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 buildings were destroyed or looted. Law enforcement officers, who were attempting to restore calm to the mining area and surrounding communities were shot at and injured, the government said.
In a strongl.y-worded address on the violent protest that saw the loss of millions of dollars worth of property belonging to both the government and the company, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said government will undertake the repair of the damaged roads and bridges; but the costs will be deducted from funds directly allocated for the development of the county. This means that the funds will be taken from the Nimba County Social Development Funds. This is fund set aside for developments initiatives in the county and it comes from ArcelorMittal as part of its constribution to the county.
The Liberian leader also indicated that the costs to repair the damage and replace the properties destroyed at ArcelorMittal, when determined, will be discussed between the company and the government. She further noted that the direct and associated damage done to ArcelorMittal facilities in Nimba County is more than an attack on a private company; rather they are attacks on the economy and the future of this country.
President Sirleaf addressed the nation at a press conference on Thursday July 10, 2014 held in the foyer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Present at the conference also were, Senate Pro-Temp Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, House Speaker Alex Tyler, Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly and Information Minister Lewis Garsaydee Browne.
President Sirleaf said: “Our collective response must be decisive, immediate and forceful.” She promised that all accused of participating in these destructions will have their full day in court as quickly as possible; and those found guilty will face the “fullest penalties” imposed by the law.
The Liberian President, on behalf of the Government and people of Liberia, extended profound regrets to the ArcelorMittal family and all those who were made to endure the precarious infringement of the country’s peace and security.
She revealed that the attacks at Tokadeh, in Nimba County are callous reminders of the consequences of the abuse of freedoms. “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, adding that anarchy anywhere in the country undermines the collective progress made, which the Government cannot permit to happen.
The Liberian President has also announced that a Board of Inquiry will be appointed shortly to undertake a detailed investigation into the root and other causes associated with the fracas, as well as recommend further actions to ensure that such attacks are never repeated anywhere in Liberia. She said the Board will be chaired by a prominent counselor and will include eminent lawyers and citizens.
“The Liberian Government is absolutely resolved that wherever and by whomever, the unlawful incitement of the public to violence will be dutifully punished according to law,” she said.
She thanked ArcelorMittal for resuming mining production and congratulated the Liberia National Police for the swift and professional manner in which security and calmness was restored.
She also commended the local chiefs and community leaders, including the Nimba Legislative Caucus, whom she said, cooperated with the LNP in encouraging those who fled into the bushes to return home; those who perpetrated these attacks to turn themselves in and surrender to the police; and assisting in the retrieval of looted items.
Meanwhile, President Sirleaf has, with immediate effect, placed a moratorium on the issuance and use of alluvial mining licenses and permits in Nimba County until the full effects and associated costs of ArcelorMittal’s operations are finally determined and known.
Information Minister, Lewis Garsaydee Browne in an interview with press men after the President’s address, said the government’s decision to make Nimba take responsibility for its actions is not a way of punishing the county, especially when the acts were perpetrated by just a handful of people, but it is because the government is not prepared financially to undertake the costs.
Minister Browne indicated that the presence of the Speaker and Senate Pro-Tempore at the Office of the President signals the importance that the government attaches to the Yekepa incident. He said all will be done to ensure that the perpetrators of the violence are brought to book.