President presses ArcelorMittal for Ganta-Yekepa Road
During his his working visit to Nimba County yesterday, June 11, President George Weah told officials of Arcelor Mittal that road connectivity is essential component of development, “because without good road network in the country, the people cannot be connected.”
Weah said this when he paid a follow-up visit to the construction site of the Ganta-Yekepa highway, which the pavement work had been in limbo for years between the contractor CSE and the fund provider, ArcelorMittal.
The standstill of the road work is something that has been troubling citizens since ArclorMittal made the commitment in 2007 to construct the stretch of road as a birthday gift to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
ArcelorMittal has blamed the delay to pave the road to the 2008 global economic meltdown and, in 2012, the company said the money for the construction of the road was given to the government, after some Nimbaians under the banner Concerned Nimbaians sought to know the cause for the delay to commence the work.
After the Senegalese road construction firm “Compagnie Saheliemae D’Enterprises (CSE), won the bid to carry on the construction, it was a big relief in the county, but the project subsequently died down, because of the government’s failure to remit money into CSE account, indicating that Arcelor Mittal did not release the money.
Prior to President Weah’s visit yesterday, news had been filtering in Nimba that the government was pressing ArcelorMittal to commit to its promise and ensure that the money for the construction is available.
President Weah in his opening statement apologized to ArcelorMittal, saying the government’s action was not meant to go against the management, but to make sure that they do not renege on what they said, they will do.
He said coming to the construction of the road was not an easy discussion, but they will all be happy when the road is done.
“During our campaign, we promised to connect the hinterland to the rest of the country, especially the urban areas and this is what we are going to do,” he said.
President Weah boasted of his government doing something worthy during the five months period, by keeping up to his campaign promises. “Although it has not been easy, it’s worth it,” he said.
The president and his entourage entered Ganta on what could be described as his first visit after he became President of Liberia.
He was highly received by citizens, led by Senator Prince Y. Johnson, including nearly all the members of the 54th Legislative Caucus, Supt. David Dorr Cooper, chiefs, elders as well as various groups of women organizations and the student body.
He dedicated the newly constructed streets in Ganta before heading to the Sanniquellie Highway, where the CSE has one of its rock crushers.
ArcelorMittal was represented by Mr. Joe Matthew, along with managers of CSE, but none could give the actual cost of the project when the question was posed. However, on a local radio morning show, County Inspector Reginald Mehn put the cost at US$40 million.
Joe Matthew, who proxied for the CEO of ArcelorMittal, Boleleo Botalo, assured the President of remaining committed to the completion of the road, within the time frame mentioned.
“Arcelor Mittal cannot take our grade “A” Iron Ore and leave our people with nothing to benefit, so we are happy for the road project and thank you ever so much Mr. President,” said Senator Johnson.