. I read that Missionary Whitebol was driven to the airport via an old pickup truck. This is very disgraceful to Liberia!
What will be the roles of companies and businesses operating in the country, in this fight, in their respective counties of operation?
Back to Maryland County: I read that Senator Ballout of Maryland County is asking companies operating in Liberia to supplement government’s effort in fighting the virus. But the Hon. Senator of Maryland failed to call Cavalla Rubber Corporation and Maryland Oil Palm Plantations operating in Maryland to help the county. I am saying this because the last time I checked, he was the Senior Senator of Maryland County. But, as one Marylander put it, “he has perhaps already drained the companies’ funds to finance his re-election campaign.”
Will there be efforts to establish laboratories in the various regions, if not in every county?
It currently take days, if not weeks, for laboratory results to get back to the health center of origin. Consideration should also be given to the idea of equipping the labs of the two universities (University of Liberia & Tubman University) for research purposes.
There are reports that the government has resumed the training of healthcare workers in Monrovia. This training needs to be extended to all parts of the country. We do not have to wait for the arrival of Ebola before we commence training. Working gears for healthcare workers should be made available to all healthcare workers in the country.
These are some of the questions that beg for answers. We have to take some actions to convince the international community that we are serious in the combat against the menace. Additionally, the wages of healthcare workers need to be improved. We need to use the Ebola state of emergency to also address the countless personal hygienic issues in the country.
The unfortunate Ebola plague must not be used by the kleptocrats in the country to enrich themselves. So let’s document and implement measures that will arouse the attention of the international community and prove to them and our citizenry that Liberian officials will bury the prevailing corruption in the country together with the victims of Ebola. This is a tough call, but it can be done.