Two lawmakers of Nimba County have strongly condemned the recent attack on ArcelorMittal facilities in Yekepa and described the act as “awlessness” and an “embarrassment” for them in Government.
The two lawmakers, Representatives Jeremiah Koung of District #1 and Larry Younquoi of District #8, in separate interviews on July 6, said they were taking serious exception to the violent act, stressing that it was the wrong way of addressing issues in a civilized society.
For Representative Koung, who spoke first at the third commencement convocation of the Liberia International Christian College (LICC), stressed with strong assertion, “The day before yesterday was a sad day in Nimba when some of our citizens took on ArcelorMittal and destroyed millions of dollars of properties, going as far as burning the train that transports the iron ore from here. They went to the extent [of] burning the bridge connecting Sanniquellie with Zolowee and Gbaapa, and this is very embarrassing to me.”
Representative Koung admitted, “Yes! There are issues; yes, there are problems and our people need a better living standard because the iron ore is taken from here. But this will not cause people to go ahead and destroy such huge properties.”
The Nimba lawmaker said such action requires arrest and prosecution, and that those involved should face prosecution.
Representative Larry Younquoi described the situation as “very unfortunate. I have just returned from there with legislative and executive delegations. It is disheartening that this county is again in the air for the wrong reason.”
According to the Nimba District #8 Representative, a committee comprising officials and elders from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Nimba Legislative Caucus has been set up to negotiate so that the looted materials belonging to the company can be retrieved.
Representative Younquoi did not exactly state the level of damage done in Yekepa at ArcelorMittal’s facility; however, he said it would have been massive destruction because while they were there, about two trucks of looted materials were brought out.
Representative Younquoi called on citizens of the county to desist from violence and look up to their elected and appointed leaders when there is a need to address certain problems.
In an opposite assertion, Representative Jeremiah Koung again noted that Government on the other hand has been very slow in addressing the problem in Nimba.
He said complaints have over the time mounted over ArcelorMittal’s alleged failure to meet up with its responsibility to owners of the land, but those in Government have talked much and nothing is being done.
Besides the conflict between the people of Nimba and ArcelorMittal, Representative Koung said conflict is still arising over a parcel of land declared “eminent domain” in Ganta in 2010 by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
He said if the Government is serious about the land being eminent domain, the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy should survey and deed it, and settle people who have claim to it in order to lay the matter to rest.
He also noted that the land in question has been contested on many occasions and discussions have taken place, but Government is yet to effect the decision by bringing the matter to a conclusion.
ArcelorMittal signed a Mineral Development Agreement with the Government of Liberia to invest US$75 million to mine iron ore in Mount Tokadi in Nimba County for a period of 25 years.
According to provisions in the agreement, ArcelorMittal is obliged to meet with the following activities:
Provide the Government with a financial report on the quantity of iron ore produced and sold every calendar quarter, and a report on all operations and activities at the end of each financial year.
It is also to construct, maintain and operate health facilities in the Concession Area with modern equipment and with procedures that meet international standards, and provide training for Liberian citizens for skilled, technical, administrative and managerial positions.
The agreement indicates that ArcelorMittal provides an annual social contribution of US$ 3 million to be managed and disbursed for the benefit of communities in the counties of Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa by a dedicated committee formed by the company and the Government.
It is also to conduct its operations in accordance with the environmental protection and management law of the Republic and undertake an annual environmental audit and assessment.
While the agreement provides the benefits, the people of Nimba, especially those in Yamein and Sehyee Clans have over the time complained that Arcelor Mittal was grabbing their farmlands without settlement and extending its mining activities to other mountains besides Tokadi.