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‘Natural Resources Must Work For Citizens’, CENTAL says regarding Western Cluster Mining Operation in Bomi County Featured

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‘Natural Resources Must Work for Citizens’, CENTAL says regarding Western Cluster Mining Operation in Bomi County

Monrovia, Friday, January 13, 2023 – Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, development partners and fellow Liberians:

 Firstly, we extend our sincere best wishes for the New Year and appreciate you for standing with CENTAL and supporting our work in 2022. We look forward to more of your support and dedication to the fight against corruption in 2023. Meanwhile, the year has already begun with troubling developments that rehash nearly a century-long history of bad concessions in Liberia. What is even more troubling is that Bomi, one of the counties that have experienced natural resource extraction with virtually nothing to show, is again being placed at the epicenter of the resource paradox.

Fellow Liberians, CENTAL’s attention has been drawn to negotiations around the Western Cluster Concession in Bomi County, which has understandably generated tension between citizens of Bomi County and their leaders on the one hand, and Bomi County and the company itself (Western Cluster Limited) on the other hand. With utter shock, we have observed violation of fundamental constitutional safeguards such as the separation of powers. In particular, the involvement of Senator Edwin M. Snowe and the Bomi Legislative Caucus in negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a serious conflict of interest on the part of Legislators who have an even higher responsibility of oversight regarding matters such as concessions. Further, the MOU undermines the 2011 Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Republic of Liberia and Western Cluster Liberia Limited as it evades lawful taxes in millions of dollars owed by Western Cluster to the Government of Liberia, and approves potential environmental hazards posed by Western Cluster operations via trucking of minerals from Bomi through the Freeport of Monrovia.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press and fellow Liberians, the lack of citizens’ involvement in the said negotiations are even more telling and constitute flagrant violation of relevant laws, including the Land Rights Act of 2018.  CENTAL continues to note these unorthodox incidents of corruption in the extractive sector involving some former and sitting lawmakers and ministers with utter dissatisfaction. This is and has always been the trend in Liberia, whereby government enters into agreements with companies to extract natural resources, usually at the disadvantage of citizens and affected communities. These acts do not only signal corruption, but also undermine transparent revenue generation by multinational firms through corporate lobbying to weaken enforcement of key mineral policies. Also, they influence policymakers’ decisions to win government contracts in mining companies’ favor through fraudulent means, thereby hindering efforts to garner needed revenues and transform the lives of affected communities/counties and Liberians, more broadly. As a result, Liberia continues to lose millions of dollars through shady concession deals and illicit financial flows in the sector. Unfortunately, these funds mainly benefit corrupt government officials and their allies instead of the government itself, thereby creating unnecessary financial burdens for government. The State is then compelled to beg for financial assistance and acquire loans for development purposes, when there is huge potential to generate internal revenues from natural resource extraction if corruption is prevented. 

In 2019, it can be recalled that several former public officials were accused by Global Witness and subsequently indicted for soliciting US $950, 000 in bribes from UK-based Sable Mining Company. The aim was to change section of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) Act in favor of the company to award Wologizi Mountain in Lofa without competitive bidding process. The likes of Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman, Alex Tyler, former Speaker, House of Representative, Morris Saytumah, former Minister of State and now Bomi County Senator, Richard Tolbert, former National Investment Commission head and others were involved in the said corruption saga. What is even more disturbing is that some of the same names have resurfaced in this shady MOU arrangement wherein Bomi County Senator Edwin Snow mentioned Alex Tyler, former Speaker, House of Representative, Morris Saytumah, former Minister of State now Senator, and others as participants. This speaks to the fact that the culture of impunity continues to thrive as a result of a weak and compromised legal system that undermines the rule of law, democratic tenets as well as effective functioning of our judicial institutions established to reprimand violators of crimes.

Fellow Liberians, CENTAL is extremely elated that the people of Bomi are standing up and demanding accountability of their leaders and better treatment from a company operating in their county. This is exactly what we have pushing for over the years, working with communities in Bomi and other counties to educate them on their rights and roles in ensuring that their natural endowments work for them, in keeping with the Principles of Free, Prior and informed consent which seeks to promote transparency, accountability, and inclusion of all stakeholders involved in concession related activities and processes. We call on the citizens and people of Bomi County to remain steadfast in their advocacy for a better deal that reflects and truly seeks their interest, moving away from business as usual. Moreover, we call on the leadership of Bomi County, through its Legislative Caucus to respect the rights and plights of the people of Bomi in their call for nullification of a bogus MOU and demand for better treatment, including jobs and environmental protection.

Given the gravity of this situation and other longstanding issues of corruption in the extractive sector, we are calling on President George Weah to protect the Constitution and the Liberian People in this Western Cluster deal by demonstrating zero tolerance for corruption and bad governance. Circumstances surrounding development and implementation of the “bad MOU” should be investigated and those found wanting prosecuted for their actions. Also, any discussion (s) around review of existing concessions and awarding of new ones should be done in line with relevant Liberian Laws, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative guidelines and requirements as well as other international frameworks promoting inclusion, transparency, accountability, and full citizens’ engagement and meaningful participation in mining and other award decisions. Finally, the government of Liberia should also act to respect the principle of separation of powers, as provided for in the constitution of Liberia. Senators and Representatives who should be providing oversight and approving Agreements cannot at the same time be negotiators of said contracts.

Thank you.

Signed:

Management

Read 613 times Last modified on Monday, 23 January 2023 18:01

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Phone: +231 88 681 8855
Email: info@cental.org.lr
Website: www.cental.org.lr 

 

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