The Standing Committee on Contracts, Monopolies, Public Procurement and Concessions of the House of Representatives is expected today to begin investigating alleged claims against APM Terminal, the company operating the Freeport of Monrovia.
The Contracts, Monopolies, Public Procurement & Concessions Committee was mandated by majority members of the House of Representatives on Thursday, January 19, the 38th Day Sitting, to probe accusations of bad labor practices that are impeding progress and survival of Liberians.
Plenary took the decision based on communications from Bong County District # 5 Rep. Edward W. Karfiah, Sr. and Atty. Korvah B. Jallah of the Concerned Freeport of Monrovia Users.
“I present my compliments and am pleased to inform the Honorable House through your good offices that my attention has been drawn to the plight of some Aggrieved Sanitation and Stevedore Workers of the Freeport of Monrovia – complaining of bad labor practices being meted out to them by the APM Terminals,” said Rep. Karfiah, citing “Section 5 of the Concession Agreement signed between the Government of Liberia and the APM Terminals as well as Article 8 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.”
The Bong County lawmaker accused APM Terminals of depriving Liberians the right to do stevedoring which violates the Agreement, Section 5.02(i) and argued that the current agreement lacks corporate social responsibility to reflect on the surrounding communities for economic advancement and social well-being of the inhabitants.
Atty. Jallah further said Section 7.06(b) of the Agreement which gives exclusive rights to the concessionaires, deprived the Government and Port users from intervening for and on behalf of whichever party they represent during the time of cargo handling.
The Chief Executive Officer of Leelee Shipping and Stevedoring Agency, Atty. Jallah, who is also the spokesperson of the Shipping and Stevedoring Association of Liberia (SSAL) told journalists yesterday that as President George M. Weah said, Liberians cannot be ‘Spectators in the country’s economy, rather direct participants” and therefore is appealing to the Legislature to amend the Concession to allow Liberians to have stevedoring rights.
Atty. Jallah described the APM Terminals Concession as diabolical and self-centered.
The Liberian port users, under the banner “Shipping & amp; Stevedoring Association of Liberia (SSAL) in a 5-page document to the Legislature alarmed that the APM Terminals concession Agreement signed with the government of Liberia since 2011 is suppressive and meant to shy other potential investors away from Liberia.
Commenting further on the excesses of the agreement, the group has complained to the lawmakers that APM Terminals, a Dutch port management company, has refused to live up to the terms and conditions of the concession deal.
“Rehabilitating old warehouse in the Freeport of Monrovia that was built by friendly governments instead of building new ones, bringing in to Liberia foreign stevedoring companies at the disadvantage of Liberian companies, high fees charged vessels and consignees in favor of APM Terminals, thereby depriving the government of Liberia the much needed revenue among others are issues that need urgent attention for redress,” Atty. Jallah stated.
It may be recalled, APM Terminals was also accused of refusing to accept the local currency (Liberian Dollar) toward payment of goods and services as, reported once by Representative Edwin Snowe.
“I present my compliments and write bringing to the attention of the August Body the willful and unrealistic refusal of some business entities operating within our jurisprudence to accept the Liberian Dollars as a medium of exchange,” said Snowe.
The Bomi County lawmaker accused the APM Terminals and BIVAC of deliberately refusing the Liberian dollars in exchange of goods and services, thereby resulting in high demand for the United States dollars, which he said is the only acceptable currency as per the standard of these entities.
Rep. Snowe, who is Chairman of the House’s Committee on Foreign Affairs; wrote that the situation has caused high exchange rate changes that are unrelated to the underlying pattern of trade as well as instability and uncertainty for struggling Liberian businesses and consumers, who trade largely in Liberian Dollars.
“Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, as the urgency of our intervention into this situation cannot be overemphasized; I pray we take the necessary appropriate actions, in the true spirit of patriotism to end this unjust action against our citizens,” Rep. Snowe added.