Liberia: Was Boakai Blindfolded?

-As he tours LTMI facilities

The recent tour of the premises of Liberia Traffic Management Incorporated (LTMI), a Lebanese-owned entity with interest from some Liberians by President-elect Joseph N. Boakai has left tongues wagging.

Not just because of his physical presence, but also because Mr. Boakai’s tour comes amid an ongoing legal dispute over the proposed Memorandum of Understanding of LTMI, which many continue to argue undermines the statutory functions of the Ministry of Transport and gifts LTMI a free ride to siphon the country’s much-needed revenue for a work that is already being executed by the Ministry of Transport.

The Ministry of Transport was established in August 1987 by law and has the statutory mandate to administer all transport related functions including the issuance of vehicle license plates and driver’s licenses in the country.

The Act also enables the Ministry to formulate and administer the transport, insurance, and maritime regulations and policies of Liberia. It has become one of the country’s major revenue-generating agencies.

The ministry over the years has worked hand in hand with the Liberia National Police in ensuring the registration of vehicles and the issuance of driver’s licenses.

However, the proposed LTMI MoU, which seeks to regulate and manage the country’s traffic also seeks to assume the role of issuing vehicle registration plates and driver’s licenses. This many have argued appears to usurp the function of the ministry, thereby raising security concerns about putting such function into the hands of a foreign company.

What has become more concerning about Boakai’s tour of LTMI facilities on Monday, January 15, was the presence of two former police directors: Chris Massaquoi and Gregory Coleman leading the tour without the presence of any member of the current police hierarchy. This speaks volumes of these individuals’ interests and apparent links to LTMI. The move also signaled how President-elect Boakai may have been blindfolded by them to tour LTMI amid ongoing litigation, one source close to the President-elect said.

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It could be recalled that on January 31, 2022, the Government of Liberia and LTMI were expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) aimed at regulating the traffic system of the country.

The signing of the MOU and a launching program were scheduled to take place on the premises of LTMI in Paynesville, adjacent to the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex.

The program was initially intended to be held on Friday, 28 January 2022 at 10 am, but the ceremony was halted and postponed under unexplained circumstances.

Some authorities from the security sector including the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), among others, were already in attendance as guests when the program was halted.

The LTMI MoU indicates that when signed, Liberia will benefit from an improved traffic regulatory system, building the capacity of 500 Liberia National Police staff and creating over 1, 200 jobs for Liberians. But what it did not say is the percentage of the country’s meager revenue it would be taking away.

The LTMI is a public-private partnership module, which is said to be working in over 50 countries around the world.

Excerpts of the MoU explained that LTMI would be responsible for the management of traffic vehicles while enforcement of traffic regulations would be done by the Liberia National Police, a partnership that currently exists between the LNP and the Ministry of Transport.

According to the partnership documents, the LNP shall provide manpower and Technical Law Enforcement expertise and shall conduct road safety awareness support traffic management and road safety programs across the country.

What is equally concerning about the LTMI MoU is that it also seeks to assume part of state function wherein it seeks to provide uniforms for the Liberian national police as well as engage in the training of personnel of the Liberia National Police.

As was done with President-elect Boakai in April 2019, LTMI led officials of government to inspect fleets of police traffic vehicles and motorcycles which it said would have been used for effective road safety and traffic management.

Meanwhile, a statement released from the office of the President-elect Boakai, indicated that Boakai found that with the LMTI set-up, the nation will have a One-Stop shop for the processing of all instruments from driver’s licenses, license plates, Roadworthiness inspections to insurance policies.

According to the office of the President-elect, the Traffic Enforcement Center has all the equipment ready for use and hoped that the legal hurdles surrounding the investment will be overcome so that the public will benefit from the just revenues of the investment.

“The issue of roads and road safety is a pillar of the Boakai administration under the ARREST manifesto” the office of the President-elect stated.

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