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Suspending EPA-L boss sign of political patronage?

By Morris T. Koffa, Sr.             Morris Koffa

 

 

It has come to the attention of the Africa Environmental Watch (AEW) that Hon. Anyaa Vohiri, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA-L), has been suspended indefinitely by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, for gross insubordination to her order to hire Mr. Levi Piah, former Superintendent of Margibi County, as Deputy Executive Director of the EPA.

The suspension of the Executive Director is quite an appalling move at a very critical time when the nation is combating the eradication of the deadly Ebola virus epidemic (EVE). No doubt, the Act that created the EPA-L does not make room for a second Deputy Executive Director.

The Act that created the EPA-L in 2003 allows the entity to accommodate only one deputy executive director, which it already has done. Additionally, if there is an urgent need for the creation of a second deputy position, the appropriate amendment protocols to the Act should be made before it takes effect, considering budgetary allotment for the position and its supporting staffs.

The suspension of the EPA-L boss at a time when she was attending the Conference of Party (COP20) on United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Lima, Peru, sends a wrong message to the international environmental community, that the head of Liberia’s delegation to the conference had to withdraw her credentials from the COP20 Conference because she did not act on the President’s order to hire Mr. Levi Piah.

The COP20 Conference offers Liberia an opportunity to make the case as one of the Ebola-affected countries often referred to as “Forest Countries.” The term is simply a reference to the forestlands prevalent in the current Ebola countries. It is believed that these forestlands are populated by fruit-eating bats and other animals that transmit the Ebola virus. Attending the conference would have provided an important opportunity for research opportunity and benefits that could lead to a solid action plan for eradicating the Ebola virus.

Since its creation in 2003, the EPA-L has been drastically underfunded, marginalized and denigrated by the Liberian government. The Agency has an annual budget of less than a million dollars, a workforce of over 125 employees, and has a national responsibility to protect and manage the environment of the nation.

Indeed, the EPA-L has a gigantic responsibility that requires a huge volume of resources and increased funding for institutional capacity building to strengthen efficiency for the Agency. The benefit of such requires investment to help the nation create a sound and healthy environment where residents and visitors in Liberia will  feel very healthy. Unfortunately, the current budgetary allotment is far less. To expand the structure without the much needed support is simply unhealthy politics.

Although the EPA-L is an autonomous agency with the power to generate its own funding from fines on polluters and other fees that could make up for other budgetary shortfall. However, the Liberian government is an hindrance to these initiatives.

For example, the EPA-L was excluded from major concession agreements related to areas such as mining, diamond, gold, oil, to name a few. In addition, the EPA-L was initially excluded from the Ebola Emergency Taskforce. Disturbingly, there is an historical pattern to such a marginalization of the agency.

To think that the Liberian government will approach the growth and sustainability of the EPA-L in a less enthusiastic way while the world is more focused on issues of clean environment is troubling, to say the least.

The Sirleaf administration needs to provide the EPA-L with a deserving platform to earn the respect of other institutions that are doing business in Liberia. No nation succeeds in its national development agenda with poor infrastructures related to environment and disaster management.

The recent outbreak of the Ebola epidemic should demonstrate that Liberia does have vulnerabilities in areas of the environment, disaster management and healthcare; all of which needs very serious attention.

It is my wish that President Sirleaf would rethink her action and reinstate Hon. Anyaa Vohiri to continue her work at the EPA-L.

 

Morris T. Koffa, Sr., is Executive Director, Africa Environmental Watch. He can be reached at www.africaenvironmentalwatch.org or at 240-417-2545.

Category: Editorial, News Headlines

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