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The building now used by the National Academic Junior High School (NAJHS) in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, is in a deplorable condition; posing threat to the students. The building could fall on the students because part of it is broken.
The information gathered by FPA is that the school is still housed in the half- broken rented building because the new structure is not completed due to alleged fraud. The report furthered that a European lady Mrs. Jose Hermans Gbaa financing the construction of a decent new edifice for the National Academic School was allegedly duped by another Liberian, Mr. Benedict Reeves, a friend of her husband (Dahai Gbaa, a Liberian from Grand Bassa).
The information says when Mrs. Jose Gbaa visited Liberia 2007 she went Buchanan and vowed to solicit funds from friends to put up a new structure for the NAJHS upon her return to Europe. The information revealed that she felt sorry for the students after seeing the deplorable state of the school.
When FPA visited Buchanan recently, the reporter met with the Principal of the National Academic School, Mr. Moses Gbaa; Mrs. Jose Gbaa’s brother-in law. Principal Gbaa narrated that when his sister-in law and husband visited Buchanan, she told him to write a proposal to build a new structure worth US$ 50,000. He said he did and she consented to solicit funds.
Positive response from sponsors, but…
“After she got some positive responses from sponsors regarding the funds, she came back to Liberia on September 11, 2007 with Mr. Benedict Reeves, a refugee in Ghana. She told me that her sponsors embraced the idea of a newly constructed building and Mr. Reeves would head the building project because she didn’t want to trust a family member who might eat the money based on the relationship established between them.
Principal Gbaa further narrated, “January of this year was the ground breaking ceremony and Mr. Reeves was empowered to start the project. Jose sent him some money regularly. My sister-in-law said she expected the building finished September of this year; so she started sending more money. In August 2008, Jose asked for a photo of the proposed two storey building but she felt disappointed, knowing that the building didn’t represent the money sent.”
He said the lady requested that the job be halted until she came to Liberia to inquire what had happened. “The job was stopped August 25, 2008 and she came to Liberia September 11, 2008 and got the police involved. The police then summoned Mr. Reeves for investigation. Benedict didn’t have any remorse when questioned by Mrs. Gbaa as to how the money was spent. Later, she instructed him to present a written report but he said he didn’t have any. Instead he presented a pile of receipts without any where to start.”
According to sources in Buchanan, Mr. Reeves is a son of the soil but fled to the refugee camp in Ghana due to the civil war in Liberia. The sources furthered that Mr. Reeves was seen lavishing huge sums of money offering friends.
One source said, “At one time he staged a luncheon for the entire Superintendent’s office. He used US$900.00 to buy gas for his generator which used to sleep on, and his car engine used to remain beating whenever he went to meeting or any function.”
Another source indicated that Mr. Reeves used an open top jeep rented daily. “He took the money and open bank accounts in some of his relatives’ names. The man was living a money boy’s life because he really lavished money in this town.”
Building could fall at anytime
During the tour, FPA visited the building being used by the NAJHS and noticed that anyone would wonder about the well being of the students as the entire building is deplorable. Part of the roof is falling while the wall has cracks all over, just waiting for the appropriate time to fall. Who knows if it will fall during school hours because disasters don’t warn before they strike?
When students were leaving the campus for the day, a female student noted, “When it rains, we don’t have lessons because the whole building is flooded with water.” The student said they all go to a classroom that is not leaking and stand to wait for the rain to stop before they take lesson; adding “or when the rain is very heavy and long, we don’t take lesson at all.” The student wished their new building would be finished for them to learn without being disturbed.
On the grounds of the new two-storey building that is supposed to be constructed, the ground floor is not finished while the top floor is still flat; without a wall raised. It was noticed that the land is partly a wetland.
FPA visited the county’s authority and was told by local police Supt. E. Wiggs Drunwillie, Deputy Commander, Grand Bassa County that Mrs. Gbaa did carry Mr. Reeves’ complaint to them and they questioned him on the money spend.
“Mr. Reeves told us he didn’t have any report or document to show how the money was spent but he alone is not to be held liable for the used money because the money was not sent to him alone but some was also sent to Mr. Moses Gbaa, brother of Jose’s Husband and present principal of the School.”
It was than that the police showed the record of how the money was received by both men, but Mr. Reeves said he didn’t receive any money from Mr. Gbaa while Mr. Gbaa said he received the money and gave it to Mr. Reeves but didn’t make any receipt every time the money was given.
Officer Drunwillie said Mr. Reeves was arrested but was not prosecuted because Jose and her Husband had to leave earlier and they could not keep him in police custody after 48 hours. The police officer said if the lady comes back and decides to re-register the case, she can do so but in her absence, they can’t do anything.
‘No need to ask for receipt’
The record shows the total money received by both men was US$73,959.94. Mr. Reeves received the total amount of US$35,599.04 and Mr. Gbaa (Principal) US$38,360.94.
The Principal told FPA he and Mr. Reeves received the money through Western Union because the money was too much to send all at once. “My sister -in- law told me that she wanted to send more money but could not send all through Mr. Reeves because it was too much so she used to send some money in my name. When Benedict and I collected the money, right on the spot I would give the money to Benedict.”
When asked if he made Mr. Reeves make receipts to show that he received money, the principal answered, “I didn’t know Benedict would have said something like this because I trusted him; so I felt there was no need to ask for receipts.”
Upon leaving the Police Station, FPA contacted Mr. Reeves via mobile. He said he was ready to comment but due to the bad road condition, the meeting was rescheduled the following week when Mr. Reeves was expected in Monrovia. On that Thursday, FPA contacted Mr. Reeves who begged that he had not come to Monrovia but would come Tuesday, the following week. But that Tuesday, Mr.Reeves didn’t show up nor answer his phone. His phone was switched off.
FPA contacted Mrs. Jose Gbaa via mobile phone. She said when she came to Liberia May 2008 to find out about the money sent for the school construction; Mr. Reeves admitted using some of the money to establish a business and buy some things but said he was going to pay back the money. She added that he said “after all it was only a few thousand United States Dollars. When I took him to the police, it was when he indicted my brother-in Law, Moses who everybody knows in Buchanan, can’t take money if it is left on a table with nobody around.
“I was in communication with Benedict when I sent the money to him and Moses. He did not tell me that Moses didn’t give him the money when he (Moses) received it. When he knew that he was guilty, he tried dragging Moses into it. Benedict stole my money, and if a big man steals somebody’s money, he is no longer a big man.”
Mrs. Jose Gbaa disclosed that the “school is Moses’. Therefore, he can’t steal his own school money. And if Moses had eaten the money, Benedict would have been the first to report Moses. In fact, Benedict was the project manager and he was the only one allowed to go Monrovia and buy materials.”
Financial crisis hampering construction
When asked how she came to know Mr. Reeves, she answered, “I got to know him in Ghana through my husband. We all worked on a project in Ghana and he appeared very serious; so I trusted him to head this project and didn’t know he would have done this.”
Commenting on the building under construction, Jose said with the financial crisis, she does not know where else she can raise funds right now. “Those who helped are not feeling good about what happened to the money that should have helped the children in Bassa get a decent building.
“I can’t turn my back on the Liberian children now. I will look for some way but if I do raise money, I will come to Liberia and start the building project myself because I can’t trust anybody again.”