MONROVIA – Liberian energy expert Christopher Zeohn Neyor has attributed the continuous power outage at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) to the growing wave of pride and arrogance among some government officials who are clothed with the authority to change the narratives at the most vibrant revenue generating airport in the country.
Last week, SN Brussels, one of the most consistent airlines flying from Europe to Monrovia re-routed to Freetown, Sierra Leone when the plane, after descending sufficiently to touch ground, suddenly aborted landing at the RIA due to power outage at the airport and on the runway.
In a video recorded in the plane and shared with FrontPageAfrica, the pilot is heard announcing, “I would like to inform you that the airport in Monrovia is closed and there is no electricity at the moment. They’re trying to fix it, but we have some fuel to do a few miles; but until now, we don’t have any contact at the airport of Monrovia so we have decided to go back to Freetown. In Freetown, we will see if we can take some fuel and what the decision would be next…”
The flight later returned to the RIA after the airport was powered. This caused a delay for outbound passengers scheduled to take off from the RIA at 8:30 pm. They were rescheduled to 9:30 pm and later moved to 10:30 pm.
“The plane left after 11:30 pm. It was delayed for three hours. Some passengers were frustrated and concerned about missing connecting flights. The pilot just apologized for the delay and said it was a blackout at RIA,” a passenger informed FrontPageAfrica.
But in response to the situation, Mr. Neyor called on those responsible to ensure the provision of stable electricity at the airport to put aside their “pride and arrogance” and bring in experts to solve the problems.
His assertions were contained in a statement released from the United States of America over the week end.
He maintained that for the sake of Liberia and its citizens, President George Manneh Weah and his relevant government officials should lower their height and powers by mustering the courage to reach out to citizens who have the expertise to help address the inadequate supply of electricity at the RIA in a timely manner.
Mr. Neyor observed that the current situation at the RIA is not only ugly, but it is also a dangerous scenario which poses a serious threat to the lives of Liberians and foreigners who depart or arrive in the country via the airport.
“I’m speechless! This is a dangerous national disgrace! President Weah, Minister of State McGill, Transport Minister Wulu, Liberia Aviation and RIA Authorities: For the sake of the country and to avert disaster at the Roberts International Airport, please put aside your pride and arrogance and call in experts to help you resolve this ugly and dangerous situation IMMEDIATELY”.
“Small shame (if that what it is for you to ask experts to help you) is better than a major disaster at the airport that would causes many precious lives both of your own citizens and foreigners”.
Willing to help
Mr. Neyor previously served as the Managing Director of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) and Senior Energy Advisor and President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) during the administrations of former Liberian Presidents Samuel Kanyon Doe and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
He played a pivotal role in advising Madam Sirleaf and the former Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy on post war power restoration, spearheaded writing of the current Liberia National Energy Policy (LNEP) and initiated the conceptual framework for full development of the nearly 1000 MW capacity of the St Paul River basin.
Mr. Neyor is currently the President/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Morweh Energy in Liberia. The group is engaged into both local and international consultancies on the energy sector.
He vowed to institute a two-phase solution to help resolve the current situation at the airport when accorded an opportunity by the CDC led-government to help find a quick fix to the situation at the RIA.
He named an interim solution to restore continuous electricity at the airport in two to three weeks utilizing on-site synchronized generators and relevant switchgear, and a long term solution in six to nine months utilizing emerging renewable energy and storage technologies as two of the best ways to address the current unstable supply of electricity at RIA.
Mr. Neyor justified that these proposals are the best ways forward to save lives and avoid disaster at the RIA.
“I can assure you this solution will be nowhere near the $20+ million I understand has been estimated for the airport power resolution. I’ve repeatedly stated that the medium to long term solution to our electricity problem lie in the CLSG transmission extension (if we can pay their arrears) and the St Paul River full development. In the meantime, RENEWABLE, RENEWABLE, RENEWABLE! The choice is yours, decision makers”.
Liberia is indebted to Ivory Coast in the tone of a little over US$9m for the supply of electricity through the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) TRANSCO power import.
The latest incident involving SN Brussels brings to two the number of time a descending plane has been forced to abort landing due to lack to dark runway at the RIA. In February, Royal Air Maroc was forced to also divert its landing to Freetown due to the same reason.
Earlier on, Air France announced the suspension of its flights to Liberia for similar reason-with the latest departing the Liberian soil on April 30.
Citizens, including members of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), have been expressing serious concerns over the incident, with few mocking the situation, while others calling for an immediate action.
Despite the pronouncement of US$23m made by the government towards finding a solution to the continuous power outage at the RIA, Liberians want President Weah to intervene immediately.
Their concerns were expressed openly on the social media following the SN Brussels incident.
George P. Lobbo stated: “With the country in his heart, we are sleeping in darkness, our airport completely dark. No jobs, increased hardship and bad governance. I don’t know what will happen if the country move down in his foot”.
“Absolutely, there’s no logical justification for the airport to be without power. If we’re not mindful, very soon, we’ll have to travel by road to Freetown to get on a plane. So sad”, Dweh Nimely writes.
Ben Adebayor Ben writes: “Just build a mini football pitch on the airport, electricity will always be there. Da football country here”.
Setup task force
For his part, acclaimed youth activist Kimmie Weeks called for the establishment of a presidential task force to address the issues plaguing the airport.
He added that immediate measures should be adopted to fix the problems.
“Each time incidents like this happen, airlines weight the profits they make against the risk of a devastating crash. Air France has pulled out let us not become a country where no international airline wants to fly to. This is a serious and urgent matter”.
Mr. Weeks called for “friendship and partisanship” to be put aside in addressing the current situation at the airport.
The unstable supply of electricity at the RIA is also preventing Liberians residing in the diaspora, investors and others from coming or returning to the country as planned and scheduled.
Citizens and others are skeptical about aircraft smooth landing void of any hindrance or re-routing when they intend to return or visit Liberia.
“I’m not going Liberia soon, until the airport can have stable electricity. What happened to Brussels airline could’ve caused…”, Harrison Syivanus wrote on his facebook page from the United States.
A prioritized sports park
On the other hand, some Liberians have questioned the rationale behind the construction of a sports park by the President at the time the country’s only international airport was faced with multiple constraints.
Since its dedication few weeks ago, the “Invincible Sports Park” dedicated by President Weah continues to witness the uninterrupted supply of electricity.
It comprises of a standard FIFA football pitch, two youth football practice pitches, two basketball courts, tennis and volleyball courts, a track and field stretch, mini children’s playground, parking space, VIP lounge, and a prayer house. Several housing units were also constructed around the park to give the area a facelift.
“Weah leads an extremely poor Liberia. He spends on Sports Park, and luxuries that generate no revenue-but leave the only airport that generates revenue without light”, Ambulah Mamey stated.
Stop risking lives
Citizens also see the delay to find short or long-term solutions to the consistent power outage at the RIA as one that poses risks to lives and properties worth millions of dollars.
E. Kamel Worjloh states: “Stop risking the lives of innocent passengers and fix the problem. Get the money and solve this problem before one morning our pages and airwaves be covered with why so soon because of a plane crash. This is serious and it is beyond the management control at the airport”.
“Mr. President, the issue of the airport is becoming increasingly embarrassing. You need to act and act now”, Abubakar Corneh stated.
Liberians, especially travellers and foreign nationals, would be constrained to spend extra money continuously if the power outage at the RIA is not address in a timely manner.
Already friends, relatives, employees and others are compelled to travel long distances, sleep on the airport, or pay for overtime for chartered vehicle services due to the diverting or rescheduling of flights bringing passengers into the country.
However, Liberians remain hopeful that the recent visit of international partners to the RIA to get first-hand information on the challenges confronting the airport would yield fruitful results.
But many believed that the US$23M announced by the government to address the electricity challenges at the RIA, without conducting a thorough assessment, is exorbitant.
There has been mounting calls from citizens for international partners to unilaterally carry out the electricity project at the airport (if they are interesting in helping the post-conflict nation), instead of proving loan or grant to the government to implement the project.
Citizens’ trust and confidence in the government have been eroded due to the questionable manner and form in which scores of public officials have acquired properties worth millions of dollars in a short period of time following the inception of the CDC led-government.