There are lots of foreign companies interested in Liberia's last known iron ore mountain–Wologizi in Lofa County. They will come promising the world to get it. But we all remember Satan's temptation of Jesus: "All these things I will give you if you would fall down and worship me." The devil did not realize that Jesus, like His Heavenly Father, already had the whole world in His hands–but Jesus knew that. We know that, too–and we hope the Liberian government knows–that our Constitution says "All power is inherent in the people." This means that the people of Liberia have ALL the power to make decisions concerning EVERYTHNG IN LIBERIA.
We mean all the agreements that have ever been signed in this country, be they concessions or private agreements between foreign or local companies and Liberian citizens. Liberian people have ALL the power over these agreements. Thankfully, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf exercised that power when, at the onset of her presidency in 2006, she saw several agreements through which previous administrations had practically given away the nation's resources to foreign entities. But she demanded–and got–enegotiations, including the two giants, Firestone and Mittal Steel–why? Because these companies knew they had no choice standing before a sovereign government.
The steel giant, Jindal Steel, is one of the companies eying Wologizi. For this reason, they promised President Sirleaf, during her recent visit to India, to build a coal power plant here. For Heaven's sake, who needs that today, with all the pollution coal will bring?
Besides, Liberia is not a coal producer. We will have to import every ounce the plant would need, exacerbating (worsening) our already precarious balance of payments deficit.
Pitch that against all the rivers and streams God has given us. Two weeks ago the President installed the Yaundohun mini-hydro in Kolahun District. Yaundohun does not have a major river; only a stream. But it was enough to power a mini-hydro, bringing electricity to hundreds of homes. What about all the rivers we have, in addition to the St. Paul, which hosts the Mount Coffee Hydro-electric Plant? Firestone has, for the past 88 years, made excellent use of the Farmington, providing ALL the hydro-electricity it needs. We yet still have the Du, Junk and Marshall Rivers and the Stockton Creek between Montserrado and Margibi counties. In Montserrado, too, we have the Mesurado River.
Then there are the Lofa and Makono Rivers, also in Lofa; the St. John, which washes Bong, Nimba and Grand Bassa counties; the Mano in Cape Mount and the Cavalla in Maryland.
With all of these pristine (untouched) waterways yearning to lend their power for hydro-electricity, who needs coal?
This newspaper is on record as agreeing with President Sirleaf that our friend and brother, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, should send his engineers to Liberia to investigate all the electricity options. They will hopefully be convinced that Liberia has absolutely no need for coal for electricity.
Moreover, the Liberian people are in no hurry to sign anymore iron ore agreements. All those that have been signed since 2006–and previous ones–have absolutely NO Liberian participation; nor have any of its owners said a word about helping us begin steel works in Liberia, however modestly.
From now on, before we sit to talk with anyone about Wologizi or any other iron ore mine, we should encourage them to talk STEEL manufacture IN LIBERIA, not just the naked exploitation of our iron ore to feed foreign steel plants. The whole of West Africa is awaiting Liberia to supply them with steel products, which would be much cheaper.
This same principle should apply for any other concession that is granted, be it mineral, agricultural or otherwise.
And we strongly suggest that the existing iron ore concessions–ArcelorMittal, China Union and Western Cluster–should, within the next five years, be renegotiated to talk steel.
The President and her government should, for the reasons outlined above, say to the Indians, "No thanks! We are NOT interested in a coal power plant. And please, NO DEAL on Wologizi! Should the government insist on it, the PEOPLE–not just the Lofa people, but ALL of us, in whose hands lies ALL POWER, should say NO!–not this one! We cannot–and must not–allow one administration to give away all our natural resources.