Liberia: Legislature, Executive Flipflop Over Census Date Amid Chaotic Recruitment Process

Monrovia — The Government of Liberia has failed to live up to its commitment signed in a joint resolution to conduct Liberia’s much delayed National Population and Housing Census (NPHC).

In August this year, the 54th Legislature, following a series of staunch negotiations, passed a joint resolution setting dates of the census from October 24, 2022, to November 7, 2022. The resolution was signed by the President and printed into handbill by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thus becoming a law.

But in a blatant violation of the law, the Liberia Institute of Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), the agency clothed with the authority to conduct census, did not implement the Government’s mandate, and the Legislature failed to perform its oversight responsibility.

With just three days to the census, the Legislature, without repealing the existing law, met with LISGIS and UNFPA and verbally announced the postponement of the census.

The President, apparently sensing the error, wrote the Legislature, requesting, the body to pass a new Joint Resolution to further extend the conduct of the National Census by an additional two weeks from November 7, 2022, to November 22, 2022. Though the legally binding two weeks have almost exhausted without a single count.

Chaotic Recruitment Exercise

The unlawful postponement of the census comes on the heel of a chaotic recruitment exercise that brought LISGIS, which had earlier been rocked by integrity problem under more scrutiny.

Across the country, thousands of applicants who were accepted to undergo LISGIS’ training to serve as enumerators complained that their names were omitted after successfully passing the aptitude test, the last step for qualification.

Even, some of those whose names were posted on LISGIS’ website as successful candidates were denied entry to their assigned training venues. This led to series of protests the angry recruits threatened to disrupt the process.

Explaining their ordeals, several applicants told FrontPage Africa that they had to travel back and forth to be accepted for the training but was denied twice.

“Since this morning, I have been going from place to place. My name was placed on LISGIS website but the supervisor at Caldwell told me to go to where I took the test,” Grace Dickson said.

She added: “I do not know what to do because I am tired of moving from one place to another and cannot get any results.”

LEGIS admitted to technical challenges and promised to address the situation to continue with the census. However, President Weah, in his communication, said the request for the extension of the census date is due to the unforeseen logistical and technical challenges around the country.

He said the team at LISGIS has been working assiduously to meet the census timeline as substantial financial, logistical and administrative arrangements have been put into place for the conduct of the census.

Lawmakers Remain Cynical

Back in the chamber, the Plenary of the House of Representatives expressed concern over LISGIS’ preparedness for the Census amid series of protests that marred the recruitment exercise.

The lawmaker voted to convene an emergency session on Wednesday to respond to the President’s communication. Some called for the entire process to be postponed to next year.

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