Liberia: ‘Forgotten’ Enumerators in Rivercess Demand LISGIS to Pay Just Benefits, Threaten to Disrupt Census

Our Correspondent September 12, 2022
Solomon Harris, one of the stranded enumerators speaking to a team of FrontPage Africa’s reporters in Boegeezay Township, Rivercess County. Photo credit: Eric Opa Duoe

MONROVIA – Over one hundred census workers including supervisors and enumerators are currently stranded in Boegeezay Town, deep inside Rivercess County.

By Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected] and Eric Opa Doue, [email protected]

The workers, predominantly youths, between 18 and 35 years, are among 17,000 temporary staff recruited by the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) in October to conduct Liberia’s 5th National Population and Housing Census (NPHC).

Following the amplitude test, successful candidates were promised stipend to compensate for food and other essentials after a weeklong training. However, LISGIS has failed to live up to its commitment despite waiting patiently for almost 40 days, the recruits told FrontPage Africa.

“We have been here for more than one month and ten days. And LISGIS has not sent anything to our mobile money accounts,” said Solomon Harris, one of the enumerators.

“As a young man who knows himself, coming here, and bringing myself low, washing dishes and going on people’s old and abandoned cassava farm to dig cassava just to eat is so frustrating. I am feeling bad about this whole government. And I believe that is the same way my colleagues are feeling as well. We have resolved that if we don’t get our money, there will be no field work. No money no census,” Harris added.

Almost all of the recruits expressed the same sentiments.

“What is going on here is actually disappointing and frustrating. For a renowned institution like LISGIS to abandon us to starve and experience all sorts of hardship is so bad. Since October 10, 2022 we came here to do the workshop, they did not send us anything. We were healthy and happy coming here. But now we are all dry (pale) and angry,” said Benjamin Harmon, another enumerator.

Boegeezaye Town is the headquarters of Morweh Statutory District located in Rivercess County Electoral District #1. It is one of the training hubs of LISGIS. From here, several enumerators are expected to be deployed to other parts of the county. According to the distressed recruits, they were about 161 enumerators originally assigned in the area, but because of the continued hardship they are currently experiencing due to LISGIS’ failure to pay they money, most of their colleagues have abandoned their duty and returned home.

“We are really suffering here. Some of us came from Monrovia. The first time we went to Cestos. The people told us that our names were not on the list and we were assigned in Yappah Town [another training hub]. Then from Yappah Town, we were told to come here, explained Nuesonpilly GbaKolay,” a female enumerator.

Further explaining her ordeal, Gbakolay said: “We came here and were trained for the first time. We stayed for two weeks, no feeding, no stipend. Our director came and told us that the process has been postponed. So, we left. Then we were called back. Since we came back, the story is still the same. And most of our friends have left. Your please talk to the Government and LISGIS to send our money.”

Meanwhile, FrontPage Africa has gathered that in addition to LISGIS’s failure to pay the census workers’ money, it has not supplied them with any census materials despite news that the headcount has started in some parts of the country.

When contacted, LISGIS did not respond to FrontPage Africa’s inquiry. LISGIS’ acting Director General, Lawrence George did not respond to FPA’s messages sent via WhatsApp.

The conduct of Liberia’s overdue NPHC has been marred by controversies and internal wrangling. Recently, President George Weah sacked two top officials of LISGIS, the acting Director General Wilmot Smith and Alex Williams, the Deputy Director General who was placed under suspension when he accused his colleagues including the LISGIS’ Director General Professor Francis Wreh and the current acting head Lawrence George of financial malpractice.

Exactly a week after President Weah declared Friday, November 11, 2022 as national census day, the exercise has not started smoothly.

Despite the Government of Liberia and its international partners’ assurances that the census was on course, the process is still experiencing glitches.

Like the enumerators in Boegeezaye Town, LISGIS has not paid several census workers across the country their stipend.

In Grand Cape Mount County, there are reports that the aggrieved enumerators have seized census materials including smartphones. In most parts of the country, census materials are yet to arrive.


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