The movement of Nimba County’s stock of scraps is said to be raising another concern among the citizens, during this hottest political season in Liberia.
Much to the consternation of a group under the banner, “Concerned Nimbaians”, questions about the relocation of the scraps and the deal the County authority struck with Shethi Brothers, have yet to be addressed.
Saye Musa, Chairman of the Concerned Nimbaians, told the local radio station in Saclapea that the group is reorganizing to meet the county officials.
The head of the civil society organizations of Nimba, Mr. Patrick L. Lah, organized a meeting on Wednesday, October 24, 2017 to question the county authority about the scrap deal.
“We want to know how much is coming to the county, as well as the development benefits, among others,” he said. “We see dozens of trucks passing wth scrap daily, but we are not aware how the deal was reached.”
Since the beginning of October, trailers loaded with scrap metals allegedly from the mining town of Yekepa have been leaving Nimba for Monrovia on a daily basis.
The scrap, all in the form of rollers of train wagon, are part of the scraps release to Nimba authority in 2012 by President Sirleaf to be sold and the proceed be used to development in the county.
Bidding process to mine the scraps brought great split among the officials of the county, including members of the 53rd Legislative Caucus, with some members backing either of the two companies: North Star, a Liberian Firm; and Western Steel, a Ghanaian Firm.
Since 2012, the status of the scrap has been in limbo, with claims and counter-claims on which of these companies should be given the right to mine the scraps.
Nearly all the members of the county’s 53rd Legislative Caucus wanted the scrap be given to Western Steel, while the local county government favored North Star.
The confusion deepened when Senator Prince Y. Johnson accused his fellow caucus members of receiving bribes from Western Steel to award the company the contract. It turned out at the time that the heavyweights in the county legislative caucus at the time were members of Sen. Johnson’s political party, the National Union For Democratic Progress (NUDP). The party has since folded, but the disagreement over the scrap in the legislative caucus contributed Sen. Johnson being kicked out of the NUDP.
This year, it was announced that the North Star was the final winner of the bid, after years of legal battle in the Supreme Court. Suddenly, few months later, the county authority told the citizens that the scrap will be divided among two companies; Shethi Brothers and North Star.
County Superintendent Dorr Cooper and the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frederick Cherue, held a series of meetings with the citizens, explaining that Shethi has built a mini steel factory in Liberia and they wanted scraps to produce steel and other metals for construction purposes, so President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had instructed them to have the scraps divided between Shethi and North Star.
Sources say that North Star has reached an agreement with the county authority to purchase the scrap at US$68 per ton, though there has been no disclosure from the county authority as to whether Sethi will pay the same price. It is also not clear how much scrap there is to be mined in the county.
With this new agreement, the citizens are mounting concern and wanting to know how much the county stands to benefit and why citizens and other stakeholders of the county were not notified earlier to be part of the discussion.