Deratification of ETON, EBOMAF Loans Goes to Executive Session
– Justice Minister Cites National Security Implications
Having failed twice to respond to Senate plenary’s citations, the Ministers of Justice Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, along with Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah, yesterday appeared before that body on Capitol Hill.
The Senate’s citation of the Ministers surrounds the apparently failed financing loan agreement between the government of Liberia and the ETON and EBOMAF companies in 2018.
Yesterday’s discussion, however, took a dramatic turn when Justice Minister Dean, instead of responding to an open question by Senator H. Varney G. Sherman, pleaded with Senate plenary to take discussions into an executive session (closed), citing security implications.
The senator, like most of his colleagues, was concerned about the executive session strategy to ensure that the country no longer has any obligation under the agreements.
“I asked these questions because we too have defaulted by not doing something that we should have done; so I am concerned about the process that will be employed by you, to give us the satisfaction that these agreements have been nullified,” Sen. Sherman added.
The Grand Cape Mount Senator noted that the Senate had agreed that because the Minister of Finance had refused to respond to their calls initially, “we annul those agreements; because we thought our deratification of those two agreements will be the most effective way of nullification. So I ask you whether your process will be more effective than ours,” Senator Sherman said.
He warned that the country will be committing a very serious error if the two agreements are not nullified.
But responding to the Senator's concerns, Minister Dean stated this: “Mr. President Protempore and members of the Liberian Senate, questions raised by Senator Sherman of the Judiciary Committee and the discussions that are to follow have national security implications; we, therefore, respectfully request that this discussion be taken into the executive.”
And based on the reference of security implications, Protemp Albert Chie and his colleagues went into an executive session.
Earlier, Finance Minister Tweah assured the Senate that the agreements, as conceived in both ETON and EBOMAF, were not executable or executed based on the lack of performance on the part of the parties; “so the deal was cleared that certain amount of resources would have been available in the case of ETON, and those resources were not available, and definitely the country was not liable; ETON did not provide any dime to the country... and so that agreement did not materialize; that is true for ETON, that is true for EBOMAF.”
Based on those clarifications, Minister Tweah maintained that “no monies were transferred, so technically, the agreement should be nullified, because there has been no financial movement at all in both cases, no legal liabilities. We are in the process of nullifying.”
Concurring with Tweah, the Justice Minister disclosed that the government has commenced proceedings by taking the appropriate steps to nullify the two agreements, and as soon as they are considered, the Senate will be furnished with a report.
“Indeed, all of the triggers that should have activated the performance of the agreement did not come to fruition; so indeed they are regarded as non-performing agreements and they will be nullified as directed by the Senate, ” Minister Dean assured.
On January 14, 2018, the Government of Liberia entered into a Loan Financing Agreement in the tune of over US$500 million with the two companies for the pavement of 830 kilometers of road corridors in the southeastern parts of the country, but the implementation of such agreement remains dormant on the part of the companies, but binding on the Government of Liberia in terms of financing the loan over the period stated therein.
The Senate was concerned over the fact that the agreement which has been ratified places huge financial obligations on the Government of Liberia in terms of repayment of the loan, while the companies have not released any funding relative to fulfilling their financial obligations to the Government of Liberia.
The Senate believes that the requisite engagement between the relevant government entities and the companies (ETON and EBOMAF) will aid the Plenary in commencing the appropriate processes leading to the nullification of the agreement.
It can be recalled that Grand Bassa County Senator, Nyonblee K. Lawrence earlier wrote to the Senate for possible cancellation of the agreement to avoid future embarrassment to the Liberian State.
Meanwhile, the Senate has extended by one week its Special session in expectation of receiving the 2022 National Budget and subsequent debate/further scrutiny. Like the House of Representatives, the Senate was expected to close on December 18, to end the proceedings of the 54th Legislature.