Once again, and for the umpteenth time, the Liberian legislature has not failed to disappoint the people of Liberia. These individuals were elected to serve their people but instead they appear, by their conduct, to be overlords of the people.
The Legislature has failed, despite overwhelming calls from the public, to make full disclosure of the details of the Bao-Chico concession agreement.
Already they have passed the concession agreement without subjecting the agreement to public vetting. This strongly suggests that the Legislature is acting in complicity with what might just be a predatory arrangement involving predatory investors.
But this is not the first time that predatory agreements have been passed into law. During the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, out of a total of 66 concession agreements signed under her watch, 64 were bogus, according to the Moore-Stephens report.
According to a former Legislator, the passage of most of those agreements was made possible by the payment of bribes by the Executive to Legislators.
Some, if not most of those concession agreements have non-disclosure clauses, meaning that the Liberian people are restricted from knowing the full content of concession agreements that are intended to benefit them.
In its October 6, 2021 Editorial, headlined, “Remove Non-Disclosure Clauses from all Concession Agreements and Make Public the Details of the Solway Mining Inc. Mineral Development Agreement”, the Daily Observer noted that the Solway Concession Agreement lacked an Environmental Impact Assessment Report.
Similarly placed is the Bao-Chico Agreement. To the best of publicly available information, there is no environmental assessment report. Not even the project affected communities have any idea about how the proposed mining project will affect their communities.
Given the history of land concession agreements, traditional people have always been victims of forced displacement from their ancestral lands, often without fair compensation, if any at all.
Concession agreements are intended to bring benefits to the people in return for exploitation rights of the country’s natural resources.
Some countries like Norway, for example, have established a Sovereign Wealth Fund to stash away wealth earned from oil to benefit future generations.
This is in acknowledgement of the fact that those mineral resources are exhaustible, meaning they will not last forever. Over the past ten (10) years, 15 African countries including Nigeria, Gabon, Rwanda Senegal and more recently, Djibouti have all established a Sovereign Wealth Fund, according to a ResearchGate publication.
Further, according to the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds, these currently manage a total of US$24 billion in assets.
But such thoughts of establishing a Sovereign Wealth Fund for the benefit of future generations of Liberians is remotely far from the thoughts of Liberian legislators.
It is all about themselves and nothing more, it appears. Otherwise, how can one explain the passage of 64 agreements into law if it was not through outright bribery of legislators?
At this point, there are so many unknown variables in the Bao-Chico agreement which the Liberian people need to know, but our “honorable” Legislators have decided it is not in the people’s best interest to know what is going on.
But the Liberian people are not fooled by this. According to a civil society activist, some legislators are eying re-election in 2023 and are therefore, leaving no stone unturned to amass a war chest for use in 2023.
And for this, they are prepared to sacrifice anything, anybody, even their own children. Others are for the first time seeing “real money” in their miserable lives -- the exorbitant salaries, perks including funding for pet projects.
For this category of individuals, according to the civil society activist, “any number can win, meaning, they are prepared to sell themselves cheap. And much too often, quid pro quo, “scratch my back, I scratch your back” arrangements suit them just fine.
Little wonder why, therefore, there is always a huge number of candidates vying for legislative seats during elections. It is because membership of the legislature is an easy route to wealth.
Corruption is indeed killing the country and it appears that it is becoming even more deeply etched into the national psyche. According to former President Sirleaf, who had pledged to wage war against corruption but dismally failed to do so, corruption is systemic and had become a vampire.
And so with the Christmas and New Year holidays just around the corner, and with most Liberians catching real hell, who amongst men and women in that legislature will refuse a hefty bribe, knowing he/she can do so with impunity? This is a question with answers difficult to come by.
After all, Legislators need more money because, according to a Bong County Senator, they are besieged by requests from the public for things like school fees, marriage feasts etc, which requests, according to him, requires the provision of more money for personal image building under the guise of legislative projects.
The Bao-Chico Agreement, whose details our legislators have adamantly refused to disclose, have left the public wondering whether indeed money has changed hands in this deal as highly suspected.
If such is not the case, then we call on our legislators to come clean by not only releasing details of the Bao-Chico agreement but removing non-disclosure clauses from all concession agreements.
Our legislators should also be placed on notice that such malfeasances, misfeasance and dereliction of duties, responsibilities and obligations under the Constitution and laws of the Republic shall not be countenanced by the Liberian people.
Who, for instance, had ever in their wildest imagination thought that officials would have been publicly executed on charges of corruption? Absolutely no one!
Lest they, we forget, a day of reckoning is sure just as sure as day follows night. Until the details of this latest agreement are made public, the specter of bribery and corruption will continue to hover above the heads of our “Honorables” and for justifiable reasons too.