Liberia: LISGIS Acting DG Blames Census Slow Pace On Political Obstruction

Monrovia — Following the climax of the enumeration phase of the ongoing National Population and Housing Census in Liberia, the acting Director General of the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) Mr. Lawrence George has expressed frustration over the politicizing and obstruction of the ongoing National Population and Housing Census (NPHC) by some politicians in the country.

LISGIS was established by an Act enacted by the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) and approved by the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) on July 22, 2004.

The Act is known as “The Liberian Code of Laws Revised, As Amended, By Adding Thereto A New Chapter 50A., and as indicated in Section 50A.1 its short title is known and cited as the “National Statistics and Geo-Information Act”. The Institute was created in July 2005 by spinning off of the Statistical Department of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs.

It can be recalled that on November 11, 2022, the agency commenced the NPHC, the census has been long overdue. It was conducted in 2008 during the administration of ex Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The enumeration phase of the ongoing census ended on Saturday, December 17.

The census has suffered multiple setbacks, ranging from reported acts of rampant corruption, lack of funding, poor planning over the time frame, methods, training of enumerators, among others.

But speaking at a program marking the formal closure of the Social Mobilization, Community Engagement, Communication and Outreach Campaign of the census held in the Township of West Point on Friday, December 16, Mr. George admitted that the smooth conduct of the exercise was previously marred by series of challenges.

He disclosed that despite the climax of the first component of the census on November 22, some communities are yet to be counted up to present.

According to them, residents of these uncounted communities are staying away from the process because of their lawmakers asking them to do so.

“Census is not about politics. There are some people who even tried to obstruct the process til today; there are communities that have not been counted simply because, they believe in some Representatives or some other people and those individuals have told them not to be counted.”

“It was a very difficult thing to start because there’s this mentality of Liberians that we politicize everything. We politicize development, our national life, religion, social life and just everything.”

He failed to name a particular lawmaker or individual who have been brainwashing citizens to boycott the census.

Mr. George, however, termed as “a disservice to the Republic of Liberia” the attitude of some lawmakers and others to discourage citizens from participating in the census.

He said it is also ugly for citizens to also deny themselves from participating in the census to please the “selfish interest of a politician”.

He disclosed that the act is also preventing Liberians and their respective communities from “gaining what they deserve.”

Mr. George pointed out the characterization of Liberia as a “land of rumours, lies and deceits” seems to be “building its nets in our society” as a result of the current situation.

He maintained that despite the prevailing happening, Liberians should make a “turn around” in the next few days to be counted during the mapping exercise.

Making progress

Speaking further, Mr. George attributed the achievements that have been made thus far on the census to the efforts being applied by all stakeholders, including partners, enumerators, social mobilizers and communicators, among others.

He said the leadership roles exhibited by President Weah and members of the Legislature prompted positive narratives towards the betterment of the conduct of the census.

“When the census seems to have been going down slippery routes, it took leadership-the leadership of the President, National Legislature to ensure that we build a team to reach where we are today.”

“Today we are celebrating (the smooth conduct of the census) because, a group of people decided that this national cause must never be allowed to go down the drain. Today we can count the successes along the way because all of you have some point or the other done your piece of what it takes to have the people counted.”

Crusaders for Peace turned things around

Mr. George use the occasion to specifically heap praises on the heads and members of the Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP) for changing the “messy situation” of the census around by engaging, communicating and mobilizing in the communities.

Madam Juli Endee is the Executive Director of the group. She signed a month contract with the government to carry out Social Mobilization, Community Engagement, Communication and Outreach Campaign for the 2022 census.

Her involvement was triggered following negative media reports and other acts which discouraged citizens from previously participating in the census.

But Mr. George observed that the LCP played a pivotal role in the leeward areas by convincing citizens about the relevance of being counted.

“We say to the Crusaders for Peace thank you. You have demonstrated to capacity your ability to work. You were able to make it work across the country and this is why we have a good result. So, we want to say thank you. We are all aware that this census is a national project inspired by Article 39 of the constitution. Ambassador Endee, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are a wonderful Liberian.”

Significance of census

Mr. George, however, disclosed that the ongoing census in Liberia is “necessary” to enable the country knows its real numbers following years of civil unrest.

He said villages, towns and other areas were destroyed, adding that, citizens should be sincere and responsive to questions being asked by enumerators in a bid to help government and other establish and know the poverty index of the post-war nation.

He stated that Liberians should expect to see a lot following the full completion of the census.

Mr. George disclosed that though the enumeration stage of the census has climaxed, LISGIS workers will continue to visit those areas or communities that have not been counted during this mapping period.

Enumerators will be escorted by taskforce

He pointed out that as part of efforts to ensure that everyone is counted, government will also assign task force to enumerators to enable them move into the various communities where people have not been counted to do so void of any hindrance.

“There will be map up cross the country for a week. We now going to take the enumerators and assigned task forces behind them that will go to every village, town and ensure that everyone is counted.”

Mr. George added that the agency will continue to announce hotlines to afford Liberians who have not been counted the opportunity to do so.

He said LISGIS will send out mobile teams to make sure that citizens who are in this category are included before the climax of the exercise.

Lawmakers concerned

“It is important that everyone comes out to be counted. This census is not just about the elections. There are some Senators and Representatives who have been concerned about the impact of the census on next year’s elections. For the elections, you need 18 years and above, but for the census, you need zero year and above. So, we cannot disenfranchise any group of people. “

He stressed that everyone, including lawmakers should ensure that citizens open their doors to be counted, because the ongoing census is important for the growth and development of Liberia.

Also speaking, LCP Executive Director Ambassador Juli Endee disclosed that her group was contacted by LISGIS to engage into the campaign about ten days after the commencement of the census.

She said the LCP initially commenced the process through the production and pre-testing of messages for the campaign.

She noted that refresher trainings for communicators, mobilizers and supervisors were held for all of the various communities across the country.

“We also engaged media houses to make sure that they are on board to be able to either air the messages that we’ve done whether the jingles, dramas, the vernaculars and have the newspapers to do different kinds of production on the census messages.”

Ambassador Endee added that radio talk show hosts, influencers, bloggers, women groups, disabled community, inter-religious organizations, Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY), governors’ council, community leaders and the Musician Union of Liberia, among others were also involved to participate in the process of the social engagement and outreach campaign.

She disclosed that her involvement into the census was in support of a “national cause.”

She commended her staff for their professionalism, credibility and steadfastness to stand up and act in the interest of the country and its people whenever they are called upon, and authorities of the Ministry of Information and LISGIS for the collaboration and cooperation.

Ambassador Endee said many children in various communities across the country were not counted during previous censuses conducted in Liberia, adding that, the ongoing census will afford them the opportunity to be counted.

She further expressed thanks and appreciation for the level of trust and confidence reposed in her to handle the Social Mobilization, Community Engagement, Communication and Outreach Campaign of the 2022 census barely few days after the commencement of the process.

She, however, encouraged local and international groups operating in Liberia to prioritize community engagements with the locals if they must be successful in whatever they do in Liberia.

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