By Leila B. Gbati
Crashed M/V NIKO IVANKA victims’ family members, including those of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC’s) Liberia office staff, died in the recent ship crash, have threatened to stage massive protestation, if the Government of Liberia (GoL), according to them, fails to come out with findings from the GoL’s widely announced investigation launched into the marine accident.
Liberia’s Commissioner of Maritime, Eugene Lenn Nagbe announced early on 18 July, that the locally registered cargo vessel, M/V NIKO IVANKA, encountered a distress situation hours after it sailed off the port of Monrovia on Saturday, 17 July, headed for Harper, Maryland County.
Nagbe told reporters that while the M/V NIKO IVANKA, which eventually capsized, was underway to Harper, about 6 nautical miles off the coast of Marshall City, outside Monrovia, it reportedly started to take in water.
The Maritime Commissioner said at the time that the M/V NIKO IVANKA was under a current detention order and was not allowed to sail, indicating that at no period throughout its existence, the cargo vessel, which before it sunk, had onboard several individuals including nine staff of WAEC, was allowed or permitted or licensed to operate as a passenger carrier.
He added that the GoL was commissioning an investigation into how the M/V NIKO IVANKA, a vessel that he said was detained, because of failure to meet rudimentary requirements managed to get on the sea with passengers and cargo.
Howbeit, the family members of deceased passengers, who are victims of the ship crash, are threatening to stage sit-in protests at four government institutions; the Ministry of Education (MOE), Liberia Martime Authority (LiMA), the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the National Port Authority (NPA), if the GoL, within a week’s time, does not come up with additional information regarding what actually led to the deaths of their loved ones, as well as what actions to be taken against those responsible for the shipwreck.
The shipwreck victims’ family members are also threatening court action, which they stated would be instituted against the GoL at the in the international court level, should government failed in making public findings from its ongoing investigation regarding the sinking of M/V NIKO IVANKA.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in Monrovia, on their planned protest actions, the spokesperson of the M/V NIKO IVANKA victims’ family members, Mr. Jelson E.S. Keamah, said they were constrained to announce an ultimatum for protestation because their plights have not been addressed by government since the demise of their loved ones.
Mr. Keamah indicated that they came out with a press conference recently calling the attention of the government but according to him it seems the GoL is reluctant to respond to them or act on their requests, adding that this has constrained them to resort to series of protest actions at government institutions they are holding responsible for the deaths of their family members on the capsized M/V NIKO IVANKA.
“If we don’t have a redress the next course of action remains in place. We are going to carry out a sit-in at the four government ministries that we have mentioned. We will all be staffer of those ministries the day we get there. We are not going to do their work but they also will not do their work. We will sit because our brothers are in the funeral homes and they are working and getting pay,” he stressed.
He emphasized that the manner in which their loved ones dies is not a good representation of any entity, noting that the shipwreck victims have families and responsibilities and that their family members’ hopes are dashed, taking into consideration the hardship being currently encountered in the country.
Keamah pointed out that they will use non-violence approach, stating on the matter stressing that they will peacefully sit-in at the four agencies of government with the intent to draw the attention of staffers and authorities to their plight.
He stated that those who lost their lives on the M/V NIKO IVANKA honorable people dutifully serving their country before they died, according to him, “foolishly.”
“These people were not involved in clandestine acts; they were serving the nation then why are you treating them this way, should it have been Education Minister, NPA Managing Director or Representative before we can honor them? Keamah quipped, adding, “Why do we want to see the people lesser who are down and doing the job and only look at people who can sign paper. The technicians are doing the job and we don’t give them relevance.”
Keamah intoned that their planned protest actions would serve as precedence to prove that everybody in Liberia is important, even sweepers, because according to him, without them (sweepers) there will not be a clean environment.