President Sirleaf, addressing the nation following the Nimba youths’ violence against ArcelorMittal’s infrastructure two weeks ago, declared that government would undertake the repair of the damaged roads and bridges. But, she added, the costs would be defrayed by funds from the county’s Social Development Funds.
This assertion by the President received a barrage of criticisms, with many demonizing the government for failing to accept its responsibility, blaming the problem on the people of Nimba.
“As we have seen in Tokadeh, and as it appears to be springing up elsewhere in the country, including concession areas, the exercise of freedom without the associated responsibility leads to anarchy,” President Sirleaf pointed out. Anarchy anywhere in the country undermines the collective progress made, which the Government cannot permit to happen, she added.
To the surprise of most people, however, Arcelor Mittal has completed the rehabilitation of the bridge.
According to Nimba County Development Superintendent, Teeko Tozay Yorlay, the company completed the rehabilitation of the bridge on July 16.
Speaking to the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview, Mr. Yorlay said the rehabilitation work was done exclusively at the cost of ArcelorMital, although it was done under the supervision of the Development Department of the County Administration of Nimba County. During the rehabilitation exercises, the bridge, which is the major link from Sanniquille to Yekepa, was closed for about 11 hours.
Though Mr. Yorlay said that he did not know the actual cost of the works done, he reckoned it was between US$5,000 to US$10,000. He indicated that the ArcelorMittal road project team worked in collaboration with Mr. Raymond Mambor and staff of the Development Department to repair the 45-ft bridge.
“The cost of the repair works is being shouldered by AML, based on very successful discussions held between the County Administration of Nimba under the farsighted leadership of Superintendent Fong Gami Zuagele and the Operations Manager of AML.
Asked whether their decision for the company to rehabilitate the bridge did not constitute disrespect to President Sirleaf’s order, Development Superintendent Yorlay said that they are working in accordance with the mandate of the Liberian leader.
“The President did not say that the money to repair the bridge should be taken from the County Development Fund as it is being wrongly interpreted in the public. What she said is that the funds would be taken from money intended to develop the county. This could be from the County Social Development or other funds that are allocated to the county for development,” he noted.
Though President Sirleaf was not informed directly by the county authorities about the repair of the bridge, the county’s administration was updating Internal Affairs Minister, Morris Dukuly regularly.
On July 3 and 4, the concessional area of Tokadeh in Yekepa, Nimba, witnessed a violent demonstration that led to the destruction and alleged looting of over millions of dollars worth of properties belonging to ArcelorMittal and the county.
Some residents of the county, mainly youths, early last week, put the safety and security of the main mining facility of ArcelorMittal, located in Tokadeh, Nimba County under attack, and held the company’s staff, contractors and employees hostage for hours without food or water.
Offices were vandalized and mining equipment; vehicles, construction materials, office supplies and building were destroyed and allegedly looted.
It was also reported that law enforcement officers, who were attempting to restore calm in the area and surrounding communities were shot at and injured.