Residents of “McIntosh Village” in Duazon, Lower Margibi County have accused the management of Hard Rock Crusher Company of not implementing its social responsibilities as specified in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed on March 19, 2012 between them and the company.
However, Hard Rock Crusher’s management rejects the community’s allegations and said they are misleading.
According to the MOU, Hard Rock shall at its own cost and without any reimbursement from the community, erect an eight-bedroom clinic for the benefit of community-dwellers on an ideally situated parcel of land to be identified and given by the community.
The (MOU) also indicated that Hard Rock shall, at its own cost and without any reimbursement from the residents and people of the community, open the alleys within the community to allow free and easy mobility, which the company, over the past years, has failed to do, according to residents.
Hard Rock, as stated in the MOU, shall regularly maintain the main roads leading from the Monrovia Robertsfield Highway to the company’s site of operations; but Hard Rock failed to address the situation after staying 11 years, the residents of the community explained, again.
In the MOU the community residents also told the Observer that Hard Rock has an extended operation in “McIntosh Village,” the construction of a bridge to link the community to said village and to facilitate Hard Rock’s easy ingress (entrance) and egress (exit) to and from the village.
According to the (MOU), “To this end, Hard Rock shall construct, at its own cost and without any interference from the community, a steel bridge consistent with the Ministry of Public Work’s standards.”
Speaking with one of the community’s heads recently in the Community, Mr. Othello B. Massaboi, a zonal head of Rock Crusher West, said the company has failed to meet the social responsibilities as signed by its Managing Director and was allegedly pulling out of the community to another site, somewhere in Grand Cape Mount County.
Massaboi explained that the community leadership on February 14 invited the company’s owners to a meeting but they failed to meet with the leadership in “total disregard” of the community and later began allegedly taking away all of the company’s equipment and materials from the site.
He then stated that the community on February 19 of this month took a decision to block the road to prevent Hard Rock Crusher from carrying away the equipment until the company delivers on its social responsibilities.
Mr. Massaboi alleged that Mr. Marwan Eid, son of Mr. Ezza Eid, called the police during the blockage. According to him while in the process of putting it under control, one of the police officers pointed his gun at one Stephen Brown, who, trying to escape, fell in a pit and broke his foot.
However, Hard Rock Crusher, which is owned by Lebanese businessman Ezza Eid and managed by his son, Marwan Eid, told the Observer that it has satisfied most of its social responsibilities and even added a very important component, which according to them is not included in the MOU. A copy of the MOU is also in our possession.
He said they built on their own accord, a junior high school for the community.
Hard Rock, which had at least 85 employees, since it began operations in 2007 and ceased 2012, said they had paid US$16,000 for at least 10 hand pumps to be constructed in the community. The Daily Observer team found out that only five of the 10 was constructed and community members said the five are no longer operating properly “because they were shadow dug.” Some even accused Mr. Wendell McIntosh of asking the Eids to hand the cash over to him and that he would contract the locals to construct the hand pumps.
The Observer contacted the Eids, who said they had to lay off the 85 employees because at least three separate factions had been formed in the community and their company’s operations and staff were no longer safe.
They said that each of the factions had “thugs” that constantly disturbed their operations and turned the community into the “Wild Wild West,” the name of a 1999 US blockbuster movie, starring Will Smith.
“So I got fed up in 2012 and decided to cease operations until they can put their acts together before we can begin operations again,” Marwan Eid told the Observer, via mobile phone.
Touching on pulling out of Duazon, he stated: “We have been in this country for over 45 years, how can we just leave all our investments and run away. Ok, assuming that we are pulling out of Duazon, are we leaving Liberia? All of those who are accusing us of pulling out have, on many occasions, been to our main office where we have had numerous meetings. They can sue us if we don’t honor the agreement.”
He further disclosed that they have always maintained to the community members that they are “100 percent” willing to build the clinic, but the conditions of the MOU must be satisfied.
That is for the community to provide the land free of crisis and other land related issues.
“Since we signed the MOU in March, this has never been done by the community members. Even though we ceased operations more than a year ago, we are still waiting on them to provide this land,” Marwan further stated.
He stated that they were not pulling out of the area as they have two lines of quarries to be mined in the area and was just on one so how could they pull out.
He also disclosed that if they decided to leave the area, they were under obligation, based on an agreement they had signed with Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to refill every hole that they are going to make in the area by a technical mean.
Marwan also stated that they had opened at least eight alleys in the community; and the Observer team found out that the lead road leading from the main RIA highway into the community, though not tarmac-paved, but is in good and passable condition for motor vehicles to ply even after a year of the company not operating.
Marwan Eid stated that they were not in the position to construct the bridge because they had been duped of a property that they had purchased across the river.
The Observer team learned that the community was embroiled in leadership crisis, which has probably made the Eids to hold back.
They (Eids) said there had been no control in the community and so had to cease operations until there can be one leadership, through whom every community grievance can be channeled and which also can report back from the Eids to the larger community, instead of three different groups coming every time with their individual agendas.
“We are only going to move back into the community to begin operations when the Government guaranteed our safety because each of the factions—the community leadership, Rep. Roland Opee Cooper and Wendell McIntosh—keep obstructing our operations,” he stressed. He, however, pointed out that he doesn’t have so much of problems with the community leadership, which he said has been used on many occasions by Mr. McIntosh.
However, when we contacted Mr. Wendell McIntosh, he refuted every allegation against him.
He added that the Eids’ quarry in the community was being managed by one Suleiman, who he said had always ran to him in order for him to mediate whenever the community had issues with the company.
“My brother, I am so surprised that the Eids will tell you things like this. You need to talk to Suleiman, he will tell you what’s happening here,” Mr. McIntosh stated.
According to him, Suleiman had come to him and told him that because of the rain and that since the holes in the operational site in Duazon were now filled with water, they were moving out for three months and would be back.
“I never saw them again until the community people came to tell me that they were pulling out and so they would block the road for the company to meet its social responsibilities before they could finally remove all of their equipment.”
He also stated that Hard Rock’s management through Suleiman, had given the contract for the construction of hand pumps to one guy in the community called Moore and when they (Hard Rock) felt that Moore could not meet up with the contract, Suleiman asked his (McIntosh’s) wife to take up the contract.
He stated that his wife was contracted to do four wells. Those wells, he said, were done and are still functional.
He also added that stated that Hard Rock met him in the area when they came in 2006 to begin operating in the community. “I was the first to move here in 2004. When I came, here there was hard forest around here where we used to hunt monkeys and deer before other people started to come here. This is why this place is name ‘McIntosh Village’.”
Mr. McIntosh maintained that being a businessman himself, understands the difficulties business people go through and so has always try to mediate between the company and the community.
Meanwhile, a mediation role brokered by Mr. Henry Costa, a radio talk show host, brought together Mr. Marwan Eid and the community leadership on Friday, February 28.
Mr. Eid again told the community that Hard Rock Crusher has since been prepared to honor all of its portions of the MOU. A seven-person committee was put together find the land and come up with a plan for the clinic. Mr. Eid promised to pay for the land.