Liberia: Power Cuts, AML Deal Top Senate Agenda

Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie of the Liberian Senate.

 

Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie has named solving the Roberts International Airport’s unexpected power crisis as well as the provision of stable electricity across the country  as some of the key national issues Senators will act upon as they return from constituency break.

Pro Tempre Chie, along with his colleagues, yesterday returned to session after a two-month constituency break. Among other things, they listed the second look at the controversial third amended mineral development agreement from ArcelorMittal, which was earlier rejected by the House of Representatives. As areas of concern for the Senate during this second sitting of the 5th Session of the 54th Legislature. 

Of late, the RIA has been experiencing some critical power outage problems — the latest instance being the power outage on the night of April 27, which forced an inbound Brussels Airlines flight to return to Freetown, after attempting to land.

Meanwhile, the entire country has also been experiencing a daily increase of power shortage as a result of a massive load shedding being carried out by the state electricity provider — the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC).

The continued absence of power means many businesses and homes have to rely on private generators for electricity, despite the presence of the TRANSCO CLSG  transmission line in the country, as part of the West Africa Power Pool project. 

But the country's inability to commission the CLSG power line, as a result of debates, means Liberia is missing out on delivery of 225kv of stable electricity from the Ivory Coast to the Mount Coffee Hydro, which among many things would solve the regular power shortage  problem. 

“Top on the agenda is the issue of the alarming shortage of power supply in the country,” the Pro Tem said.  “The Legislature and the Executive need serious discussion on the constraints prohibiting access to the CLSG power line, power theft and the settlement of the approximately US$4.3 million which the Government of Liberia owes the LEC for electricity supplied to Government agencies, management as well as the bureaucratic bottlenecks in the power sector, which restrain investment initiatives.” 

The Pro Tem added that the Senate will do all it can to work with the Executive to find solutions to the issue of electricity, which he believes is very crucial to economic growth and the welfare of the Liberian people. 

The fate of the CLSG power, which Liberia should have commissioned ever since last year, now lies in limbo as the government will need to settle its Ivorian counterpart in the tune of US$9 million for cross border trade of electricity in Maryland and Nimba Counties, as a result of LEC’s inability to settle its bills for the last three years.

After settling the bills, the government will have to also pay US$7.2 million as security deposit before the CLSG power supply to Mount Coffee takes effect.

According to the government, the Ivorian government is also demanding that US$550,000 is paid every month until the US$9 million debate is exhausted, while also paying the regular US$3.6 million a month, when the CLSG power kicks off.

On the issue of the AML agreement, the Senate,  according to Pro Tem Chie, is expected to take a second look at the US$800 million ArcelorMittal Liberia deal, which was conditionally rejected by the House and had it returned to the President for renegotiation.

In a letter to President George Weah, some time ago, the House expressed misgivings about the agreement, particularly the impact of the treaty between Liberia and Guinea on the ownership, operatorship, and users’ rights of the Yekepa to Buchana railroad as enshrined in Article 3 of the treaty with Guinea.

Meanwhile, some members of the Liberian Senate have noted the provisions of security and lack of social services are gloomy and there is a need for action. 

Bong County Senator, Dr. Henrique Tokpa, while speaking, complained of poor management of the Roberts International Airport — calling for the need to privatizee that facility to create efficiency, “as is done in some African countries.”

Also, Senate chair on Law, Order and Administration, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, decried the country’s alarming rate of unexplained deaths and rape cases, and the state’s inability to adequately curtail them.

The Grand Bassa County ranking Senator blamed the inadequate provision of state security for such a nightmare. 

For his part, River Gee County Senator Jonathan Boye Charles Sogbie reminded his colleagues that if nothing is done urgently to address the alarming rate of narcotic drugs intake by the youth, the country’s future is doomed.

“If we accept the logical saying that the youth is the future of any nation, then Liberia has no future,” he lamented, adding that the drug intake by able-bodied young men and boys is even worse in the leeward counties.

Maryland County Senator James Biney disclosed that, for a country celebrating 200 years of existence, citizens in his major towns and cities are still drinking from streams and creeks, and therefore have a lack of options, accepting their conditions as normal way of life.

Earlier, Pro Tem Chie, who represents Grand Kru County, complained about the challenges he and his colleagues face, during their just-ended constituency break, namely: the issue of volunteer health workers, volunteer teachers, uncoordinated retirement of civil and public servants, as well as the payroll issues at the Ministries of Health, Education and Internal Affairs, respectively.

Senator Chie also reminded his colleagues of communications and bills in Committee Rooms and the need for them to be acted upon as soon as possible. 

He noted that since the Senate works through Committees, all Senators’ communications will firstly be sent to Committee Rooms before coming on the floor for action, adding there will be more work at the level of committees than Plenary this time around. 

The Senate officially closed on 25th March 2022, based on an Act setting the new working calendar of adjournment, in line with the amended Public Financial Management Act, which sets the fiscal period from January 1 to December 31 of each year.