A group under the banner, “Gbeapo Land Redemption Council (GLRC), has accused several local authorities in River Gee and Maryland Counties of supporting the growing wave of illicit mining activities in the county.
GLRC is an advocacy group in River Gee that has for the past time been very vocal on critical issues of concern affecting people of the two counties.
Speaking to the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview via telephone from the River Gee recently, GRLC Spokesperson, Weah Karpeh, said in the wake of the land dispute by the two counties, he visited the county to find out the problems of a land dispute between the people of Gbeapo, (River Gee) and the people of Barrobo, (Maryland County).
Mr. Karpeh claimed that the people of Barrobo (Maryland) have encroached on Gbeapo land for the sake of mineral and farming purposes. He explained that the land dispute between the two counties has been happening for sometimes now because “our land has minerals.”
According to Mr. Karpeh, it was predicated upon this that President George M. Weah instructed the Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA), Varney Sirleaf to go and investigate the matter between the two. However, he did not disclose the outcome of the Minister’s investigation.
Mr. Karpeh: “Our attention has been drawn to the issues of the widespread of illicit mining taking place in Liberia particularly in the Gbeapo area (Tartuken),” said Karpeh.
He narrated that about 1,500 young people from Ghana and other parts of the West African sub-region are engaged in illicit mining in Tartuken, a town in Gbeapo district, River Gee County.
“The Ghanaians have no documents; they are there blocking the waterways and you never know when there will be a heavy downpour of rain because when the banks are broken and it rains, that becomes a problem for the inhabitants,” he said.
Mr. Karpeh said these illicit activities are being supported by the local authorities especially the County Superintendent, Philip Q. Nyenuh.
He also named River Gee District #2 Representative Alexander Poore, Deputy Inspector-General of Police for Crime Services, Prince Mulbah and other top government officials to be connected to the illicit mining in the county.
In reaction to the group’s statement, Deputy Inspector-General of Police for Crime Services (LNP) said the allegation against him is far from the truth. “I don’t venture into illegal matters most especially illicit mining, neither am I an official of the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME). I am not from River Gee County; I am from Nimba County, and in my county, I don’t engage in mining.”
Inspector Mulbah noted: “A couple of days ago a guy called me. I am sorry that I did not record his name, but he told me that illicit mining was ongoing in a district, which he was not specific about. He explained that because illicit mining is taking place there and the district is not benefiting, they have called us many times to go and halt these activities. He went on naming a couple of government officials he claimed have been supporting these acts, and because we are not doing anything as he claims, so we are a part of what is allegedly going on.”
He also accused the miners of using dredging machine in the waters of the county, something which he said is highly prohibited nationally and internationally, saying, “This is equivalent to the use of narcotics substance; it is not allowed to be used anywhere in this country or in the world for any purpose.”
Mr. Karpeh further accused politicians of supporting these activities. “Our lawmakers, I mean the legislative caucuses, including River Gee County Senator Conmany B. Wesseh.”
Senator Wesseh, responding to the accusation, said: “Sad, Karpeh is getting desperate. Ask him what I did. I simply advised him to exercise patience and be respectful to the local government officials investigating the land issue. When he began to display the same rudeness towards me, I decided to ignore him.”
According to Mr. Karpeh, the miners are using heavy machines and making a lot of money while the citizens live in abject poverty.
“They pay no revenue to the government and there is no development at all going on there. You will be surprised to note that because of this, men and women including children go into the bushes to defecate, something which is not healthy for them,” Karpeh claims.
More interestingly, Mr. Karpeh indicated that Tartuken lacks basic facilities such as toilet, safe drinking water, least to mention electricity are not available for the people.
At the same time, Karpeh mentioned that a Chinese company (Jin Long Technologies Liberia Inc.) has been operating in the county for more than two years without any documents.
He claims he had met with the county authority on the matter but the height at which it is has caused him and those concerned not to have soft words any longer. “Oh, yes! I did before I left Monrovia and it has come to a point that we cannot see face to face again because I have been very vocal on them,” said Karpeh.
River Gee County Superintendent Philip Q. Nyenuh, denied the allegation and described it as “false and baseless.” However, Superintendent Nyenuh claims his effort to resolve the land crisis in the south-east is undermined by his Maryland County counterpart; an accusation that has not been independently verified.
Superintendent Nyenuh said that Minister Varney Sirleaf has intervened in the land crisis and paid a visit to the counties, and they are all waiting for his second visit to delve into the issue to resolve it amicably. “Since that time we have been looking up to the minister to come back to settle the matter, how will the (GRLC) say I am supporting conflict in the county?”
Maryland County Superintendent George A. Prowd says the land is legally owned by the people of Barrobo and not TartukenReacting to statement by the River Gee Superintendent (Nyenue), Maryland County Superintendent, George A. Prowd, told the Daily Observer that during the meeting with Minister Varney in Fishtown, Mr. Nyenuh deliberation on the land matter was very poor because he does not know the history of the land, and therefore could say nothing to convince the investigators. “This land is legally owned by the people of Barrobo in Maryland county,” said the Maryland Superintendent.
Mr. Prowd, However, acknowledged that there are two groups that are carry on mining activities in the area; the legal miners and the illicit ones. The legal one according to him is the Chinese Company (Jin Long Technologies Liberia Inc.) that he said has legal documents with copies in his possession from the Ministry of Lands Mines Energy (MLME).
The Maryland county Superintendent also said a new reschedule for the meeting with Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf has been set for October this year to ensure that the issues are resolved peacefully.